What Are the Major Wax Markets?
In North America the consumption of wax is
approximately 3 billion pounds per year. There are two major market categories: packaging materials and all
represents only 30% of the market, but most people still think of wax as primarily a packaging material. Thirty years ago, with waxed paper, milk
cartons, paper drinking cups, etc., this impression might have been true. However, innovative uses have been found for wax in recent years.
here to view a chart of North American Wax Consumption
Markets for wax are diverse.
Building Materials: wax is added as a water
repellent in the production of wood-based manufactured
composite boards such as particle board, medium density,
oriented strand and other board products.
Candles: one of the oldest uses of wax, but
still vital. No longer used for primary illumination,
candles are the fastest growing segment of the wax
market with new decorative and therapeutic uses.
Chlorinated paraffins: chemicals manufactured
by chlorination of paraffin waxes. The largest
application for chlorinated paraffins is as a
plasticiser and flame-retardant in flexible PVC. They
are also used as plasticisers in paint, sealants and
adhesives. The higher chlorine content grades are used
as flame-retardants in a wide range of rubber and
polymer systems. Another major outlet for chlorinated
paraffins is in the formulation of metalworking
lubricants where they have long been recognized as one
of the most effective additives for lubricants used in a
wide range of machining and engineering operations.
Finally, they are used in leather formulations.
Corrugated Board: wax is applied to corrugated
containers in order to provide wet and top to bottom
strength, key concerns in food packaging.
Coatings: wax can be used to form a coating
that allows oxygen to pass but not water; generating
numerous applications in such diverse areas as
cosmetics, food, packaging, furniture, time release
Cosmetics: fully-refined wax is non-toxic, and
many products are approved by the FDA for direct use in
food and personal care formulations. Waxes are widely
used in the cosmetic industry in products such as
lipstick, mascara, moisturizing creams and sunblocks.
Chewing gum: chewing gum base is a compound of
elastomers, resin and FDA wax to which other materials
are added to produce chewing gum. Hard, high melt-point
waxes are used in this application, including
microcrystalline and candelilla waxes.
Crayons: FDA wax provides the solid structure
for a crayon and, since most crayon users are young
children, its non-toxic characteristics are critical.
Firelogs: a modern convenience product, wax
acts as both a binder and as fuel.
Food: FDA wax is used to cover certain types
of cheese that would dehydrate if not properly
protected, is sprayed on citrus and other fruit to
protect from oxidation and enhance appearance, and in
Hot melt adhesives: waxes are present in most
hot melt adhesive formulations, where they control the
viscosity of the adhesive and contribute to open time,
flexibility and elongation.
Inks: graphical printing inks include wax in
their formulation to make them brighter and to improve
sliding capabilities, as well as to prevent scratches
that affect some printing inks.
Investment casting: in the "lost
wax" method of casting of jewelry, industrial
products, etc. a wax model of the piece is made, then
used to create a clay mold. The wax is melted out, and
the clay used to cast the final piece.
Polishes: the application of waxes to wooden
floors to improve their appearance and provide
protection dates back several hundred years. The
application of wax retards the penetration of air and
moisture, thereby increasing the life of the flooring
material as well as preventing abrasion by surface grit.
PVC: two different lubricants are used in the
manufacture of polyvinyl chloride thermoplastic:
internal and external. Two different types of wax are
used in the lubricants. Internal lubricants are
formulated to help PVC flow in the manufacturing
process; they form a solution with PVC. External
lubricants are not soluble in PVC and they produce a
film between the PVC and its extrusion equipment.
Tire and Rubber: wax is a vital component in
rubber tire formulations; it is added for protection
from atmospheric ozone that will "dry"
unprotected rubber, causing cracking that compromises
the strength of the tire. Wax creates a physical barrier
between the tire surface and the atmosphere.
The biggest single consumer of wax in North America
remains the packaging area; the next biggest (and
fastest growing) segment is candles, followed by
building materials and then firelogs.
here to view U.S. Wax Production Data
In recent years US production of wax has suffered becasue several small base oil plants have shut down and another
large plant converted from MEK dewaxing process to wax
hydroisomerization technology. These changes stem from a move towards the manufacture higher
quality Group II base oils. Today, there
are 12 US wax producers.
