30 October 2006 00:00 [Source: ICB]
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.
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.
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.
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.
PC is inherently resistant to combustion, but produces an opaque black smoke when burned. Dust can pose an explosion hazard.
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.
|Bayer Material-Science||Antwerp, Belgium||200|
|Baytown, Texas, US||250|
|Map Ta Phut, Thailand||220|
|Bayer Polymers (Shanghai)||Caojing,China||100|
|Dow Chemical||Stade, Germany||145|
|Freeport, Texas, US||105|
|Formosa Idemitsu Petrochemical||Yunlin, Taiwan||100|
|GE Plastics||Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands||260|
|Mount Vernon, Indiana, US||245|
|Idemitsu Kosan||Chiba, Japan||50|
|LG Dow Polycarbonate||Yeochon, South Korea||65|
|Mitsubishi Engineering Plastics||Kashima, Japan||100|
|Policarbonatos do Brazil||Camacari, Brazil||15|
|Samyang Kasei||Chonju, South Korea||100|
|Sumitomo Dow||Niihama, Japan||55|
|Teijin Polycarbonate China||Jiaxing, China||50|
|Teijin Polycarbonate Singapore||Pulau Sakra, Singapore||210|
|Thai Polycarbonate||Map Ta Phut, Thailand||150|
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Profile last published 16 February 2004
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