Leverkusen, Germany -- As part of measures by Bayer MaterialScience to adjust its global manufacturing output to meet the needs of the market, the company intends to shut down the 160-kilotonnes-per-annum MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate) plant at its Brunsbuettel, Germany, site on 1 April.
Bayer MaterialScience said that, based on forecasts and the current economic outlook, the company expects to be able to meet MDI demand from customers in the EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) region from its other European plants at Uerdingen, Germany, and Tarragona, Spain.
According to BMS, the break will be used for scheduled maintenance work. Restart of the unit "will depend on the economic conditions and demand situation later this year," BMS commented.
Long-term plans by the group call for this plant to be replaced by a new 400 ktpa MDI plant. The move is part of BMS' aim to reorganise its isocyanate production in Europe by 2013, in which the company will also build a 300 ktpa gas-phase TDI (toluene diisocyanate) plant at Dormagen.
"This Brunsbuttel plan is still there. We plan to continue with that," commented BMS chief executive officer Patrick Thomas, in an interview following Bayer AG's 3 March results meeting. "The exact timing might change but there is no reduction in commitment to doing it. We have to do it because we have to sort out our supply chain in Europe," he continued.
Thomas also revealed that the group has idled one 100-ktpa TDI train at Baytown, Texas, as a result of current low demand. In polyurethanes, Thomas said, BMS' MDI and TDI plants globally are running at about 70 percent of nameplate capacity, while its new 350 ktpa MDI plant in Shanghai, China, is running at about 50 percent capacity.
In its polycarbonates business, however, BMS has idled 6 lines globally, cutting back to 50 percent of nameplate capacity to meet low demand.
Thomas stressed that, although capital expenditure for BMS has dropped from Euro 810 million in 2008 down to Euro 590 million for 2009, "that does not affect the major projects." With its major 300 ktpa gas-phase TDI plant in China, "unless the world stopped, we really wouldn't stop that project," he commented.
Steelwork is starting to go up for this project: "It makes no sense to stop projects when they get to that stage," Thomas said, adding that, "we will need that plant ... to get better economics into the world of TDI."
"After that you can think about what other plants you might want to rationalise ... if the world of TDI is not running at full speed. But that is a decision for two to three years down the track," Thomas said, adding "hopefully we won't have to make that decision."
PIC: Groundbreaking for the TDI plant in China: l-r Peter Vanacker, head of the BMS Polyurethanes Business Unit, Patrick Thomas and Dr Tony Van Osselaer, BMS board member.