24 September 2001 00:00 [Source: ICB]Growth in the short term does not look positive; however, in the long term SRI Consulting predicts demand growth into PC, the largest end-use product for BPA, will average 7.4%/year
Bisphenol A (BPA) is used primarily in the production of polycarbonate (PC) and epoxy resins. About 63% of BPA goes into PC, with 27% used in epoxy resins. The remaining 10% goes into other uses such as flame retardants (mainly tetrabromobisphenol A), unsat-urated polyester resins and polyacrylate, polyetherimide and polysulphone resins.
European supply was very tight at the start of the year with good demand in the PC sector. However, since April, demand from PC has seen a significant drop and supply of BPA has loosened considerably. Producers are said to have adjusted operating rates to the reduced offtake. However, the epoxy resins sector has not fared so badly and is said to remain relatively strong, despite reduced consumption in the construction sector. US and Asian markets have also both suffered dramatic drops in consumption. Some export volumes continue to flow to Asia but in much smaller volumes. Europe has largely remained protected from competitively priced imports as a result of euro/dollar exchange rates. Shell Chemicals has spun off its resins business with a sale in July 2000 to US-based Apollo Management, which has renamed the business Resolution Performance Products.
Prices in Europe started the year in the range DM2.50-2.55/kg, rising in quarter two to DM2.60-2.80/kg. However, European third quarter contracts slipped by 5-10 pfg/kg ending the six-month price climb. The quoted range is now DM2.55-2.75/kg, although numbers of DM2.40-2.50/kg were also heard. European spot is offered lower at DM2.30-2.40/kg, but is meeting little buying interest. Asian numbers were reported at $850/tonne cif and higher, depending on the buyer and sector.
BPA is produced by the condensation of phenol and acetone in the presence of an acid catalyst (hydrogen chloride), and usually a promoter such as methyl mercaptan. Cationic ion exchange resins can replace the acid catalyst in newer plants. After the reaction and recovery of acid and phenol, the BPA is washed with water, neutralised with milk of lime and distilled under vacuum. Newer processes employ distillation and extractive crystallisation under pressure to purify the BPA. Two grades are produced: one suitable for epoxy resin production and a higher purity grade for polycarbonate manufacture. A new catalytic stripping process has been developed, which uses nitrogen to remove water formed in the condensation reaction. The high conversion rate obtained allows crystallisation to be achieved in one stage with resultant cost savings.
BPA is a crystalline, prilled or flake material with a slightly phenolic odour which is soluble in ether, ethanol and acetone. It is a slight fire hazard, but the dust can form explosive mixtures with air and toxic gases given off when burnt. Dust, vapour and solutions can irritate the skin, lungs and eyes. Debate continues on BPA's potential endocrine disrupting properties. Industry studies on low-dose effects have been inconclusive to date.
SRI Consulting says growth will stagnate in the short term because of the world economic downturn. In the longer term, total consumption in the world's major regions is tipped to grow at an average rate of 6.3%/ year, predicts SRI. PC is the fastest growing end use for BPA, and SRI expects demand in this sector to show an average growth of 7.4%/year. Consumption into epoxy resins will grow more modestly at 3-4%/year. Asian demand for BPA will nearly double from 1999's 660 000 tonne to 1.2m tonne in 2007, and several projects are planned or under way in Thailand, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Iran. Global capacity is estimated to rise from just under 2.8m tonne/ year in 2000 to 3.6m tonne/year in 2004.
|Dow Chemical||Stade, Germany||100|
|GE Plastics||Bergen op Zoom,|
|Resolution Performance Products||Pernis, Netherlands||129|
|GE Plastics||Burkville, Alabama||78|
|Mount Vernon, Indiana||265|
|Resolution Performance Products||Deer Park, Texas||210|
|Sunoco Chemicals||Haverhill, Ohio||110|
|Chang Chun Petrochemical||Miao-Li, Taiwan||20|
|Idemitsu Petrochemical||Chiba, Japan||70|
|Kesar Petroproducts||Lote Parshuram, India||7.5|
|Kumho P&B Chemicals||Yochon, South Korea||35|
|Mitsubishi Chemical||Kashima, Japan||100|
|Mitsui Bisphenol Singapore||Pulau Sakra, Singapore||70|
|Mitsui Chemicals||Nagoya, Japan||80|
|Nan Ya Plastics||Mailiao, Taiwan||115|
|Nippon Steel Chemical||Kita-Kyushu, Japan||95|
|Taiwan Prosperity||Lin Yuan, Taiwan||25|
|Wuxi Resin||Wuxi, China||10|
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