Product Profile: SBR - Styrene Butadiene Rubber

Excerpt: Styrene-butadiene rubber is a synthetic rubber copolymer consisting of styrene and butadiene. It has good abrasion resistance and good aging stability when protected by additives


Styrene-butadiene or styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) is a synthetic rubber copolymer consisting of styrene and butadiene. It has good abrasion resistance and good aging stability when protected by additives, and is widely used in car tires, where it may be blended with natural rubber. Its common physical characteristics are - Black in color, other colors can be compounded upon volume special request, 70 +/- 5 Durometer (hardness rating), excellent tensile strength and abrasion resistance at higher temperatures.

A chemist called Fritz Hofmann discovered the elastic material methyl isoprene in 1909; many happenings have influenced the development of SBR -- the Industrial Revolution, progress of motor transportation, two World Wars, growing demand for rubber and inability of natural rubber (NR) to meet entirely the world elastomer requirements. This synthetic material had opened the door to numerous innovations in previous decades – in automotive engineering, energy generation, medicine, sports, and even the aerospace industry. Industrial manufacture began during World War II, where it was used extensively by the USA to replace the Far-East natural rubber supplies captured by the Japanese.


Typical applications are sealing requirements for hydraulic braking systems. Additionally, it is used in some rubber cutting boards. The elastomer is used widely in pneumatic tires, shoe heels and soles, gaskets and even chewing gum. It is a commodity material which competes with natural rubber. Latex (emulsion) styrene butadiene rubber is extensively used in coated papers, being one of the most cost-effective resins to bind pigmented coatings. It is also used in building applications, as a sealing and binding agent behind renders as an alternative to PVA, but is more expensive. In the latter application, it offers better durability, reduced shrinkage and increased flexibility, as well as being resistant to emulsification in damp conditions.

Styrene Butadiene Rubber can be used to 'tank' damp rooms or surfaces, a process in which the rubber is painted onto the entire surface (sometimes both the walls, floor and ceiling) forming a continuous, seamless damp proof liner; a typical example would be a basement.

Production Process

Emulsion Polymerization of SBR:

Typically, an emulsion system for polymerization contains water, monomer, initiator, and an emulsifier. The polymerization process was initially done at 50 degrees celsius, but improved technology allowed for “cold” processes to be developed with reaction temperatures at 5 degree celsius. The polymerization of cold SBR is initiated by the reaction of a hydroperoxide with ferrous icons, which furnishes free radicals for polymer formation. Polymerization is stopped at 60 percent conversion with a short stop agent such as hydroquinone. Higher conversion percentages generally lead to polymers with inferior physical properties, most likely due to unwanted chain cross-linking. The latex is warmed, and the excess butadiene and styrene is recovered for recycling by either steam stripping or distillation.

Solution Polymerization of SBR:

The processes to produce Styrene Butadiene Rubber & Polybutadiene Rubber by solution are very similar. A catalyst is added to a thoroughly dried mixture of monomer and hydrocarbon solvent. After reacting and polymerizing in one or more reactors, a shortstop is added to limit the conversion of the polymer.

Major Players - Global

Asahi Kasei, Lanxess, LG Chem, Polimeri Europa, Sinopec, Bridgestone and Lion Elastomers and are some of the leading producers of SBR in the world.

Global Market

Global capacity of SBR (emulsion) in 2015 was around 5.6 MMT while SBR (solution) was 1.7 MMT.

The growing demand for high-performance tires from the automotive industry is likely to boost the tire manufacturing industries' demand for higher specification raw materials. Also, high fuel-efficiency in automotive is creating the demand for low rolling resistance in tires, which is expected to drive the demand for SBR in the tire industry. However, stringent regulatory frame over the emission of toxic fumes during the production of Styrene Butadiene Rubber is one of the major hurdles for SBR manufacturers, which is anticipated to act as a constraint for the global SBR market.

The styrene butadiene rubber market is segmented into two types - product and application. The product segment is further divided into emulsion SBR and solution SBR, based on their production process. Emulsion SBR is the largest product segment in the global SBR market due to the low-cost of production. However, changing demand from the consumers for high-performance tires is increasing the popularity of the solution SBR in the global market, due to its low rolling resistance property. The market is further segmented into footwear, construction, polymer modification, adhesives, and others, as per their applications.

Countries such as China and India are enjoying the low-cost labor advantage in the automotive manufacturing industry, which accounts for most of the consumption of SBR. Europe is also flashing the growth trend for the SBR market due to a strong automotive industry in the region.

The increasing demand for performance products from the tire industry is creating a demand for solution SBR in the global SBR market. The demand for low rolling resistance and tubeless tires is creating a potential opportunity for the styrene butadiene rubber market, globally.

The global styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) market size was valued at USD 7.84 billion in 2015. Global solution styrene butadiene rubber (S-SBR) market size was valued at USD 2.51 billion in 2016. The demand for S-SBR in footwear and tire applications is increasing owing to its high synthetic flexibility is expected to drive market growth.

The automotive companies are developing vehicles with high performance and durability, resulting in stringent tire performances specifications. The S-SBR is the only material for the manufacture of high performance tires. The growth in the automotive industry is expected to have a positive impact in S-SBR market.

The increasing awareness regarding fuel saving coupled with technological advancements in tire rubbers is anticipated to show low dissipation energy such as high traction during braking, low abrasion, and low rolling resistance. S-SBR reduces the rolling resistance of vehicles, increases the fuel efficiency and improves the wet grip of tires is likely to replace emulsion styrene butadiene rubber (E-SBR) with S-SBR.

