By Liz White, editor
Frankenthal, Germany - BASF AG currently sells half of its polyurethanes materials as formulated systems and half as basic raw materials. But its strategy is to expand the proportion it sells as systems "even further" in future, Dr John Feldmann, board member responsible for plastics told a large group of European journalists at a pre-K 2007 show meeting in Frankenthal, near BASF's headquarters at Ludwigshafen, 3 July.
By 2010, Feldmann said that BASF aims to raise the proportion of speciality materials in its plastics portfolio to 40 percent. This will require a significant shift from the current 25 percent of its polymers portfolio in polyurethane, styrenic and engineering plastics specialities. Basic materials, where its strategy is to be a "lean, reliable basic supplier," will drop from about 70 percent to around 55 percent, as a result.
Feldmann did not reveal specific details of the group's plans: organic growth and acquisitions are both possible, he said.
The German chemicals giant also expects, "above average growth in polyurethane raw materials" - where it makes MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate) and TDI (toluene diisocyanate) as well as offering polyols. Hence the group is expanding capacity in these materials, Feldmann pointed out. Current plans include a joint venture TDI plant in Europe with Dow Chemicals Co., where a feasibility study is in progress, and a world-scale MDI plant of 400 kilotonnes per annum capacity in China.
In polyols, Jacques Delmoitiez, president of BASF's polyurethanes division, revealed that BASF's restructured and expanded polyols plant in Geismar, Louisiana, will be commissioned at the end of 2008. Also, the group's joint venture 300-ktpa propylene oxide plant with Dow in Antwerp, Belgium, will begin production early in 2008, using the new hydrogen peroxide route, he said.
BASF recently announced that it had signed a cooperation memorandum to study building an MDI plant in the Chongqing region of China. The city has a population of 30 million and the surrounding region is home to another 400 million, said Delmoitiez, describing this area as a major market for the polyurethanes sector.
BASF expects the global polyurethanes market to grow at 5 percent a year over the next ten years, said Delmoitiez, with higher rates of 6-7 percent in Asia, 4.5 percent growth in Europe and 4 percent in the Americas."