We sat down with members of the Carbon Black World Advisory Board to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the carbon black industry today. As a preview to the upcoming 2016 event, we asked them to discuss what they viewed as burning issues for the world of carbon black; what excites them about opportunities in the industry and what technological and market factors they felt had the biggest impact on business today. Read on for the roundtable transcript.
Advisory Board Members Include:
- Thomas Hanel, Pirelli Tire SpA
- Paul Ita, Notch Consulting
- Bill Jones, Sid Richardson Carbon & Energy Co.
- Bruce Lambillotte, Smithers Rapra
- Ricky Magee, Columbian Chemicals Co.
- Shana Sylvester, Cabot Corporation
- François Terrade, PRO2ACT MANAGEMENT
- Wei Zhenwen, Doright Co., Ltd.
"Every business and industry has major challenges. Ours include health and environmental issues, water shortages, changing oil feedstock supply and quality, hiring and retaining good people, transportation bottlenecks (in both rail and truck), and more.
Government regulations remain a major concern - not only those directly facing the carbon black industry but also those impacting other industries that extend into carbon black. Government regulation will also have major impacts on the differences between carbon black importers and producers within the United States.
Market factors influencing the world – whether it relates to commodity prices, macroeconomoic issues (see: China), trade barriers and issues – also have a major impact on our business. We also see some of the same issues facing other mature industries – notably related to plant reliability, facilities maintenance and whether or not (and what?) cutting edge materials are or will become available for refractories, heat exchange or more.
We see CAFE standards adding additional pressure on tire producers beyond Europe to improve rolling resistance. This has been a topic in our industry for many years, but we have seen the impact that it has had on Europe and it will certainly make its way to the U.S. soon. Everyone in the industry is working on carbon black modifications to reduce rolling resistance.
That said, new types of carbon black have helped make new products better for end users (better tire fuel mileage, traction, life); better inks, better roofing compounds, better electrical cables, better batteries, etc. Unfortunately in this regard, the carbon black industry is a very mature industry, so cutting edge developments are few and far between. Our business success is predicated on a good economy, so energy recovery and yield initiatives are important areas that will both improve the health of the business and help offset environmental concerns.
One of the biggest opportunities lie beyond tires in the specialty segments, though there is always room to grow within our main areas of focus. We also see great opportunities in feedstock costs, subsidized oil and gas costs, and innovation."
Have a question for the Advisory Board? Submit your question below or meet them in person at Carbon Black World, May 25-27 in Fort Worth!