EPDM

Source: ECN

2000/02/14

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The world's fastest growing general purpose rubber, ethylene-propylene diene monomer (EPDM) is enjoying strong global growth, with North American capacity accounting for some 50% of global output

Supply/demand

EPDM is the fastest growing general purpose rubber. Last year the global market is estimated to have grown by 4%, with uptake in the North American market particularly strong.

In 1999 global consumption reached 848 000 tonne. In 2000, growth is forecast to be 3.8%, taking world demand up to 880 000 tonne. EPDM capacity is concentrated in the developed regions of the world, with North America accounting for approximately 50% of global capacity, or 550 000 tonne/year. Western Europe is home to around 290 000 tonne/year of capacity, and Asia 250 000 tonne/year.

DSM is the largest EPDM player, with around 20% of world capacity, or 216 000 tonne/year. The firm has facilities in North America, western Europe, Japan and Latin America. Exxon is in second place with 170 000 tonne/year, or 15%, followed by DuPont Dow Elastomers with 147 000 tonne/year, or 13%.

Pricing

The tight markets have allowed producers to push through rises of around 12% in 1998 and 4% last year. Although the start of the year has seen slightly softer prices, the producers are aiming for a 25 pfg/kg hike from the current level of around DM3.10/kg for medium EMB grades. With the absence of significant new capacity and strong demand, pricing looks to be robust in the short to medium term.

Uses

EPDM is used in a number of non-tyre automotive applications. Most use is in the industrial and general rubber goods industries, as well as in plastics modification and the production of TPEs.

The automotive sector is very important for the EPDM manufacturers, with vehicle production greatly influencing the pattern of demand for the rubber. Increasing emphasis on passenger comfort has led to the growth of weather-stripping to keep noise and dust out of the passenger compartment. Applications in hoses are also growing in the automotive sector.

Additionally, the growing popularity of TPEs, including dynamically vulcanised TPEs such as EPDM/polypropylene blends which are used in car, construction and consumer applications, will translate into strong demand for EPDM.

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Technology

EPDM is an ethylene-propylene terpolymer that has a diene such as hexadiene, dicyclopentadiene or ethylidene norbornene in the polymer side chain. Typically, it is produced by either a solution or suspension process using a Ziegler-Natta catalyst. Most global production is based on the solution route where propylene and ethylene are added under pressure to a liquid hydrocarbon. The polymer being formed remains in solution allowing the catalyst to be removed before the polymer is precipitated. The suspension process uses a solvent in which the polymer is not soluble and separates. Union Carbide has built the first gas phase-based plant at Seadrift, Texas, US, that uses carbon black as the fluidising agent. Bayer also had plans to build a demonstration gas phase plant but shelved the project on economic grounds. Metallocene-based processes have been developed by a number of producers including DuPont Dow Elastomers and DSM.

LMC International provided outlook and market data for this page

GLOBAL EPDM CAPACITY, '000 TONNE/YEAR

Company Location Capacity
Europe
Socabu Gravenchon, France 85
Exxon Mobil
Bayer Marl, Germany 50
EniChem Ferrara, Italy 85
DSM Geleen, the Netherlands 70
Americas
DSM Addis, Louisiana 81
DuPont Dow Beaumont, Texas 57
DuPont Dow Plaquemine, Louisiana 90
Exxon Mobil Baton Rouge, Louisiana 85
Bayer Orange, Texas 52
Union Carbide Seadrift, Texas 90
Uniroyal Chemical Geismar, Louisiana 91
DSM Triunfo, Brazil 25
Asia
Herdilla Herdilla, India 10
DSM Idemitsu Chiba, Japan 40
JSR Yokkaichi, Japan 45
JSR Kashima, Japan 20
Mitsui Chiba, Japan 60
Sumitomo Chiba, Japan 35
Kumho Yocheon, S Korea 40
China - 20

Source: IISRP

EPDM GLOBAL MARKET SIZE , '000 TONNE

1997 790
1998 815
1999 848
2000 880

Source: LMC International.