Caprolactam

25 October 1999 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Supply/demand



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.

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Uses



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.

Pricing



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.

Technology



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.

Outlook



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.

GLOBAL CAPROLACTAM CAPACITY, TONNE/YEAR





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


US


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


Asia


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


SOURCE: CMAI/TECNON





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