The increasing exports of tires together with the rising demand for high-performance tires from importing countries is anticipated to drive the market growth of S-SBR market. The utilization of S-SBR in tires is growing owing to the tire labelling regulation of European Union regarding the improvement in tire grades.

Regional Market

China has rapidly emerged as a global petrochemical products manufacturing hub. Production in China enjoys the advantage of lower operating costs, and as a result a huge potential for SBR capacity addition exists in the country. Demand and production of SBR is also rising in China, due to increased demand from end-use sectors such as tire, construction, automotive goods, mechanical goods, footwear and so on. China also imports a considerable amount of SBR in order to produce various SBR downstream products. Demand from China is currently driving the Asia-Pacific market’s demand for SBR; however, South Korea and India are also expected to drive regional SBR growth rates in the near future.

Asia Pacific accounted for over 39.3% of the global volume and 58.3% in terms of global value in 2016. The leadership of Asia Pacific is majorly on account of the demand of S-SBR in developing economies including China, India, and Japan. China is the largest market for tire manufacturing, resulting in high demand for S-SBR in the economy.

Europe was the second largest region based on volume in 2016. The tire labeling regulations of European Union is likely to boost the demand of S-SBR in the European economies. Furthermore, the stringent regulations regarding winter tires usage are anticipated to aid the demand of S-SBR. Germany is the automotive hub for production and consumption of numerous vehicles. The high demand in the economy has led to the emergence of various tire manufacturing companies such as Herbert, and Styron, resulting in increasing demand for S-Styrene Butadiene Rubber in Germany.

Consumption Pattern

The tire industry accounted for over 81% of the total revenue share in 2016. The rising demand for S-SBR in high-performance tire manufacturing owing to its high fuel efficiency coupled with improved performance is likely to fuel the demand.

In terms of volume, the footwear industry was the second largest application. The application of the product in athletic shoes is on the rise owing to its grip and improved performance is likely to propel market demand. Furthermore, the availability of products through e-commerce platforms together with the changing fashion trends is expected to propel market demand.

The utilization of S-SBR in polymer modification process results in improving the end-product quality; as a result, it is utilized in the construction of roads and pavement. In addition, the application of S-SBR in the construction industry is for the alteration of cement and asphalt. These applications are likely to aid the market growth of S-Styrene Butadiene Rubber.

The share of polymer modification & footwear is anticipated to decline over the forecast period owing to the rising demand for the product in tire manufacturing together with the high supply-demand gap.

The S-SBR has numerous applications in the adhesive industry such as caulking, lamination paper coating, and wall tiles.

Competitive Insights

The industry is fragmented in nature with 8 major companies accounting for over 55% of the market share. The manufacturers focus on the nature of the product as well as on the raw materials that are offered. Petrochemical companies, typically capable of processing materials in bulk quantities tend to gain an advantage over normal rubber companies.

The market is characterized by a high level of forward integration by the raw material suppliers. Numerous petrochemical companies have a presence across the value chain wherein they produce crude oil and use it for the manufacturing of synthetic rubber.

Indian Market

India’s first large-scale styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) plant was built at Panipat by Indian Synthetic Rubber – a joint venture between Indian Oil, Taiwan’s TSRC and Japan’s Marubeni. Reliance Industries Ltd. began production at its new 150 KTA SBR plant at Hazira in 2015-16, which is the largest in India. The plant has capability to produce entire range of dry as well as oil extended grades of emulsion SBR.

In 2011 SBR capacity in India was 20 KTA and is expected to touch 290 KTA in 2016-17. The demand for SBR in India is projected at 313 KTA for 2016-17.

SBR Demand – Supply in India

Consumption Pattern of SBR in India

Safety Concerns

There has been a lot of media speculation lately reporting on health and environmental concerns around synthetic grass surfaces. As a result of this speculation, questions have been raised as to whether chemicals in the grass fibres and recycled SBR rubber infill might give off toxins that are harmful to human health.

The issue is not new and has been researched and debated for over a decade. All of that research to date concludes that there is no evidence that there is any elevated human health or environmental risk from ingesting, breathing, or skin contact with synthetic turf grass fibres or the infill or from any Storm water run-off.

Cost Drivers and Raw Materials

The key raw materials for manufacturing Styrene Butadiene Rubber include styrene and butadiene. The major suppliers of these raw materials are Sinopec, Sibur, and China National Petroleum Corporation. Sibur and Sinopec are fully integrated petrochemical companies with a presence across the entire value chain, from petroleum refining to rubber & plastic manufacturing.

SBR is the largest consumer of butadiene, accounting for over 30% of the consumption. It is the majorly consumed synthetic rubber, which is expected to increase the utilization of butadiene over the coming years. Tire industry is expected to fuel the market development over the forecast period.

Crude oil prices directly impact the prices of raw materials. Crude oil prices were at an all-time high in 2011, which clearly reflected in butadiene prices that touched USD 3.0/kilo during the same period. However, the recent dip in the prices of crude oil has brought butadiene and styrene prices to record lows. These factors have led to a significant impact on the styrene butadiene rubber prices over the past few years.

Tire labeling regulations emphasize on the proper labeling of tires for key parameters such as rolling resistance and wet grip. Japan was the first country to introduce tire labeling in 2010. The EU labeling is applied across the European states and is based on three parameters. South Korea implemented labeling regulations in tune with the EU regulations in December 2012.**