Last edited 06 May 2016

Specialty carbon black

Specialty carbon black is a high-end, refined chemical manufactured by burning hydrocarbons in a limited air supply. Specialty carbon black or pigment black is the purest form of carbon black with a lower level of ash, sulfur, metals and other impurities. It is made using four processes; furnace black, thermal black, acetylene black and lampblack. It is a segment of the carbon black market that also includes rubber and commodity carbon black. Specialty carbon black had a 9% share of the global carbon black market in 2013.

It is used as a reinforcing agent in tires, belts, hoses, gaskets, diaphragms, vibration isolation devices, bushings, air springs, chassis bumpers, and multiple types of pads, boots, wiper blades, fascia, conveyor wheels, and grommets.

It is also used in refuse sacks, industrial bags, photographic containers, agriculture mulch film, stretch wrap, thermoplastic molding applications for automotive, electrical/electronics, household appliances and blow-molded containers. Silica is one of the key substitutes for specialty carbon black and this acts as a restraint on the industry, with green manufacturers replacing specialty carbon black with silica.

Specialty carbon black is more conductive than a rubber or polymer. Addition of specialty carbon black reduces electrical resistivity by forming a conductive network through the polymer or rubber matrix. One of the key features of specialty carbon black is its special grades that optimise conductivity at lower dosage while meeting all the other critical performance requirements for conductive applications. For instance, specialty carbon black for semi-conductive cable compounds is optimised for smoothness, conductivity and chemical cleanliness. The key grades in specialty the carbon black market include softer pellet, low pellet, low poly-nuclear aromatics (PNA) and low sieve residue.

Asia Pacific manufactures the cheapest and this is resulting in a shutting down of carbon black business by many companies in North America and Europe. Many are shifting their production facilities to Asia Pacific to minimise production costs and remain competitive in the market. China was the largest manufacturer and supplier of specialty carbon black in 2013. The market for specialty carbon black is consolidated and there are only few players operating globally. However, some rubber black companies are expanding their business to enter the specialty carbon black market which is expected to increase rivalry to some extent.

Some of the major companies operating in the global specialty carbon black market are Cabot Corporation, The Orion Engineered Carbons GmbH, Zaozhuang Xinyuan Chemical Industry Co. Ltd., Birla Carbon, Asia Carbon Industries Inc., Continental Carbon, Sid Richardson Carbon & Energy Co.