Plastics Technology

DEC 2018

Plastics Technology - Dedicated to improving Plastics Processing.

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were price hikes of 15-20ยข/lb in both the first and third quarters. First-quarter 2019 increases would not be surprising. Planned 2019 outages, says Dooley, include six-week shutdowns in the first and third quarters at Invista's Victoria, Texas, plant and Butachemie's German plant, each for the retrofit of new ADN technology. The good news, according to Dooley, includes some key ADN capacity additions. At Pensacola, Fla., Ascend, the world's largest fully-integrated nylon 66 player, brought on 110 million lb of ADN in 2017; is soon slated to bring on another 80 million lb and plans a 360-million-lb expansion by 2022. The 2019 ADN plant retrofits by Invista and Butachemie will each result in a 10% output increase. And Invista Shanghai is scheduled to bring on stream a new 661-million/lb ADN unit in 2023. Dooley ventures that these actions will translate into some nylon 66 supply improvement by mid-2020. For next year, he projects a continued tight supply/demand balance and potential price relief based on either more supply or less demand. In October, Ascend released a statement that it says was spurred by "conflicting reports on long-term PA 66 availability" in order to restate its commitment to meeting increased market demand for nylon 66 for the automotive, E/E, cable-tie, consumer and indus- trial markets. The statement also noted, "The fact remains that PA 66 provides the best mix of value, performance and processability among the various thermoplastics available today. Replacing PA 66 with another material has costs beyond availability and price." Conceding that nylon 66 availability is "constrained for the short term," the company noted its acquisition of Dutch plastics compounder Britannia Techno Polymers, which specializes in nylon, is running at full capacity to serve Europe. Similarly, its Foley, Ala., and Greenwood, S.C., plants are producing at optimal levels; and production at Pensacola, Fla., following the mid-July force majeure action, was at around 90% of capacity. BASF also is committed to the nylon 66 market, according to Mark Szendro, marketing director for performance materials transportation in North America. "We are continuously pursuing all options to source products along the nylon 66 value chain. However, the reality is that demand is outstripping supply and this will continue for the next several years. This is why BASF is investing in the future with our planned acquisition of Solvay's polyamide business. The purchase would strengthen BASF's poly- amide 66 value chain through increased polymerization capacities and backward integration into the key raw material ADN." He adds that BASF recognizes the need to pursue alternative materials in the interim and is working closely with customers to identify specific applications that could use alternative materials such as nylon 6, PBT or PPA. Sources at DowDupont, while acknowledging a temporary tightness in the nylon 66 supply chain, report that they have maintained an unin- terrupted supply of nylon products and remain confident in their ability to continue supplying long-term customers with Zytel nylon 66 resins. They noted that the company is the only major nylon 66 supplier with world-scale polymerization and compounding in North America, Europe and Asia. They also note that they have devel- oped a flexible network of suppliers for the key raw materials to ensure they are not dependent on a single upstream asset in any of their product lines. Still, added one company source, "It's possible that supply will be tight for the next year or two. We have not seen a situation as acute and long-lasting as this has been." A sampling of these and other engineering thermoplastics suppliers, compounders and distributors were asked to weigh in, both on their view of the constrained resin situation and their readiness to assist customers with alternative materials where feasible. Nearly all concede that the automotive sector posed the most concern due to the many applications for which nylon 66 is specified and because speci- fication of any replacement cannot occur overnight. REPLACEMENT ISSUES Although industry sources concede that several nylon 66 compo- nent manufacturers and end-use OEMs are evaluating alternative materials, actual replacement to date appears to have been quite limited. One reason, according to Chris Wilson, v.p. and head of crystalline business for Solvay Specialty Polymers, is that making a switch is no small feat. "Switching from nylon 66 to an alternative material is generally not as easy as just dropping a new resin into the machine. Oftentimes, potential impacts on dimensions, part features or the performance of the part need to be considered." Still, nearly all industry sources concede that they have customers expressing concern about higher prices and resin tight- ness. Sources at PolyOne Corp. report that they saw this concern in early 2017, with customers asking for market data, price forecasts, and details on supply constraints. By the same token, PolyOne For next year, IHSMarkit projects a continued tight supply/demand balance for nylon 66 and potential price relief based on either more supply or less demand. For applications where parts are exposed to demanding loads in hot air such as charge-air ducts, BASF offers Ultramid Advance PPA. @plastechmag 35 Plastics Technology Nylon 66

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