American Wax Producers
(Data in Thousands of Barrels)
|American Refining Group
|Calumet Lubricants Company
|CITGO Lubes & Waxes
||Lake Charles, LA
||Deer Park, TX
|Ergon -- West Virginia
||Baton Rouge, LA
||N. Salt Lake City, UT
|Honeywell Specialty Chemicals
|Marathon Ashland Petroleum
|Total -- U.S.
|Imperial Oil. Ltd
|Imperial Oil, Ltd.
|The International Group
|Shell Canada Products, Ltd.
|Total -- Canada
||Curacao, Netherlands Antilles
|Total -- Latin/South America
|Total -- All Sources
In North America, fifteen companies currently
manufacture finished or semi-refined waxes at 17
locations in North America; not all companies produce
both semi-refined and fully refined waxes. Product
distribution is about 50/50 between finished and
semi-refined, though this can be misleading because
semi-refined is sold as feedstock to fully-refined
producers as well as being sold into end-use markets
A typical wax producer in North America produces wax
concurrently with base oils at an integrated solvent
dewaxing/deoiling unit, although there are also
"stand-alone" deoiling plants producing
finished wax from purchased feedstocks. An average
finished wax plant produces about 1,000 barrels a day of
product, or 100MM# a year. About half of US wax
manufacturers produce low oil content, finished waxes,
the rest simply recover slack wax from their operations.
One producer sells residual material from waxy crude
without further processing. Curiously, no integrated
Canadian refiner produces finished wax, nor do most of
the Caribbean plants. North American producers operate
only solvent deoiling processes. There are other
technologies available for deoiling, including sweating
and fractional crystallization; the latter process is
the only practical alternate for large scale production.
After deoiling, product wax is typically finished by
hydrogenation or clay treating to decolorize it and
assure FDA performance where required.
here to view U.S. Wax Import & Export Data
A reduction in capacity for wax production
in North America has drawn increased import of raw and
finished waxes. EIA data for the period 1992 - 2002 show
an increase from about 170 MM# per annum to 270 MM#, or
roughly 14% of domestic production in 2002.
International Trade Agency (ITA) statistics, however,
tell a somewhat different tale: ITA shows low imports in
the early '90's with a steep change to about 250
MM#/year in the last half of the decade and continued
growth to about 344 MM#/yr estimated for 2002. This
chart reinforces one of the problems inherent to the wax
business: with so many sources and classifications of
product, it's easy to find conflicting data. EIA
statistics are based on self-reporting within the
relatively small community of producers, so they
probably represent their business well; the ITA numbers
are subject to classification by tariff codes, etc. and
are probably more subject to confusion. This paper takes
the higher number as the correct one, assuming that it
is easy to miss itemized imports because of the multiple
tariff classes. The data do lead to consistent
conclusions: that there is an ample world supply of wax; and that US imports have increased sharply in recent years.
U.S. Imports for Consumption, 2001
||China, Canada, Brazil, Japan
||China, Canada, Iraq
||Mexico, Canada, Iraq
||Canada, Malaysia, UK, Germany, Taiwan
||Germany, Iraq, UK
|Artificial - PEG
|Artificial - Lignite
|Artificial - Beeswax
||France, China, Brazil
Source: International Trade Agency
Petroleum wax far outweighs all other sources by
volume. But the data must be approached with caution, since, for example, the table shows a trade in feedstocks with
Saudi Arabia and Iraq. It is obvious that there are misclassifications of imported products.
here to view a chart of U.S. Base Oil Manufacture
ASTM/IP Standards Applicable to Petroleum Waxes
||Melting Point of Petroleum Wax
||Drop Melting Pont of Petroleum Wax, Including
||Saybolt Color of Petroleum Products (Saybolt
||Kinematic Viscosity of Transparent and Opaque
Liquids (and the Calculation of Dynamic
||Carbonizable Substances in Paraffin Wax
||Oil Content of Petroleum Waxes
||Cone Penetration of Petrolatum
||Congealing Point of Petroleum Waxes, Including
||Distillation of Petroleum Productsat Reduced
||Tensile Strength of Paraffin Wax
||Needle Penetration of Petroleum Waxes
||Blocking and Picking of Petroleum Wax
||ASTM Color of Petroleum Products (ASTM Color
||Peroxide Number of Petroleum Wax
||Odor of Petroleum Wax
||20-Degree Specular Gloss of Waxed Paper
||Ultraviolet Absorbance and Absorptivity of
||Method for Surface Wax on Waxed Paper or
||Coefficient of Friction for Wax Coatings
||Apparent Viscosity of Petroleum Waxes
Compounded with Additives (Hot Melts)
||Boiling Range Distribution of Petroleum
Fractions by Gas Chromatography
||Gloss Retention of WAxed Paper and Paperboard
AFter Storage at 40C (104F)
||Abrasion Resistance of Wax Coatings
||Solvent Extractables in Petroleum Waxes
||Apparent Viscosity of Hot Melt Adhesives and
||Total Wax Loading of Corrugated Paperboard
Source: ASTM Significance of Tests