FocusIndia to be No 2 Asian PTA importer

11 August 2008 04:57  [Source: ICIS news]

By Salmon Aidan Lee

SINGAPORE (ICIS news)--India has been importing more spot purified terephthalic acid (PTA) since earlier this year, and is expected to increase these imports in the next few years to become the second largest spot market in Asia, buyers and sellers said on Monday.

Before this year, PTA spot imports into India were rare, “maybe around one to two cargoes [of 2,000 tonnes each] every few months,” said a trader with CJP International.

China is the largest PTA spot market in Asia – and the world – with no clear second, as markets such as Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan and India import PTA every now and then.

But in the past six months, imports into India had been gradually increasingly, up to around 5,000 or 6,000 tonnes/month, said an official from Mitsubishi Chemical India, a PTA producer in the country.

One Reliance Industries source believed that the imports had been higher than this, “as much as 20,000 tonnes in one month even,” he said. The source from India’s largest PTA producer was however unable to provide any figures.

An official from the Indian customs said, “the exact import figures for PTA must be obtained through official channels and cannot be released over the phone.”

But the Mitsubishi official said that he had customs figures showing that there had been an increasing trend and at least for May, the imports were around 6,000 tonnes.

India’s polyester industry had grown steadily in the past few years, with the majority of the PTA needed coming from local sources such as Reliance, Mitsubishi and Indian Oil Corp.

“But because the increase in polycondensation capacities had started to outstrip the addition of PTA capacities, we see more imports,” said another Reliance source, who believed that imports would increase in the next two years.

Confirming this trend was an official from JBF Industries, one of the largest producers of polyester fibre chips and filament yarns in the country. “We imported at least one cargo almost every month, for the past few months,” the official said.

There is only one new PTA plant starting up in India between this year and next, which is Mitsubishi’s 800,000 tonne/year unit at Haldia. In contrast, JBF, Gardel Welspun, Jindal Poly Film, Bhilosa and Alok Industries are looking to expand their polycondensation capacities aggressively in the same period, to be followed by several others post-2009.

State-owned IOC and Oil and Natural Gas Co (ONGC) have planned PTA projects, but their startup dates have yet to be finalised.

Although Reliance planned to increase its PTA capacities aggressively, any new plants would come only in 2010 or later.

“This means India will remain net short of PTA between [now and 2010] at least,” said the Mitsubishi official, who added the shortage could be between 200,000 to 337,000 tonnes/year.

“We’ve been importing, but with the shortage becoming more serious, it’s very likely we’ll import more in the next couple of years,” said a source from South Asian Petrochemical, a producer of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle chips.

If this trend persists, India would become the second-biggest spot market in Asia after China, said the second Reliance source, even if it is, and would most probably remain, a distant second.

By: Salmon Aidan Lee
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