Purified terephthalic acid

21 August 2000 00:00  [Source: ICB]

PTAThe PTA market has begun to recover this year as a strengthening global economy helped lift fibre and PET bottle demand and capacity surplusses are eroded

Supply/demandThe start of this year has seen a substantial recovery in the fortunes of the purified terephthalic acid (PTA) market. The resumption of growth in Asia and the strong world economy has lifted both fibre and PET bottle polymer demand. A number of production problems and shutdowns at the start of the year also helped the supply/demand situation. Producers anticipate that this tightness will increase. Generally it is expected that operating rates, which have risen substantially, will remain high, and without significant new capacity could reach levels last seen in the middle of the 1990s.

PricingMargins are under pressure from higher quarter three paraxylene prices and producers are trying to push through price rises. Quarter three price hikes of around DM100/tonne have been talked. However, there is a feeling that increases of between DM80-90/tonne will be achieved as PTA consumers are unwilling to absorb all of the feedstock increase, citing weaker than usual summer PET demand. PTA producers are optimistic that they can continue to push through price rises, with quarter three and quarter four expected to allow the PTA industry to get into better shape.

Use PTA is primarily used in polyester production with polyester fibre consuming more than 65% of global output. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resin in packaging and film grades accounts for around 30% of production.

TechnologyPTA is produced using the catalytic liquid phase oxidation of paraxylene in acetic acid. Manganese or cobalt acetate is used as a catalyst. The exothermic reaction produces water, which is removed in a solvent recovery system. Acetic acid from this is returned to the reactor together with the oxidation catalyst.

The resulting PTA is purified while unreacted xylene and water are flashed off. Plant modifications and substitution of metaxylene for paraxylene means that purified isophthalic acid (PIA) can be produced. Earlier this year Eastman Chemical entered into an alliance with Lurgi Öel Gas Chemie for the licensing of Eastman's proprietary PTA technology. Eastman said that with the strong growth in PET, the agreement would provide a good opportunity for the company to take advantage of its industry leadership.

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OUTLOOK



PTA markets are expected to continue to tighten across Europe following an EU provisional ruling placing anti-dumping duties on 18 Asian PET producers (see page 10). As the duties take effect, increasing European PET production should feed through to improved margins for European PTA producers.

While current European pricing levels do not support investment in new capacity, the expectation of higher operating rates and widening margins has spurred plans for new capacity. Spain's Interquisa has announced plans to build a 350 000 tonne/year PTA plant in San Roque, Spain. The new unit is expected to become operational by 2002. At the same time BP Chemical made it known that it was also studying plans for new worldscale PTA capacity, around 700 000 tonne/year, in Europe as well as debottlenecking capacity at Geel, Belgium. European producers are expecting a strong upturn in the market post 2002 as a result of PET's use in an ever growing number of applications. Some producers talk of such strong global demand that there is need for the equivalent of one new worldscale plant every year over the next few years. Outside of Europe Interquisa has established a joint venture to build PTA capacity in Canada, while at the start of the year BP said it was studying plans to build 700 000 tonne/year of capacity at its site in Cooper River, South Carolina, US. This plant could be operational by 2003.

EUROPEAN, US AND LATIN AMERICAN PTACAPACITY, '000 TONNE/YEAR







Company Location Capacity


Europe


Eastman Chemical Rotterdam, the Netherlands 210


BP Geel Belgium


No2 350


No3 500


Inca (Dow Chemical) Ottano, Italy 160


Interquisa San Roque, Spain 400


PCK Schwedt, Germany 60


DuPont Wilton, UK 550




US


BP Cooper River, South Carolina 728


Cooper River, South Carolina 500


Decatur, Alabama 1089


DuPont Cape Fear, North Carolina 275


Cape Fear, North Carolina 275


Eastman Columbia, South Carolina 385


Kingsport, Tennessee 45


Kingsport, Tennessee 160


KoSa Wilmington, North Carolina 180




Latin America


Petrocel Altamira, Tampico, Mexico 350


Rhodiaco Paulina, Brazil 250


Temex Cosoleacaque, Veracruz, Mexico 600


SOURCE: CMAI & ECN






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