Product profile: PET

07 June 2004 00:01  [Source: ICB]

Strong growth and anti-dumping duties are the bright spots for Europe. But consolidation is still badly needed in a sector characterised by a fragmented supply base and hindered by poor profits
 
Uses

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) can be made into a resin or film. PET resin’s main use is in the soft drinks and water bottle market but it is also starting to make inroads into some European bottled beer markets. Other applications include thick-walled containers for cosmetic and personal care products and pharmaceuticals. PET film is used in packaging and in electrical applications such as dielectric metal foil capacitors.

Supply/demand

Demand in Europe is said to be reasonable. Sales in northwest Europe are better than southern Europe where recent poor weather has dampened demand. Supply is balanced and players say the market has been helped by the imposition of provisional anti-dumping duties against Pakistan, China, and Australia, which has cut import volumes significantly and boosted sales for domestic producers.

Dow Chemical announced last week that it is selling a 50% stake in its PET/purified terephthalic acid (PTA) business to Kuwait’s Petrochemical Industries (PIC). The new company will be known as Equipolymers. Capacity has closed in Italy and the UK. DuPontSA shut a 65 000 tonne/year unit at Wilton, UK, at the end of 2002 and Dow closed its 60 000 tonne/year plant at Pisticci, Italy, in early 2003.

Pricing

European suppliers are disappointed not to have gained their targeted price increase of €100/tonne in May. Contracts either rolled over or gained an average €20-30/tonne rise, although some producers also reported increases as high as €50/tonne. The current range for bottle grade resin is quoted at €1150-1200/tonne in northwest Europe. Producers say hefty raw material costs have eroded margins in April and May which are the lowest they have been in about six years. Further price increases will be sought in June with suppliers seeking at least the balance of the May rise.

Technology

PTA and monoethylene glycol 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 that is an annealing process to form the resin. Both continuous and batch processes are available for the polymerisation.

New processes to produce new materials with different physical properties are under development and new catalysts are being developed to reduce the esterification time. Researchers are also looking for ways to remove the solid state polycondensation stage. DuPont and Fluor Daniel have developed the NG3 process which is claimed to reduce the number of steps from six to four, with savings in capital and manufacturing costs.

Recycling recovered PET containers is now a viable process. Voridian (Eastman Chemical) has developed a process that breaks PET down into its basic components and creates a virgin material. Wellman has technology to produce recycled PET for use in food or drink packaging.

Health and safety

PET is a non-hazardous material. However, it can react with strong oxidants and powdered material may form explosive dust-air mixtures. Molten material will cause thermal burns.

Outlook

The European market is tipped to grow overall by about 7-9%/year. The main driver is central and eastern Europe where demand is said to be growing at about 10%/year. In western Europe, demand will grow by 5-7%/year. PET’s use in beer bottles is a ‘sleeping giant’ and has yet to take off in much of Europe, although it is growing substantially in Germany.

New capacity is due in late 2004 at Dow in Schkopau, Germany, and at Selenis in Portugal, and two expansions in Spain will start up early next year. During 2005 two new plants are due onstream in Poland and two in Lithuania. Construction is also under way on a new 120 000 tonne/year plant in Bashkortostan, Russia.

EUROPEAN PET CAPACITY, ’000 TONNE/YEAR

Company Location Capacity
Aussapol Udine, Italy 145
Belpak Mogilev, Belarus 115
Brilen Barbastro, Spain 150
Catalana de Polimers Prat de Llobregat, Spain 115
Cobarr Agnani, Italy 70
Cray Valley Iberica Barcelona, Spain 4
Dow Chemical Schkopau, Germany 160
DuPontSA Adana, Turkey 130
Wilton, UK 150
Elana Torun, Poland 120
Inca (Dow Chemical) Ottana, Italy 115
Invista Gersthofen, Germany 55
Offenbach, Germany 210
Italpet Preform Pallanza, Italy 110
Khimvolokno Mogilev Mogilev, Belarus 40
M&G Polimeri Patrica, Italy 195
Selenis Industrias de Polimeros Portalegre, Portugal 75
Sibur-PETF Tver, Russia 55
Slovensky Hodvab Senica, Slovakia 5
Tergal Fibers Gauchy, France 65
Terom Iasi, Romania 10
Voridian Rotterdam, Netherlands 160
San Roque, Spain 160
Workington, UK 145
VPI Volos, Greece 80
Wellman Emmen, Netherlands 60
Source: ECN/CNI






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