Demand for surfactants in the US is expected to rise 3.2 percent per year to 10.9 billion pounds in 2018, valued at $14.4 billion. Growth will be supported by rising construction expenditures and oil and gas production, as well as by rebounds in consumer spending on personal care products. A shift toward higher value specialty surfactants for performance advantages will also promote growth in dollar terms.

Demand for surfactants in cleaning products — the most established end use for surfactants — is expected to show moderate growth in volume terms, as production of cleaning products is projected to rise at a modest pace. In the personal care product market, surfactants that are gentle on skin and hair and are also environmentally sustainable will see the best growth prospects in dollar terms. Surfactants such as amphoterics, silicone, and certain types of nonionics will benefit the most from this trend. Naturally derived biosurfactants, which tend to see limited use in industrial and cleaning product markets, will expand their share of the personal care product market in dollar terms as many consumers increasingly favor products that are marketed as “natural.”

Industrial markets are expected to post the most significant gains in surfactant demand in both volume and value terms through 2018. Demand for surfactants used as cement and asphalt additives, particularly lignosulfonates and other anionics, will benefit from a rebound in nonresidential building construction. Favorable growth opportunities for specialty surfactants in paint and coatings and plastics will benefit from a combination of expanding residential construction and increased manufacturing activity. Despite a decline in oil prices in late 2014 and early 2015, demand for surfactants used in oil and natural gas production is expected to rise at an above average pace, though growth will moderate from the double digit annual gains experienced between 2008 and 2013.

Specialty surfactants will account for a greater share of sales in industrial applications, as users favor their improved efficiency, multifunctionality, and greater safety and sustainability. Amphoterics, silicone, fluorosurfactants, quaternary ammonium compounds, and fatty amine oxides are among the surfactants that will show healthy growth going forward.