Chemical profile: TDI

21 January 2008 00:00  [Source: ICB]


The main use for toluene di-isocyanate (TDI), accounting for about 90% of world demand, is in flexible polyurethane (PU) foam used in furniture, mattresses and car seats. Other uses include rigid foams and adhesives, paints, concrete sealers, as a cross-linking agent for nylon 6, and as an intermediate in PU coatings and elastomers. The main form is an 80:20 mix of the 2,4 and 2,6-isomers.


The TDI market started to recover in 2006 after a long and low-priced market in 2005. More than 225,000 tonnes/year of capacity closed during 2005 in the US at Bayer, Huntsman and Lyondell. Dow Chemical shut its plant in Porto Marghera, Italy, in August 2006.

Producers say supply in Europe was tight in 2007 and no change is expected in 2008. Demand has been robust, with markets in Eastern Europe and the Middle East also performing well. Growth last year in Europe, the Middle East and Africa was expected to reach 4-5%. Buyers are less optimistic for 2008, citing concerns that reduced consumer confidence will affect demand.


Snug supply pushed up prices in Europe in 2007 and producers are achieving rises again in January. Suppliers were seeking an extra €200/tonne but have agreed to hikes of €50-100/tonne, taking January contracts to €2,755-2,905/tonne. Margins have improved for some, but are still being eroded by rising energy and record toluene costs.


The main route is the nitration of toluene to dinitrotoluene, followed by catalytic hydrogenation to toluene diamine, which is dissolved in an inert solvent and reacted with phosgene to produce a crude TDI solution.

TDI can be produced directly from dinitrotoluene by liquid-phase carbonylation with o-dichlorobenzene, avoiding the use of phosgene and the waste recovery problems associated with hydrogen chloride. One-step processes based on the reaction between dinitrotoluene and carbon monoxide have been developed but not commercialized.

Bayer has developed technology that carries out phosgenation in the gas, rather than liquid, phase, reducing solvents use by 80%, energy by 40% and investment costs by 20%. Producers are focusing development efforts on reducing costs and increasing plant size.


World demand will grow by 3-4%/year, with the strongest growth in Asia, mainly China. Western Europe will grow at GDP rates, but will be higher in Central/Eastern Europe and the Middle East/Africa. Supply in Europe is tipped to stay tight until 2011. BorsodChem will start up a 160,000 tonne/year plant in Hungary in 2009, with output destined for new markets.

Bayer has upped planned capacity of its new gas-phase plant in China to 300,000 tonnes/year. Start-up is due in 2010. BASF and Dow Chemical are studying a 300,000 tonne/year plant in Europe for 2011. Smaller projects are planned in China, India and Taiwan for 2009 and onwards.


Company Location Capacity
BASF Geismar, ­Louisiana, US 160
Schwarzheide, ­Germany 80
Yosu, South Korea 160
Bayer MaterialScience Baytown, Texas, US 200
Brunsbttel, Germany 135
Dormagen, Germany 65
Tarragona, Spain 18
BorsodChem Kazincbarcika, ­Hungary 90
China National Blue Star Taiyuan, China 30
DC Chemical Kunsan, South Korea 50
Dow Chemical Freeport, Texas, US 105
Gansu Yinguang TDI Baiyin, China 50
Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers Bharuch, India 16
Hebei Cangzhou Dahua Cangzhou, China 30
Isopol Produtos Quimicos Camacari, Brazil 65
Korea Fine Chemical Yosu, South Korea 100
Lyondell Pont de Claix, France 125
Mitsui Chemicals Polyurethanes Kashima, Japan 120
Omuta, Japan 130
Nan Ya Plastics Mailiao, Taiwan 30
Nippon Polyur-ethane Industry Nanyo, Japan 25
Petroquimica Rio Tercero Rio Tercero, Argentina 28
Shanghai BASF Polyurethane Caojing, China 160
Shanghai Wusong Chemical General Shanghai, China 40
Yantai Juli ­Isocyanate Laiyang, China 20
Zaklady Chemiczne Zachem Bydgoszcz, Poland 40

Profile last published June 21, 2004

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