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China dominates the nylon engineering plastics market

01.01.2012  |  Thinnes, Billy,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX

Keywords: [China] [nylon engineering] [market] [IHS] [import] [export] [nylon fibers] [nylon 6]

Growing demand for durable goods, and the production of those goods in Asia and China, in particular, means that, through 2016, Northeast Asia will continue to be the largest consumer of nylon engineering resins, a specialty chemicals group of engineering plastics used for production of a broad range of applications including component parts for automobiles, electronics and appliances. This is according to a new global market study issued by IHS. The study focuses on engineering plastic markets and applications, and covers historical developments and future projections for supply, demand, capacity and trade in the global nylon 6 and nylon 6,6 engineering thermoplastic resin markets for 2006 to 2016.

In 2011, Northeast Asia led global consumption of nylon 6 resin at nearly 45% of the market, while it consumed slightly more than 30% of global demand for nylon 6,6, with much of this regional demand for both attributed to China. According to the report, global demand for these specialty resins is expected to grow at an average rate of 4% per year for nylon 6, and nearly 5% per year for nylon 6,6, during the forecast period.

“A great deal of the world’s production of consumer durable goods has moved from other regions to China, making China the global workshop, and nylon components are used in many of the durable goods produced,” said Paul Blanchard, senior principal chemical analyst at IHS and lead author of the report. “While most nylon is used in production of synthetic fibers and filaments, nylon’s combination of mechanical strength, heat performance and chemical resistance make it an attractive replacement for metal in many engineering plastic applications.”

The market expansion for these specialty plastics is driven in large part by the need to reduce weight, emissions and the cost of automobiles. Pushed by consumers and governments to produce energy-efficient, less polluting cars, auto manufacturers are increasingly replacing metal with parts made from compounded nylon resins. According to Mr. Blanchard, this trend will continue to expand demand for these engineering resins going forward.

“Heat resistance, in particular, is critical if you consider that making vehicles smaller requires more components to coexist and operate in a smaller space under the hood, with fewer design options to minimize exposure to heat generated by the engine,” he said. “Nylon is the material of choice for high-heat situations because of its combination of performance and price.”

According to the study, China’s demand dominance for these specialty resins isn’t just tied to its need to satisfy export demand, but, increasingly, to also meet its own growing domestic consumption of durable goods.

“China introduced very effective economic incentives in 2009 to grow its domestic consumer demand for durable goods, a move which helped the country during the recession,” Mr. Blanchard said. “With regard to nylon, a collapse in China’s export market demand for finished goods early in the recession was largely offset by increased domestic demand for automobiles, appliances and electronics as well as higher demand for nylon fibers.”

This domestic demand for products, he added, coupled with a recovery of export demand in 2010, resulted in growth in demand for nylon and intermediates, increasing China’s reliance on imported materials and tightening global supply balances.

“As a result of increased demand and tightening supply, nylon prices increased globally. Only in the third quarter of 2011 have we seen prices ease as global demand for chemicals softened due to the ongoing economic crisis,” said Mr. Blanchard. “The expansion of nylon capacity is dependent upon the availability of intermediate materials, and while new nylon capacity is expected to be added, the price and availability of that capacity is still going to be impacted by the supply of intermediates, at least until the middle of the next decade.”  HP

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