InterviewNew TDI capacity will drive consolidation

14 June 2011 21:51  [Source: ICIS news]

By Clay Boswell

NEW YORK (ICIS)--An influx of new world-scale capacity could help drive the consolidation and modernisation of global TDI (toluene diisocyanate) manufacturing, Peter Vanacker, head of polyurethanes business at Bayer MaterialScience said on Tuesday.

“We expect that, due to the recent investments, some units will have difficulty competing, which will probably lead to a consolidation of certain smaller-scale units,” he said.

“That’s something we did for ourselves in-house,” he added. “Bayer had about nine TDI units globally in 2003. With the investment in China, and the consolidation project in Europe that will follow shortly after we start up the unit in China, we’re going to have three world-scale units, one in each major market.”

Bayer will bring a new 250,000 tonne/year TDI plant - expandable to 300,000 tonnes - on line before the end of July in Caojing, China, near Shanghai. The company has begun the permitting process in order to build an equivalent plant in Dormagen, Germany, and to have it operational in 2014.

Both units will incorporate a new gas phosgenation technology that Bayer says dramatically improves the economics of the overall process: solvent consumption is reduced by 80%, energy consumption by 40-60%, and the initial investment by 20%.

The large size of the plants is likely to provide an additional cost advantage: Until now, the largest TDI plants have been 160,000 tonnes/year, and the market is currently served by a multitude of smaller units, as well.

Meanwhile, many Chinese companies have announced their own plans to add TDI capacity in volumes ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 tonnes/year. If these projects go forward, the market will become extremely competitive.

Vanacker said he is hopeful that consolidation will include the closure of units that do not meet the highest standards of safety.

“I wouldn’t say today that all the units in the industry have the same degree of safety, and that makes me quite concerned,” he said.

Most of the questionable facilities are older, Vanacker said, but some small, relatively new facilities also worry him.

“As an industry, we have to safeguard the licence to operate and ensure that only the highest level of safety standards is applied, independent of where that capacity is operated,” he said.

By: Clay Boswell
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