EPCA '12: S-SBR demand to increase significantly

09 October 2012 12:40  [Source: ICIS news]

BUDAPEST (ICIS)--Solution styrene butadiene rubber (S-SBR) demand is expected to increase significantly as a result of new legislation introduced by governments in the EU and other parts of the world, sources in the synthetic rubber industry said on Tuesday.

The EU will launch mandatory tyre labelling in November this year in which tyres will be graded according to their fuel efficiency, rolling resistance, and wet grip.

A SBR producer, speaking on the sidelines of the European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) meeting in Budapest, said by using S-SBR, tyre manufacturers can improve these characteristics of tyres. Tyre rolling resistance can account for about 20-30% of a car's fuel consumption and changing to low-rolling resistance tyres can help use less fuel.

A study by Michelin suggests that 10% of Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) tyres in 2010 were low-rolling resistance and this will increase to 48% by 2020.

Tyres can be produced using emulsion SBR (E-SBR) and S-SBR, but because of the labelling legislation, tyre producers will likely give preference to S-SBR.

S-SBR is only produced by a handful of European synthetic rubber producers, which are boosting output because of increased demand from the tyre industry.

Germany-based producer LANXESS has increased its S-SBR capacity in recent years and Versalis, the chemicals division of Italy’s energy firm Eni, has announced plans to expand production capacity at its plants in Scotland and Italy.

Global styrenics major Styron is expected to start up its new S-SBR line in Schkopau, Germany, during the fourth quarter. The expansion will add an extra 50,000 tonnes of S-SBR to the company's existing capacity. Styron's total E-SBR and S-SBR nameplate capacity in Schkopau is currently 240,000 tonnes/year.

A company statement said: "The new train will be built alongside existing trains and will focus on S-SBR production, with the capability to produce all existing clear and oil extended Styron grades".

Poland-based Synthos is expected to open a new 100,000 tonne/year swing S-SBR/polybutadiene rubber plant in early 2015, a source at EPCA said. The plant will be located in Poland and will use Goodyear technology to produce S-SBR in a continuous process.

Shortly after the first plant, the company will open another batch-process S-SBR plant at an undisclosed location. Details on the start-up and production capacity of the second plant were not disclosed.

Versalis is doubling its capacity in Grangemouth in the UK from the current 25,000-30,000 tonnes/year to about 50,000 tonnes/year by 2014, and will also increase its capacity to 60,000 tonnes/year in Ravenna, Italy, by 2015, a company source said. The company is investing approximately €200m ($260m) to ramp up S-SBR capacity in both plants.

Brazil, the US and China and a number of other countries are also all considering introducing either mandatory or optional tyre labelling, and it is expected that S-SBR demand will significantly rise during the coming years, sources said.

($1 = €0.77)

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By: Janos Gal
+44 208 652 3214

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