11 October 2004 00:01 [Source: ICB]
Bisphenol A (BPA) is used mainly to produce polycarbonate (PC), which accounts for about 65% of consumption. The second largest outlet is epoxy resins, which accounts for approximately 30% of consumption. Other uses include flame retardants (mainly tetrabromobisphenol A), unsaturated polyester resins and polyacrylate, polyetherimide and polysulphone resins.
The European market is tight as high demand, plant turnarounds and reduced imports keep supply in check. Demand in Europe this year has been surprisingly strong and has exceeded expectations both into PC and epoxy resins, say sources.
Maintenance shutdowns in quarter three have also limited availability and some players say customers are still on allocation. In addition, exports to Asia have been high as the region sucks in volumes to meet soaring consumption of PC and a big increase in demand for epoxy resins. Asian imports into Europe have largely disappeared, and imports of Brazilian material have declined.
Although suppliers do not expect the present acceleration of demand in Asia to be sustained, they do expect demand to remain healthy and supply to remain snug until at least mid-2005. New consumption is also expected soon from Spolchemie’s 18 000 tonne/year epoxy resin expansion in the Czech Republic, which will complete this month. GE’s output in Spain will rise next month to feed its new PC plant.
European prices have climbed during 2004, driven up by soaring benzene feedstock costs and tight supply. However, suppliers say margins have not improved and are still ‘not very healthy’. Most of the market has moved to monthly contracts, although there are still some quarterly agreements in place with larger end users.
Suppliers are seeking further hikes of €100-200/tonne in October in a bid to lift numbers to €1500-1600/tonne. Some buyers quote higher numbers of €1650/tonne for October, with others reporting numbers still under €1500/tonne. Quarter three contract prices are quoted by ICIS-LOR in the range €1275-1345/tonne, with quarter four contracts still being negotiated.
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 for epoxy resin production and a higher purity grade to make PC.
Health and safety
BPA is a crystalline, prilled or flake material with a slightly phenolic odour. It is a slight fire hazard, but the dust can form explosive mixtures with air. It can irritate the eyes, skin and respiratory tract.
Global demand growth is put at just over 7%/year for the next few years, driven by new applications for PC, including automotive parts and optical media. The strongest growth is in Asia and several projects are planned in the region to feed phenol/BPA/PC plants. Most new investment is focused on China, which has the largest growth potential. Other projects, both new builds and expansions, are also planned or being built in Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Saudi Arabia. In Europe, Russia’s Kazanorgsintez will build a 65 000 tonne/year BPA/70 000 tonne/year PC facility in Kazan with startup due in March 2007.
|Dow Chemical||Stade, Germany||100|
|GE Plastics||Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands||180|
|Novokuibyshevsk Petrochemical||Novokuibyshevsk, Russia||20|
|Resolution Performance Products||Pernis, Netherlands||150|
|Dow Chemical||Freeport, Texas||190|
|GE Plastics||Burkville, Alabama||75|
|Mount Vernon, Indiana||265|
|Resolution Performance Products||Deer Park, Texas||265|
|Sunoco Chemicals||Haverhill, Ohio||110|
|Bayer Polymers||Mab Ta Phut, Thailand||190|
|Chang Chun Petrochemical||Miao-Li, Taiwan||20|
|Idemitsu Kosan||Ichihara, Japan||70|
|Kesar Petroproducts||Lote Parshuram, India||7.5|
|Kumho P&B Chemicals||Yosu, South Korea||135|
|Mitsubishi Chemical||Kashima, Japan||100|
|Mitsui Bisphenol Singapore||Pulau Sakra, Singapore||210|
|Mitsui Chemicals||Ichihara, Japan||90|
|Nan Ya Plastics||Mailiao, Taiwan||190|
|Nippon Steel Chemical||Kita-Kyushu, Japan||95|
|Taiwan Prosperity Chemical||Lin Yuan, Taiwan||25|
|Wuxi Resin||Wuxi, China||12|
|* Increase to 280 000 tonne/year from November|
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