Dutch company Black Bear says it has achieved consistent quality through pyrolysis, with recycled carbon black (rCB) grades comparable or superior to various ASTM grades – even providing a 1:1 substitution in some applications. The company says the quality of its carbon black has been validated by over 50 customers, including large tire manufacturers, such as Michelin and Goodyear and paint companies such as AkzoNobel, and is now ramping up production capacity to meet demand from these customers:
ERJ: How big is the rCB market in Europe and worldwide right now and what is the per annum growth rate in these markets?
A: We don’t consider the rCB market to be any different than the ‘normal’ carbon black market. Technical performance criteria for rCB is the same as for regular grades, both in rubber and specialty applications. Therefore market size can be seen as equal to the overall carbon black market. rCB growth will mostly be determined by producers’ ability to expand production capacity.
ERJ: What are Black Bear’s main targets for expansion of its own rCB operation by 2020?
Black Bear plans to develop several additional production facilities in the next few years, totalling an overall output of 150 kiloton/year
ERJ: How does to the cost of rCB compare with that of standard carbon black and how do you expect this difference to develop by 2020?
At current (relatively low) oil prices we estimate it to be difficult for most rCB producers to be able to produce at competitive cost, also driven by the typical scale difference in production facilities (furnace carbon black facilities are often >10x the output of rCB factories). Towards 2020 we expect rCB to become much more competitive with regular carbon black, mostly driven by an increase in the scale of rCB production facilities. Also, oil price fluctuations (and environmental regulations) could have a beneficial effect. Strong drivers for the rCB market are include the push towards more sustainable and cleaner (low PAH) raw materials.
ERJ: What exactly is going to change the business case for using rCB over the next few years?
The most important thing is the quality of the rCB. We now see several rCB manufacturers that are able to produce a quality that is at par with ‘normal’ carbon blacks. When these manufacturers are able to scale their operations and optimise their processes, it will allow them to produce at a more competitive cost - solidifying the business case. In addition, it can be expected that several tire manufacturers will become actively involved in the rCB industry, bringing the technology to further maturity.
ERJ: Many thanks for your comments
There will be an in-depth look at developments in the area of pyrolysis and recycled carbon black in the May/June issue of European Rubber Journal magazine.