The Global Chemical Sector 2024 and 2023 Outlook

The global chemical sector: In the tumultuous economic landscape of 2023, the chemical industry faced significant challenges, experiencing a notable decline in sales. This article delves into the state of the chemical sector during 2023 and provides insights into its medium-term forecasts, drawing from the latest data from Allianz Trade, a key stakeholder in the industry.

The Chemical Sector in 2022: Industry Dynamics and Pricing Trends

The preceding year, 2022, witnessed a period of industry consolidation following a robust recovery in 2021, marked by a remarkable 40% year-on-year growth in chemical product sales. However, market sentiment began to wane towards the year’s end, driven by persistent inflation, particularly in energy prices, coupled with tight monetary policies and recessionary concerns.

Despite an overall 11% growth in chemical sales in 2022, driven primarily by price increments rather than volume, profit margins faced contraction, notably in the fourth quarter. This contraction stemmed from a sharp rise in production costs, especially in energy and labor. Sales trends varied across business segments, with intermediate and derivative products experiencing a 15% growth, while basic chemicals and petrochemicals saw a growth of 9% and 4%, respectively.

Competitive Dynamics in 2023

The onset of 2023 brought about a decline in chemical sales, with a significant 16% year-on-year drop in the first quarter, further exacerbated by a 26% decline in the second quarter. However, a silver lining emerged for European producers as natural gas prices receded from their 2022 peak, providing some relief.

Nonetheless, energy prices remained higher than historical averages and above those in the United States, granting American chemical producers a competitive edge over their European counterparts. China, on the other hand, sought to bolster its production capacity, especially in basic chemicals, aiming to capture the market share relinquished by Russia.

The global chemical sector 2024

Looking ahead to 2024, the global chemical sector is poised to navigate a landscape marked by both opportunities and challenges. As the world continues to recover from the economic downturn and grapple with ongoing geopolitical tensions, chemical companies will need to remain agile in response to shifting market dynamics.

Key trends expected to shape the industry in 2024 include a renewed emphasis on innovation and digitalization, as companies seek to enhance operational efficiency and drive product differentiation.

Additionally, sustainability will remain at the forefront of industry priorities, with a growing focus on circular economy principles and the development of eco-friendly solutions. Amidst these changes, collaboration across the value chain and strategic partnerships will be essential for driving growth and resilience in the face of uncertainty.

Key Considerations for the Chemical Industry

Several events and trends are poised to significantly influence the global chemical sector in the coming months:

  • The War in Ukraine: The prolonged conflict continues to impact Europe, sustaining high energy prices despite a slight decrease from peak levels.
  • China’s Reopening: The resumption of operations in China is expected to stimulate local production and demand for chemicals.
  • Industrialization Efforts: Government support measures and corporate strategies will shape the resilience and trajectory of the sector.
  • Shifts in Chemical Production: A trend of reduced production driven by global economic slowdown and subdued consumer demand is anticipated.
  • Financial Tightening: Continued tightening of financing conditions in developed economies may affect companies seeking debt refinancing.

Subsector Realities in the Global Chemical Industry

Impact on Basic Chemical Products

Basic chemical products, serving as essential building blocks for various industries, faced significant challenges amidst the current economic climate. With heightened energy requirements for production, companies within this subsector experienced reduced margins and limited pricing power.

Specialty Chemicals: Pricing Dynamics

In contrast, producers of specialty chemicals enjoyed greater pricing power owing to the complexity of their production processes. Despite surging production costs, demand for specialty chemicals remained robust, particularly in sectors like agriculture, underscoring the product’s indispensable role.

Strengths and Challenges in 2023


  • Diversified End Markets: The sector benefits from a wide array of end markets, reducing dependence on any single sector.
  • Opportunities in Ecological Transition: The shift towards sustainability presents growth opportunities, particularly in biofuels and packaging chemicals.
  • Pricing Power in Specialty Chemicals: Companies specializing in niche chemicals possess considerable pricing leverage.
  • Resilience Amidst Industrial Activity: Chemicals remain integral to global manufacturing, ensuring sustained demand during periods of industrial growth.
  • Opportunities in Electric Vehicle Production: Increased electric vehicle manufacturing presents growth avenues for lithium producers.

The global chemical sector Challenges:

  • Capital and Research Investment Needs: High capital expenditure and research investment requirements pose challenges for industry players.
  • Vulnerability to Energy Prices: The energy-intensive nature of the sector renders it susceptible to fluctuations in energy prices.
  • Threats to Petrochemical Revenues: Declining demand for plastics and derivatives due to evolving environmental regulations poses a threat to petrochemical segment revenues.
  • Environmental and Reputational Risks: Addressing environmental concerns, including decarbonization and health-related issues, presents reputational and operational challenges for the industry.

At the End, while the global chemical sector grapples with economic headwinds and market uncertainties, it also navigates through a landscape ripe with opportunities, driven by innovation, sustainability initiatives, and evolving consumer demands.


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