Hoechst Technical Polymers is doubling its output of polybutylene terephthalate at Shelby, N.C., by moving PET fiber production out. Hoechst said it will relocate its fiber production to expanded facilities at Spartanburg, S.C. That will leave reactors at Shelby that will be converted to PBT production by the middle of 1997.
``This is a low-cost expansion,'' John Cirello, business director for PBT products for the Americas, said by telephone Nov. 20.
The announcement comes just as Hoechst is finishing a 50 percent increase to its production at Shelby. When the dust settles - by mid-1997 - Hoechst will have the capacity to produce 140 million pounds of PBT at Shelby, a facility that produced about 45 million pounds of PBT in 1995.
Cirello said the plant is operating at full capacity, meeting demand for resin from Europe, Asia and North America. Hoechst estimated annual worldwide demand for PBT at 880 million pounds, and growing 6-8 percent per year.
Cirello said U.S. demand is growing 8-10 percent annually, with the majority coming from automotive applications, where PBT replaces metal and sheet molding compounds, and electrical and electronic applications, especially for extruded fiber optic applications.
Cirello acknowledged that the rapid expansions at Shelby may put PBT in an oversupply condition for two to three years, but he added that the production capacity Hoechst is installing is flexible, so it will allow the company to produce a variety of resins without flooding the market.
Hoechst claims to be one of three leading makers of thermoplastic polyesters in the world.
The company said it simultaneously will expand polyester compounding capacity in the United States and Europe to match its expansions in resin production.