Chemical Profile: Nitrile Rubber

13 June 2005 00:01  [Source: ICB Americas]

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Nitrile Rubber

June 13-19 2005


Lanxess, Orange, Tex. (H)


Lanxess, Sarnia, Ontario (S)


DSM Copolymer, Baton Rouge, La. (S)


Dow Reichhold Specialty Latex, Cheswold, Del. (L)


INSA (Industrias Negromex SA de CV), Tampico, Mexico (L)


Lubrizol, Akron, Ohio (L)


Nitrilo SA de CV, Altamira, Mexico (S)


Zeon Chemicals, Bayport, Tex. (H)


Zeon Chemicals, Louisville, Ky. (S)


Total Solid


Total Hydrogenated


Total Latex




*Thousand metric tons per year of solid (S), latexes (L), and hydrogenated (H) nitrile rubber (NBR) capacity. NBR rubbers are emulsion-polymerized co-polymers of acrylonitrile and butadiene. Some plants are multi-purpose, having flexibility for nitrile or styrene-butadiene elastomer.

Last year, Bayer demerged its chemicals and polymers businesses into a separate legal entity named Lanxess. The chosen business units for the new company were the more mature pieces that reflected GDP growth, including rubber polymers. Lanxess was spun off in January this year to Bayer’s shareholders. Lanxess produces nitrile rubber at Orange, Tex. and Sarnia, Ontario with respective capacities of 4,000 and 40,000 metric tons per year.

Dow Reichhold Specialty Latex is a 50-50 joint venture of The Dow Chemical Company and Reichhold Inc., a subsidiary of Dainippon Ink and Chemicals. The joint venture was initiated in January 2002 and included Reichhold’s manufacturing facility in Cheswold, Del. Noveon was acquired by Lubrizol in 2004.

In mid-2000, Goodyear closed its NBR production unit in Houston, Tex., eliminating 28,000 metric tons of capacity from the market. The previous year, Goodyear had sold its NBR business to Zeon Chemicals.

Profile last published 6/17/02; this revision, 6/13/05.


2003: 85,000 metric tons; 2004: 91,000 metric tons; 2008: 99,000 metric tons, projected. Demand equals production plus imports (2003: 45,000 metric tons; 2004: 49,000 metric tons) less exports (2003: 22,000 metric tons; 2004: 31,000 metric tons).


Historical (1999-2004): High, $1.25 per pound, list, medium-low acrylonitrile content (24 to 27 percent ACN), bulk, works; low, $1.25. per pound, same basis. Current: $1.25 per pound, same basis; medium-high acrylonitrile, $1.35 per pound. Significant discounting in the marketplace exists.


Hose, belting and cable, 27 percent; O-rings and seals, 20 percent; latex applications, 14 percent; molded and extruded products, 14 percent; adhesives and sealants, 10 percent; sponges, 6 percent; footwear, 4 percent; other, 5 percent.


Historical (1999-2004): -1.3 percent per year; Future: 2.0 percent per year through 2008.


Nitrile rubber consumption in the US is expected to achieve moderate growth, achieving 2 percent per year though 2008. Global growth should be somewhat better at roughly 3 percent per year.


Nitrile rubber is highly resistant to petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel oil and other fuels over a wide temperature range. NBR is also noted for high strength and excellent resistance to abrasion, water, alcohols and heat. Consequently, nitrile rubbers are converted to a wide variety of products, but automotive end uses represent about 50 percent of the total consumption. Consequently, the performance of the OEM automobile sector and aftermarket component business have great impact on the performance of nitrile elastomers.

Special forms of NBR continue to grow in importance. Powdered NBR finds widespread use in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene resins as an impact modifier in such products as automotive dashboards and kick panels. Blends of 70 percent NBR/30 percent PVC are used for wire and cable jackets and soles for work shoes and military footwear. Such blends provide oil, ozone and weathering resistance for molded and extruded mechanical goods.
Nitrile latexes are used primarily as paper saturants or wet-end additives to provide soil and grease resistance. Products include masking tapes, high-strength building papers, automotive gaskets, abrasive papers and specialty tape and label stock. Nitrile latexes are also used in clothing innerliners, asphalt modification and glove dipping. Nitrile latexes, however, is a nongrowth segment, faced with increasing competition from styrene-butadiene and acrylics in applications such as binders for nonwoven fabrics and some paper applications.

By: Mark Kirschner
+1 713 525 2653

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