InterviewBayer’s new China TDI plant to begin slow ramp-up

14 June 2011 20:50  [Source: ICIS news]

By Clay Boswell

NEW YORK (ICIS)--By the end of July, Bayer MaterialScience will begin slowly ramping up a new 250,000 tonne/year TDI (toluene di-isocyanate) plant in China, Peter Vanacker, head of polyurethanes for the Germany-based company said on Tuesday.

“That unit will start up by the end of July,” Vanacker said. “Everything looks very good. We’re quite convinced that we will be able to start the unit safely and successfully.

“However,” he added, “we are prudent operators. We always start up our new units in a very disciplined, controlled and safe way, and that is what we are going to do here, slowly ramping up to the end of the year, shutting down one or two times to check that everything is okay. And then we restart.”

The plant will employ a breakthrough gas-phase phosgenation technology that significantly reduces cost, complexity and energy consumption while increasing safety. The plant employs a single stream, rather than the traditional multiple streams, resulting in a smaller footprint, as well.

Bayer is currently obtaining permits to build a 300,000 tonne TDI plant of the same design at Dormagen, Germany, with the aim of beginning operation in 2014, Vanacker said. Since 2004, the company has been operating a 30,000 tonne demonstration unit at the site.

The investments are elements of a global consolidation program that will reduce the number of TDI plants operated by Bayer from nine in 2003 to just three in 2014. The company’s total capacity will simultaneously increase from 540,000 tonnes/year to 750,000 tonnes/year.

Vanacker said that Bayer has taken these moves in the expectation of strong demand growth for TDI, which is used mainly in the manufacture of flexible foams for mattresses, automotive seating, furniture and similar applications.

He put current global demand growth at 4-5%, noting that growth in mature markets is less, while growth in the Asia Pacific region exceeds 10%.

The market for polyurethane (PU) mattresses is particularly strong, Vanacker observed.

“Polyurethane mattresses have made quite a lot of inroads in Europe and the US,” he said. “Were seeing that tendency in the emerging markets as well. People want to have better mattresses, leading to higher density mattresses using polyurethane.”

In emerging markets, he explained, consumers are migrating from mattresses comprised of other materials. In mature markets, consumers are upgrading to mattresses comprised of viscoelastic and other higher quality polyurethanes.

“In China, for example, we have observed robust, double-digit growth for polyurethane mattresses in recent years,” Vanacker noted.

By: Clay Boswell
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