There are a wide variety of products that are classified as chemical products, which can be categorized into the following segments: basic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, specialties, agricultural chemicals, and consumer products. Products such as plastic resins, petrochemicals, and synthetic rubber are included in the basic chemicals segment, and products such as adhesives, sealants, and coatings are among the products included in the specialty chemicals segment.
The global trade of chemicals is active and complex. In 2018, the value of global chemical imports amounted to 1.89 trillion euros, or 2.16 trillion U.S. dollars. Meanwhile, chemical exports amounted to a value of 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars that year. Europe was responsible for the largest value of both chemical imports and exports as of 2018, with Asia-Pacific in second place in both rankings.
The five leading chemical companies in the world based on revenue as of 2019 consisted of exclusively German and U.S. companies. German companies BASF and Bayer took first and second place, respectively, while U.S. companies Dow, DuPont, and LyondellBasell Industries accounted for the third through fifth places. Many of the leading chemical companies in the world have been established for a considerable length of time. BASF, for example, was founded in Mannheim, Germany in 1865. Similarly, Dow was founded in Midland, Michigan, in 1897.
Chemical consumption worldwide in 2018 accounted for over 3.45 trillion euros, or 3.95 trillion U.S. dollars. Overall, regional chemical consumption is expected to grow the most rapidly in Asia during the coming years. Asia plays a sizable role in the global chemicals market, accounting for a 54 percent share of the market in 2018, but China alone is largely responsible for the recent increases in Asia’s growing exports and consumption of chemicals. In 2018, Chinese chemical consumption accounted for approximately 1.25 trillion euros. This value was more than twice as much as the consumption of chemicals in the United States that year.
Merger and acquisition activity within the global chemicals industry is very active. As of 2019, there were 967 deals completed worldwide, with the leading deal amounting to over 139 billion U.S. dollars. Several high-profile chemical M&A deals have been completed in recent years, such as Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto (completed in 2018), and the merger of Dow and DuPont completed in 2017. Since the DowDuPont merger the conglomerate has split into three companies: Dow, DuPont, and agricultural chemical newcomer, Corteva.
Although chemical production and consumption are important contributors to global employment, trade, and economic growth, the impacts of this industry on environmental and human health must also be considered. Many governments around the world have established guidelines or legislature to determine how to manage the transportation and storage of hazardous chemicals. Chemical management programs and international conventions and institutions also exist to properly manage the growing volume of chemicals worldwide.