Regional production and end-use market stats were key points in the opening presentation at the AWA Global Release Liner Industry Conference & Exhibition, held recently in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Here are some Curmudgeon bullet “points of interest” from the talk by AWA president/CEO Corey Reardon.
- Total worldwide production of release liners for all end-use applications was about 50 billion sq meters in 2017, up about 5% over 2016.
- Regional production market share last year was Asia-Pacific—39%; North America and Europe—27% each; South America—4% ; and Africa-Middle East—3%.
- By substrate, 2017 production was glassine/SCK paper—36%; polyolefin-coated paper—17%; clay-coated paper—14%; other papers—13%; PET film—11%; polyethylene film—6%; and polypropylene film—3%.
- Pressure-sensitive labeling continues to dominate end-use applications for release liner with a 49% market share. Other end-use markets in 2017 were tape—14%; industrial—11%; hygiene—8%; graphic films and food/bakery—5% each; medical and others—3% each; and envelopes—2%.
- Graphic films, medical and envelope uses for release liners are all growing faster than average.
- Not surprisingly, Asia-Pacific continues to lead production growth rates with 6.3% last year (see bar chart above). While a small base of output, Africa-Middle East was next with 4.5% growth in 2017. North America at 4.3%, Europe at 4.2%, and South America at 2.2% wrap up the production-growth stats.
In 2017, raw-material availability was a top concern of release-liner converters across the globe. Fortunately, substrate providers appear to be addressing this and other industry challenges.
- AWA estimates total release base-paper capacity at >4 million tonnes, produced by more than 40 companies worldwide on many more machines.
- Most paper machines produce other grades as well, and estimated capacity utilization for release base papers in 70%.
- The top 5 companies have a 37% market share of capable capacity for release base.
- Among forecasted capacity changes through 2019:
- The Boise Wallula Mill is its closing Paper Machine 3, eliminating up to 170,000 tonnes.
- UPM will add 40,000 tonnes – all incremental release base.
- Starkraft will add 100,000 tonnes for release base and other lightweight kraft grades.
- Billerud Korsnäs is relocating its Paper Machine 4 to add 100,000 tonnes this year for packaging, medical disposables, and release liner.
- Kruger Specialty is repurposing its Paper Machine 4 to make specialty packaging and release-liner paper grades, in addition to coated printing papers – 200,000+ tonnes.
- Further conversions of printing & writing (P&W) grades include a UPM feasibility study of a paper machine at its Nordland Mill to release liner.
My Thoughts: With about 80% of the world’s release liners using different base papers as the substrate, a more reliable (and growing) supply of raw material is vital. This is being met at the expense of printing and writing paper capacity that’s clearly taken a hit over the past decade. One way or another, release-liner and specialty papers are a positive field now (and for the next decade) for coaters and laminators globally.