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Evonik recovers after nylon 12 shortage

By: Frank Esposito

October 17, 2013

DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — Less than two years after a major nylon 12 resin shortage, Evonik Industries AG has regained all of its sales volume for that material, officials said.

"We are the sole supplier [of nylon 12] to all of our customers and applications again," performance polymers business unit head Gregor Hetzke said at an Oct. 17 news conference at K 2013. "We're quite happy about it. Our customers saw that our material had the best material and best performance properties."

The shortage occurred in early 2012 after a fatal fire and explosion at an Evonik plant making nylon 12 feedstock cyclododecatriene in Marl, Germany. The incident led to severe global tightness of nylon 12, causing automotive suppliers to scramble to find replacement materials. Nylon 12 is used extensively in automotive fuel lines and braking systems.

Evonik had the plant up and running six months later. At K 2013, executive board member Dahai Yu described that short rebuilding time as "a record."

"We were aware of our responsibility as the leader of the nylon 12 market," he added. "The situation helped to strengthen our relationship with our customers."

Yu added that Essen, Germany-based Evonik now is looking at a second CDT plant "to increase supply security."

Evonik posted sales of 13.4 billion euros ($17.4 billion) in 2012, with 1.8 billion euros of that amount coming from its Performance Polymers unit. Yu acknowledged that the firm "is facing tougher times" in 2013.

"Global GDP growth is slower than anticipated," he said. "Asian growth is also slower, and Europe is facing structural issues."

As a result, Evonik's sales and pretax profit in the first half of 2013 were behind the pace of the first half of 2012.

Counting Performance Polymers and other products such as methyl methacrylate and additives, Evonik generates about 3 billion euros in annual sales from the plastics market, according to Hetzke. He added that Evonik anticipates that nylon 12 resin demand will grow at an eight percent annual rate through 2018. The growth is coming from a variety of nylon 12 applications in the automotive, oil and gas, solar and medical device markets.

Growth in MMA — used to make acrylic resin — is expected to average five percent in that period. Growth areas there include lighting and lightweight design opportunities such as automotive glazing. Evonik makes acrylic products under the Plexiglas trade name around the world, except in the Americas, where it uses the Acrylite trade name.

Geographically, Germany is Evonik's largest single market, contributing 25 percent of sales. The rest of Europe generates 31 percent of the firm's sales, with North America and Asia Pacific each bringing in 18 percent. Among end markets, home/lifestyle/personal care is Evonik's largest with an 18 percent share. Automotive is second with a share of 16 percent.

Earlier this year, Evonik, which employs 33,000 globally, opened a plant making bio-feedstocks in Slovenska Lupca, Slovakia. The firm plans to use those materials in sustainable high-performance plastics, including nylon 12.