Chemical profile : Polycarbonate

30 October 2006 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Uses

Polycarbonate (PC) has major uses in optical applications (safety shields and safety/fashion eyewear) and discs (CDs, DVDs). Other outlets are portable tool housings, safety helmets, industrial equipment, housing components, household appliances, computer, electrical and automotive parts, sporting goods, aircraft and missile components.

PC is also used in compounds or blended with other polymers. It is available in different grades and can be extruded, blow and injection moulded.

Supply/demand

Increased supply and softer demand have impacted world markets this year. In Europe, demand from the construction sector has picked up this quarter, but supply is plentiful with competitively priced Asian product also available. Asian markets are lacklustre, with weaker than expected demand in the optical sector. US demand is also muted.

New capacity has started up this year for Bayer MaterialScience and Teijin in China, Thai Polycarbonate in Thailand, and Chi-Mei in Taiwan.

Pricing

European fourth-quarter general purpose (GP) extrusion contracts have risen by €0.05-0.10/kg to €2.85-3.10/kg FD NWE on the back of improved demand. Some GP moulding contracts increased by up to €0.10/kg, but most rolled over at €2.90-3.20/kg.

Prices in northeast Asia are under pressure. Optical grade prices are weaker than GP grades and were down $10/tonne to $2,650-2,690/tonne CIF for October shipments. GP moulding cargoes held stable at $2,850-2,900/tonne CIF. In the US, GP moulding contract prices were flat at $1.95-2.19/lb for bulk delivered.

Technology

There are two processes to manufacture PC: interfacial and melt technology. In the interfacial polymerisation process, alkali salts of bisphenol-A (BPA) in aqueous solution are phosgenated in the presence of an inert solvent. Environmental and cost issues have forced producers to seek non-phosgene routes. All take the same overall approach where polymerisation relies on the transesterification of diphenyl carbonate with BPA. This is termed the melt process as the two-stage polymerisation takes place in the absence of solvents.

health and safety

PC is inherently resistant to combustion, but produces an opaque black smoke when burned. Dust can pose an explosion hazard.

Outlook

Despite significantly slower growth in optical media due to MP3 players and other storage options replacing CDs/DVDs, future demand will remain strong in the medium term. CMAI predicts average annual growth of 8% worldwide over the next five years.

Asia remains the dominant region. China is forecast to grow at 10%/year, and will account for nearly 30% of global demand by 2009 (from 25% in 2004).

Several projects are planned or under way, mostly in Asia (China, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan). Russia's Kazanorgsintez plans to complete a 70,000 tonnes/year plant by late 2007.

The industry is investing much effort in using PC in automotive windscreens. Although widespread use is still years away, this is potentially a very fast growth area.


global polycarbonate CAPACITY '000 tonne/year

Company Location Capacity
Bayer Material-Science Antwerp, Belgium 200
Krefeld, Germany 260
Baytown, Texas, US 250
Map Ta Phut, Thailand 220
Bayer Polymers (Shanghai) Caojing,China 100
Carbolux Terni, Italy 20
Chimei-Asahi Tainan, Taiwan 125
Dow Chemical Stade, Germany 145
Freeport, Texas, US 105
Formosa Idemitsu Petrochemical Yunlin, Taiwan 100
GE Plastics Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands 260
Cartagena, Spain 260
Burkville,Alabama, US 265
Mount Vernon, Indiana, US 245
Chiba, Japan 45
Idemitsu Kosan Chiba, Japan 50
LG Dow Polycarbonate Yeochon, South Korea 65
Mitsubishi Engineering Plastics Kashima, Japan 100
Kurosaki, Japan 40
Policarbonatos do Brazil Camacari, Brazil 15
Samyang Kasei Chonju, South Korea 100
Sumitomo Dow Niihama, Japan 55
Teijin Matsuyama, Japan 130
Teijin Polycarbonate China Jiaxing, China 50
Teijin Polycarbonate Singapore Pulau Sakra, Singapore 210
Thai Polycarbonate Map Ta Phut, Thailand 150
Source: ICIS

 

 
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