PET Polyethylene terephthalate

03 July 2000 00:00  [Source: ICB]

With very little supply coming onstream over the last two years, PET in Europe is moving from oversupply to a more balanced position

Supply/demand



West European PET bottle resin capacity was 1.76m tonne in 1999 which compares with west European demand of 1.35m tonne, according to consultancy CMAI. Global PET resin capacity was 8.5m tonne with consumption at 5.9m tonne in 1999. CMAI estimates that global annual demand growth rates for PET resins between 1998-2004 will average 12%.

The past two years has seen considerable consolidation among major players. Shell sold its businesses to Italy's Mossi & Ghisolfi. DuPont and Haci Omer Sabanci Holding announced the launch of their European polyester joint venture, DuPont SA, on 1 January 2000, combining DuPont's terephthalic acid (PTA) and resins businesses at Wilton, UK, with Sabanci's polyester subsidiary Sasa in Adana, Turkey. US group KoSa, which in 1998 took over Hoechst's non-textile polyester business, formed a 50:50 joint venture with Catalana de Polimers, part of the La Seda group, to own and operate Catalana's PET packaging resins plant at Barcelona (ECN 11 October 1999).

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Prices



PET contract prices have recovered steadily from their slump in late 1998-early 1999. PET producers continue to consolidate a 60 pfg/kg price increase achieved over April, May and June. June contracts rolled over from May with the range at DM2.45-2.50/kg FD NWE. PET producers are planning a 25 pfg/kg price hike in July in anticipation of a higher quarter three paraxylene contract settlement. West European spot prices are quoted at DM2.40-2.45/kg FD NWE. Since quarter four 1999, spot activity has been relatively low-key with Asian imports finding a new home in Russia and eastern Europe. Asian export prices for eastern Europe/Russia are now lower at $870-880/tonne fob NE Asia.

Uses



Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a downstream product of paraxylene and can be made into either resin or film. Use in the bottled water market has grown dramatically and now accounts for 35% of the west European PET resin use, according to London-based consultancy Tecnon. However, the main use of PET resins remains soft drinks bottles which account for 37% of the sector. Other bottles and containers include edible oils and pharmaceutical containers and account for 18.5% of use.

Technology



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.

New catalysts are being developed to reduce the esterification time. Researchers are also looking for ways to remove the solid state polycondensation stage. For example, Du Pont is working on a flash crystallisation process after the finisher.

EUROPEAN PET CAPACITY, '000 TONNE/YEAR



Company Location Capacity
Tergal Fibers Gauchy, France 45
BSL Olefin Schkopau, Germany 140
Kosa Gersthofen, Germany 70 (78)1
Offenbach, Germany 130
VPISA Volos, Greece 60
Cobarr Agnani, Italy 90
Dow-Inca Ottana, Italy 60
Pisticci, Italy 60
Italpet Pallanza, Italy 90
Preform
Radici- Udine, Italy 100
Aussopol
Sipet Patrica, Italy 100
Wellman Emmen, Netherlands 60
Eastman Rotterdam, Netherlands 130
Elana Torun, Poland 45
Trevira Portalegre, Portugal 30
Brilen Barbastro, Spain 110
KoSa/ Prat de Llobregat, Spain 75
Catalana
Eastman San Roque, Spain 130
Resisa Barcelona, Spain 4
Crystal Humberside, UK 30
Polymer
DuPont SA Wilton, Teesside, UK 60
Wilton, Teesside, UK 128
Eastman Workington, UK 130
Belpak Mogilev, FSU 30
(planned capacity); 1by 2005
Source: CMAI

Outlook



The PET resin business in Europe is shifting from oversupply to a more balanced situation as very little new capacity has come onstream in the last two years. CMAI estimates plant operating rates at 92% which coupled with a decline in Asian imports has brought about a recovery in European PET prices.

The European Commission is expected to make a decision on the EU anti-dumping investigation into low priced Asian exports in early July. Whether duties are enforced will be decided at ministerial level on 1 August 2000. Since the announcement of the investigation last December, Asian imports have declined dramatically. CMAI predicts that margins for PET producers will improve due to high operating rates coupled with 10%/year growth rates for PET in Europe.

In terms of developing markets for PET, major breweries are exploring its use in beer packaging with Eastman unveiling its new amber-coloured PET for the beer market in June this year. Brilen has built an 85 000 tonne/year plant at its site in Barbastro, Spain, this year.

KoSa/Catalana de Polimers plans to expand its 75 000 tonne/year plant in Prat de Llobregat, Spain, to 110 000 tonne/year within the next two years.





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