By Lauren Hilgers, Plastics News Correspondent
Shanghai, China -Bayer MaterialScience AG arrived at the UTECH ASIA/PU China 2008 event in Shanghai on 2 Sept ready to confirm its growing investment in Asia.
The company's aggressive growth in the Asia Pacific region, with three planned plants related to its polyurethanes business, is intended to keep pace with the growth of Asia's downstream industries, particularly in automotive, construction, and sports and leisure.
As part of the plan, Bayer will open a methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) plant in Shanghai, set to be the largest single-train MDI production in the world; a toluene diisocyanate (TDI) facility at the same location, plus a new systems facility in Guangzhou.
"If that is not commitment, I don't know what is," said Azita Owlia, senior vice president of polyurethanes, Asia Pacific.
For Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer, Asia is no idle investment. In 2006, China made up around 16 percent of world consumption of PU and by 2015 the country is expected to be the largest consumer of the material worldwide. Bayer is pushing a number of new insulation and automotive applications in markets the company expects will continue to expand.
The MDI plant, expected to produce 350 kilotonnes per year, is scheduled to come online before the end of the year. Since its announcement in 2006, however, rumours have circulated that development of the plant had hit some snags.
"I wouldn't call them challenges," said Owlia, in response to the rumours. "I think in the development of all grassroots plants there are difficulties."
Although she failed to specify the difficulties faced in the development of the Shanghai plant, she promised that Bayer has "an extremely competent team working on it.We have said from the beginning we would start in 2008 and we will stick to our commitment," she said.
The TDI plant is expected to come online in 2010. In Guangzhou, the company will open a BaySystems centre before the end of this yearto supply local businesses with formulated polyurethane systems based on its isocyanates and polyols.The three facilities are intended to set the standard for energy savings and reducing the amount of solvent used. "If you don't use a solvent, you later don't have to evaporate the solvent in the finished product," said Ralf Busch, vice president of business development for polyurethanes and the site manager for Bayer's Shanghai-based polymer research and development centre.
Bayer is focusing on the energy-saving properties of its products. PU foam insulation reduces carbon dioxide emissions by helping regulate temperatures inside of buildings. Lightweight PU materials can also help cars reduce their consumption of gasoline.
"These are not common applications [for polyurethane] in China," Busch said. "It is our job to get PU more commonly known."