09 November 1998 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Although PET demand is rising steadily, it is failing to keep pace with the increasing world capacity buildup


Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a downstream product of polyester and can be made into either resin or film. Of the two the highest growth trend is seen in resins for the packaging industry, being driven by switches from glass, aluminium and PVC.

End product usage of PET resins are dominated by blow-moulded soft drinks bottles, estimated to have an 83% share of the west European PET resin sector. Blow-moulded custom bottles have a 5% share of this market, with extruded film and trays making up 6%.


European PET bottle resin production capacity is currently placed at 1.6m tonne/year with 1998 demand estimated to be 1.3m tonne/year and growing to 2.5m tonne/year in 2003, according to Tecnon Consulting. Global PET packaging demand sits at 4.6m tonne/year and will grow to 9.2m tonne/year by 2003. Worldwide demand has continued to grow at 10-15%/year while capacity has grown at 25-30% in the past five years.

Eastman's 130 000 tonne/year plant at Rotterdam came onstream earlier this year. Hoechst-Trevira's PET resin business was sold to the Koch-Saba group and is now KoSa (ECN 27 April 1998). New capacity is due to come onstream in 1999 when Dow-BSL brings on its 145 000 tonne/year in Schkopau plant in eastern Germany. Brilen will also expand its 25 000 tonne/year site in Spain to 85 000 tonne/year by 2000.


DuPont completed the acquisition of ICI's PTA/PET operations in mid-1997. Little capacity has been announced worldwide beyond 2000 due to current weak market conditions.


Purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and monoethylene glycol (MEG) are reacted to make a basic ester which is polymerised in a melt phase, polycondensation finishing reactor operating under heat and vacuum. The molten polymer is extruded, cut into chips and cooled.

The chips pass to a solid state polycondensation unit which can be considered an annealing process to form the resin. Developments include new catalysts to reduce esterification time. Researchers are also looking for ways to remove the solid state polycondensation stage. For example, DuPont is working on a flash crystallisation process after the finisher.


After a period of strong demand growth and exceptional margins in the early 1990s, PET bottle resins prices weakened in 1996 and 1997. The current competitive environment is defined by the increasing world overcapacity along the whole polyester chain. The Asian turmoil hit nearly all Asian markets from July 1997. Many Asian exporters are operating at survival levels in order to meet dollar debt repayments, pushing exports into all world markets and in particular into the US and Europe.

Increased low cost Asian imports have been the driving force behind falling European PET resin prices throughout the year. Asian imports to Europe, historically at 15-20%, are anticipated to climb to 40% by the end of the year, while US imports have fallen. Current Asian spot prices are being quoted at DM1.2-1.4/kg, while European material has fallen dramatically in October with DM1.4-1.5/kg a 25 pfennig drop since mid-September.

EUROPEAN pet capacity, '000 tonne/year

Company Location Capacity

Actual Planned


KoSa Gersthofen 60

Offenbach 140

Dow-BSL Schkopau 145*


Cobarr Agnani 80

Dow - Inca Ottana 60

Districci 55

Shell-Sipet 1 Patricia 90

Italpet Pallanza 90

Radici Udine 120


Wellman Emmen 40

Eastman Rotterdam 120


Hoechst Fibras Portallegre 23


Brilen Barbastro-Spain 25 85**

Eastman Cadiz 120

Catalana de Polimers El Prat de Llobregat 80


Eastman Workington 120

Hartlepool 62

Shell Scunthorpe 45

DuPont Wilton, Teesside 120 50**

Wilton, Teesside 60


Rhodia Guachy 35


Sasa1 Adana 44

Sasa2 Adana 80


Elana Torun 25 45**

*1999 **2000

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