Chemical profile: bisphenol A

Uses, prices and outlook

13 October 2008 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Uses

The main use for bisphenol A (BPA) is in polycarbonate (PC), followed by epoxy resins. Other uses are flame retardants, unsaturated polyester resins, and polyacrylate, polyetherimide and polysulfone resins.

Supply/demand

Supply is plentiful in Europe. Demand has slowed this year and is below expectations. The key PC sector is poor: a slew of new capacity in Asia and shrinking demand, particularly from optical media, has tipped world markets into oversupply. Epoxy resin has been stable in Europe this year, although demand is now slowing, with producers trimming output.

A strong euro/weak dollar has curtailed exports in 2008. There is currently less pressure from Asian imports because of the stronger dollar, but there are reports of large volumes of cheaper Russian material available.

US firms Hexion and Huntsman have been fighting in court over their pending $10.6bn (€7.6bn) merger, Hexion claiming it would create an insolvent company. Czech company Spolchemie expects to buy Hexion's epoxy resins business if the merger proceeds.

Prices

Freely negotiated contracts dropped €20/tonne in September to €1,455-1,540/tonne. October contracts are set to fall following the €74/tonne drop in the benzene contract price, with discussions centered around the size of any reduction. Producers say margins were fair at the start of 2008, but then dropped significantly. They have been under severe pressure from surging oil and feedstock prices although numbers have been softening since hitting record levels this summer.

Technology

BPA is produced by the condensation of phenol and acetone in the presence of an acid catalyst, or cation exchange resins in newer plants.

After recovery of acid and phenol, BPA is washed with water, neutralized with calcium hydroxide and distilled under vacuum. Newer processes use distillation and extractive crystallization under pressure to purify it.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Studies have shown that high levels of BPA are linked to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and liver enzyme abnormalities. The US and EU have said BPA is safe at the levels found in food and drink containers but some North American retailers have pulled PC baby and water bottles from shelves. Canada has announced plans to ban PC baby bottles.

Outlook

Global growth for BPA ranges from 0-5%/year. Growth in Europe is expected to be flat to plus or minus 1%. The strongest growth of 5%/year will be in Asia, mainly China. PC will remain the main driver, with global growth forecast at 6-7%/year. PC demand in the miniaturization of electronic products has taken the lead from the optical market which has matured rapidly. World epoxy resins demand is expected to grow at around 7%/year.

EUROPEAN BISPHENOL A CONTRACT PRICES, FD NWE

         

GLOBAL BISPHENOL A CAPACITY, '000 TONNES/YEAR

Company Location Capacity
Atul Atul, India 1.5
Bayer MaterialScience Antwerp, Belgium 245
Baytown, Texas, US 230
Caojing, China* 110
Krefeld, Germany 300
Mab Ta Phut, Thailand 230
Chang Chun Petrochemical Kaohsiung, Taiwan 135
Miao-Li, Taiwan 20
Dow Chemical Freeport, Texas, US 190
Stade, Germany 100
Hexion Specialty Chemicals Deer Park, Texas, US 265
Pernis, Netherlands 180
Idemitsu Kosan Ichihara, Japan 75
Kazanorgsintez Kazan, Russia 70
Khuzestan Petrochemical Bandar Imam, Iran 30
Kingboard Holdings Huizhou, China 25
Kumho P&B Chemicals Yosu, South Korea 310
LG Chem Yosu, South Korea 260
Mitsubishi Chemical Kashima, Japan 100
Kurosaki, Japan 120
Mitsui Chemicals Ichihara, Japan 95
Jurong Island, Singapore 210
Nagoya, Japan 65
Takaishi, Japan 65
Nan Ya Plastics Mailiao, Taiwan 420
Nippon Steel Chemical Kita-Kyushu, Japan 100
Novokuibyshevsk Petrochemical Novokuibyshevsk, Russia 20
PCC Synteza Kedzierzyn-Kozle, Poland 12
Rhodia Brasil Paulinia, Brazil 25
SABIC Innovative Plastics Burkville, Alabama, US 75
Mount Vernon, Indiana, US 265
Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands 180
Cartagena, Spain 340
Shreyas Intermediates Lote Parshuram, India 10
Sunoco Chemicals Haverhill, Ohio, US 110
Taiwan Prosperity Chemical Lin Yuan, Taiwan 60
Ufaorgsintez JSC Ufa, Russia 60

NOTE: *Expansion to 220,000 tonnes/year in early 2009

SOURCE: ICIS

Profile last published October 11, 2004

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By: Elaine Burridge
+44 20 8652 3214



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