25 October 1999 00:00  [Source: ICB]


The global market for caprolactam was 3.6m tonne last year, according to the consultancy Tecnon UK, which rates worldwide capacity at about 4.2m tonne/year with growth rates of about 2%/year. Global supply is now snug as polyamide fibre demand starts to recover.

The Asian financial crisis caused a sharp drop in consumption, hitting European exports hard in late 1997 and throughout 1998. European exports have resumed and stocks are low following production problems in quarter two/three. Demand from the plastics sector has remained healthy. Societa Chimica Friuli's 20 000 tonne/year plant at Torviscosa, Italy, closed at the end of June.



Caprolactam is an intermediate primarily used in the production of nylon 6 fibres and resins. Nylon 6 fibre is used in carpets, clothes, hosiery and industrial textiles. Resins are used for moulding, film and coatings. About 90% of production is consumed by nylon fibres with resins accounting for about 10%. It is also used in cross-linking for polyurethanes and in the synthesis of lysine.


European Q4 contracts have risen by about DM250/tonne to DM2200-2400/tonne. Asian Q4 contracts have not settled but are $1300-$1400/tonne CFR with big buyers getting discounts.


Conventional technology is based on cyclohexanone which can be produced from either cyclohexane, phenol or toluene. Hydroxylamine sulphate, which can be made from ammonium nitrate and sulphur dioxide, is added to cyclohexanone in the presence of ammonia to produce cyclohexanone oxime, followed by a Beckmann rearrange-ment to yield caprolactam.

However, large amounts of ammonium sulphate are produced with development work concentrating on reducing or eliminating this byproduct. BASF and DuPont have developed a process from butadiene via adiponitrile that eliminates ammonium sulphate. DuPont and DSM have worked on a process using butadiene and carbon monoxide feedstocks.

Health & safety

Caprolactam is a white crystalline solid with a distinctive odour. Exposure to dusts, vapours or fumes should be avoided as they can cause irritation to the eyes, lungs and skin. Spills should be covered with sand or a similar absorbent. Caprolactam is a slight fire hazard.


Supply will continue tightening, becoming extremely short post-2002, as demand grows in excess of new capacity to be added over the next three to four years. New production will be gained by debottlenecking as the huge cost of grassroots plants deters investments. BASF and DuPont's project at Hainan, China, has been postponed and DSM's 50 000 tonne/year project in Nanjing, China, is unlikely before 2002. CPDC's new 120 000 tonne/year plant in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, is due end 1999. A 50 000 tonne/year plant in Hebei, China, and Sumitomo's 93 000 tonne/ year plant in Niiharna, Japan, will start up in November.


Producer Location Capacity

Western Europe

BASF Antwerp, Belgium 250 000

Ludwigshafen, Germany 140 000

Bayer Antwerp, Belgium 145 000

Caproleuna Leuna, Germany 100 000

DSM Geleen, Netherlands 210 000

EniChem Porto Marghera, Italy 130 000

Proquimed Castellon, Spain 75 000

Eastern Europe

Agrobiochim Stara Zagora, Bulgaria 30 000*

CIS Grodno, Belarus 120 000

Rustavi, Georgia 50 000*

Kemerovo, Russia 125 000

Sachekino, Russia 50 000

Togliatti, Russia 110 000

Cherkassy, Ukraine 50 000

Chirchik, Uzbekistan 80 000

Fibrex Savinesti, Romania 25 000*

Nitro Zilina, Slovakia 28 000

Spolana Neratovice, Czech Rep 48 000

ZA Pulawy Pulawy, Poland 55 000

ZA Tarnow Tarnow, Poland 77 000


Allied Chemical Hopewell, Va, US 364 000

BASF Fibers Freeport, Tx, US 265 000

DSM America Augusta, Ga, US 190 000

Evergreen Recycle Augusta, Ga, US 45 000

Univex Salamanca, Mexico 80 000


Baling Petrochemical Yueyang, China 58 000

CPDC Kaohsiung, Taiwan 60 000

Toufen Hsien, Taiwan 66 000

FACT Udyogamandal, India 50 000

GSFC Vadadora, India 72 000

Hankook Caprolactam Ulsan, South Korea 120 000

Mitsubishi Kagaku Kurosaki, Japan 120 000

Nanjing Chem Nanjing, Jiangsu, China 50 000

State-owned Fangshan, Beijing, China 3000

Thai Caprolactam Map Ta Phut, Thailand 70 000

Toray Nagoya, Japan 90 000

Tokai City, Japan 84 000

Ube Industries Sakai, Japan 110 000

Ube City, Japan 100 000

* currently closed


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