The main use for bisphenol A (BPA) is in polycarbonate (PC), followed by epoxy resins. Other uses are flame retardants, unsaturated polyester resins, and polyacrylate, polyetherimide and polysulfone resins.
Supply is plentiful in Europe. Demand has slowed this year and is below expectations. The key PC sector is poor: a slew of new capacity in Asia and shrinking demand, particularly from optical media, has tipped world markets into oversupply. Epoxy resin has been stable in Europe this year, although demand is now slowing, with producers trimming output.
A strong euro/weak dollar has curtailed exports in 2008. There is currently less pressure from Asian imports because of the stronger dollar, but there are reports of large volumes of cheaper Russian material available.
US firms Hexion and Huntsman have been fighting in court over their pending $10.6bn (€7.6bn) merger, Hexion claiming it would create an insolvent company. Czech company Spolchemie expects to buy Hexion's epoxy resins business if the merger proceeds.
Freely negotiated contracts dropped €20/tonne in September to €1,455-1,540/tonne. October contracts are set to fall following the €74/tonne drop in the benzene contract price, with discussions centered around the size of any reduction. Producers say margins were fair at the start of 2008, but then dropped significantly. They have been under severe pressure from surging oil and feedstock prices although numbers have been softening since hitting record levels this summer.
BPA is produced by the condensation of phenol and acetone in the presence of an acid catalyst, or cation exchange resins in newer plants.
After recovery of acid and phenol, BPA is washed with water, neutralized with calcium hydroxide and distilled under vacuum. Newer processes use distillation and extractive crystallization under pressure to purify it.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Studies have shown that high levels of BPA are linked to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and liver enzyme abnormalities. The US and EU have said BPA is safe at the levels found in food and drink containers but some North American retailers have pulled PC baby and water bottles from shelves. Canada has announced plans to ban PC baby bottles.
Global growth for BPA ranges from 0-5%/year. Growth in Europe is expected to be flat to plus or minus 1%. The strongest growth of 5%/year will be in Asia, mainly China. PC will remain the main driver, with global growth forecast at 6-7%/year. PC demand in the miniaturization of electronic products has taken the lead from the optical market which has matured rapidly. World epoxy resins demand is expected to grow at around 7%/year.
EUROPEAN BISPHENOL A CONTRACT PRICES, FD NWE
GLOBAL BISPHENOL A CAPACITY, '000
|Bayer MaterialScience||Antwerp, Belgium||245|
|Baytown, Texas, US||230|
|Mab Ta Phut, Thailand||230|
|Chang Chun Petrochemical||Kaohsiung, Taiwan||135|
|Dow Chemical||Freeport, Texas, US||190|
|Hexion Specialty Chemicals||Deer Park, Texas, US||265|
|Idemitsu Kosan||Ichihara, Japan||75|
|Khuzestan Petrochemical||Bandar Imam, Iran||30|
|Kingboard Holdings||Huizhou, China||25|
|Kumho P&B Chemicals||Yosu, South Korea||310|
|LG Chem||Yosu, South Korea||260|
|Mitsubishi Chemical||Kashima, Japan||100|
|Mitsui Chemicals||Ichihara, Japan||95|
|Jurong Island, Singapore||210|
|Nan Ya Plastics||Mailiao, Taiwan||420|
|Nippon Steel Chemical||Kita-Kyushu, Japan||100|
|Novokuibyshevsk Petrochemical||Novokuibyshevsk, Russia||20|
|PCC Synteza||Kedzierzyn-Kozle, Poland||12|
|Rhodia Brasil||Paulinia, Brazil||25|
|SABIC Innovative Plastics||Burkville, Alabama, US||75|
|Mount Vernon, Indiana, US||265|
|Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands||180|
|Shreyas Intermediates||Lote Parshuram, India||10|
|Sunoco Chemicals||Haverhill, Ohio, US||110|
|Taiwan Prosperity Chemical||Lin Yuan, Taiwan||60|
|Ufaorgsintez JSC||Ufa, Russia||60|
NOTE: *Expansion to 220,000 tonnes/year in early 2009
Profile last published October 11, 2004
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