Another major player Sumitomo Chemical is strengthening its automotive materials business in China by building TPE manufacturing capabilities at its existing facility in Dalian, Liaoning province.
Sumitomo’s TPEs are offered under the brand name Espolex globally and the new unit will be part of subsidiary Sumika Polymer Compounds Dalian, which was set up in 2011.
A company announcement, issued in May, did not give details on the capacity of the new plant but said the primary applications for its TPEs would include automotive materials, such as airbag covers and body seals.
“People’s rising awareness of auto-safety has been accompanied by an increasing number of vehicles equipped with airbags, including those made of TPE,” noted Sumitomo Chemical.
The Japanese company already offers TPEs to the Chinese market through its subsidiary Sumika Plastics & Chemicals Trading (Shanghai).
In Asia, meanwhile, Kraton Corp. recently opened a 30ktpa facility for the production of hydrogenated styrenic block copolymers (HSBC). The plant in Mailiao, Taiwan is owned and operated by Kraton Formosa Polymers Co., a joint venture between Kraton and Formosa Petrochemical Corp.
According to Kraton, the new unit will support its ‘innovation-grade’ business, particularly lower molecular weight HSBCs. These products are added to enhance toughness and clarity in olefin-based compounds, particularly for automotive, medical and film applications, and to reduce viscosity of certain adhesives, sealants, and coatings.
The qualification process at our new HSBC plant in Taiwan continued during the second quarter and we saw the first shipment of commercial product grades from the plant.
“The Mailiao plant will enable Kraton to serve the growing Asian and export markets more effectively than ever before through higher production capacity of our differentiated grades of HSBC,” said Kevin Fogarty, Kraton’s president and CEO.
“We look forward to the incremental contribution of the plant to our cost optimisation efforts as commercial volumes expand in late 2017 and into 2018,” added Fogarty.
Chinese major Sinopec has announced that its subsidiary Baling Petrochemical has started trial runs at its SEPS (styrene/ethylene-styrene/propylene) TPE facility in late August.
Located in Yueyang, Hunan province, the 20ktpa SEPS unit represents an investment of over €38 million (300 million yuan), according to information on the Sinopec website.
Joint research on the process technology was started in 2009 by Baling Petrochemical and Beijing Research Institute of Chemical Industry, also a Sinopec affiliate.
The Yueyang facility claims to be China’s first of its kind and the world’s third, after one plant in the US and one in Japan. The two overseas plants have a combined annual capacity of 130kt.
Before the new facility “China’s SEPS consumption, was about 30kt per year, [and] fully dependent on imports with high prices,” said Sinopec.
SEPS made at the site will also sell to overseas markets, the company added.