Solvay's projects in Thailand, China will not impact glycerin market

20 October 2011 16:34  [Source: ICIS news]

VIENNA (ICIS)--Belgium-based Solvay does not expect its Epicerol (glycerin-to-epichlorohydrin) projects in Thailand and China to have a big impact on glycerin demand, a company official said on Thursday.

Thailand-based Vinythai, a Solvay affiliate, is using the Epicerol technology for its 100,000 tonnes/year epichlorohydrin (ECH) plant in Map Ta Phut.

The facility, which is expected to start by the end of 2011, will use 110,000 tonnes/year of refined glycerin, quantities of which are already booked, said Thibaud Caulier, business development manager at Solvay.

Caulier was speaking at the ICIS 8th World Oleochemicals conference held in Vienna, Austria.

Solvay is also planning to build another Epicerol-based ECH facility in Taixing, China, with the same scale as the Map Ta Phut plant. Glycerine suppliers, however, have to wait until 2013 or 2014 for the plant to start up, said Caulier.

“We plan to have long-term supply contracts with mechanisms in place to avoid price volatility of glycerin. Sustainability is among our selection criteria for glycerin suppliers,” he added.

For 1 tonne of ECH produced using the Epicerol technology, 1.1 tonnes of refined glycerine is used as feedstock and added with hydrogen chloride.

Producers typically make ECH through the allyl chloride (ALC) or allyl alcohol (ALA) routes, which rely on feedstock propylene and chlorine.

Solvay said it is not easy for other companies to produce ECH from glycerin because of the expertise needed in various technologies.

“Solvay has more than 1,000 single patent applications filed across the world for Epicerol. We have a big budget for this and we intend to enforce our patents,” said Caulier.

Long-term availability of hydrogen chloride at affordable costs is also an issue for some companies who want to enter the market.

“Glycerin to ECH is considered one of the most attractive valorizations of glycerin because of today’s price gap between propylene and glycerin. However, this attractiveness might not be the same for other newcomers that are more exposed to risks,” said Caulier.

Glycerin’s historical price volatility is one risk that does not help the development of new glycerin applications, he added.

“In 2008, when glycerin prices soared, this killed some of the new development projects aimed at using glycerin as some of these applications are very cost-sensitive,” said Caulier.

The two-day oleochemicals conference ends on Thursday.

By: Doris de Guzman
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