The global demand for carbon fiber increased by 11.9% in Q1 2021, compared to Q4 2020. Carbon fiber prices increased by about ~17% in Q1 2021 compared to Q4 2020, price increase is mainly driven by increasing price of acrylonitrile and supply chain disruption. Airbus and Boeing aircraft deliveries increased by 17% in Q1 2021 as compared Q1 2020 levels. Demand for carbon fiber was driven by growth in wind energy installation activities, recovery on aircraft deliveries, and increasing demand from sporting goods manufacturers during Q1 2021. The figure below depicts the change in demand and the price of carbon fiber in the past five quarters.
Figure 1: Global Quarterly Carbon Fiber Shipment and Price Trends
In Q1 2021, the carbon fiber demand in North America increased from Q4 2020, but the demand was weak as compared to Q1 2020. Demand for carbon fiber in wind turbine blade and casing applications remained strong along with signs of recovery in aircraft deliveries. The primary concern for the composites industry right now is managing the supply chain to access enough raw materials and other critical logistics to capitalize on the immediate demand.
In Q4 2020, the carbon fiber demand in North America increased marginally from Q3 2020, but the demand declined as compared to Q4 2019. Aircraft deliveries continued to increase and had a huge impact on the carbon fiber demand, demand for carbon fiber in wind turbine blade and casing applications also remained strong.
In Q1 2021, demand for carbon fiber improved slightly in the European market compared to Q4 2020, but the demand is relatively much lower as compared to Q1 2020. Light vehicle production reached above pre-COVID levels and grew by 3% in Q1 2021 from Q1 2020. However, aircraft deliveries are still growing at a base level as Airbus witnessed a growth in deliveries by ~2% in Q1 2021 compared to Q1 2020. In Q4 2020, demand for carbon fiber increased in the European market, due to increase in aircraft builds rates. Airbus deliveries in Europe had continued to increase by ~19% in Q4 2020.
In Q1 2021, demand for carbon fiber increased and production activities started to operate at higher levels in the automotive, sporting goods, and construction industries but the damage caused by the resurgence of COVID-19 in the later period of Q1 2021.
In Q4 2020, demand for carbon fiber gained steady speed and the impact of the corona virus pandemic towards recovery. China’s economic recovery accelerated amid a rebound in domestic consumption, better than expected exports and improving investments. However, the signs of recovery were seen in the later part of the third quarter, and fourth quarter, the demand for carbon fiber for wind energy applications helped to compensate for the negative trend in other industries.
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