Engineering polymers maker Ticona is planning two manufacturing plants in China, one for making long-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics and another for ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene.
Company officials said at the Chinaplas trade show, held April 26-29 in Shanghai, that they plan to open a 44 million-pound UHMW PE plant in early 2008 and a separate, 4.4 million-pound compounding operation for making LFR plastics, in the third quarter of 2007.
Ticona, based in Florence, Ky., plans to put both operations in China, but will not make a final decision on the location for either one for another month, according to President Lyndon Cole. Parent company Celanese AG has several operations in China where it could locate the plants, he said.
He declined to disclose investment or employment details.
Company officials had said at last year's Chinaplas show that they planned to open the UHMW PE plant, to make its GUR brand, in the second half of 2007, somewhere in Asia.
While the company has settled on China, Cole said it has taken longer to move ahead than initially intended because finding a reliable source of ethylene feedstock has been a challenge. The company uses ethylene in relatively small volumes compared with commodity PE manufacturers, he said.
Both expansions are designed to meet double-digit market growth in China, at least twice the 5-6 percent growth in world markets for the products, said Louis Wang, managing director of China development for Ticona.
GUR in China often is used to make liners in coal mining and other industries where an abrasion-resistant surface is needed for moving product. But, worldwide the material also is used in more sophisticated products such as artificial joints, for example. China consumers about 10 percent of the world market for UHMW PE, Wang said.
The new plant, which would join GUR plants in Germany and the United States, would boost the company's worldwide capacity to 198 million pounds.
The LFR Celstran material goes into structural products like automobile door panels, pedals and front-end modules, including applications where it is targeted at metal replacement in China's booming car market, said Lindsay Deal, director of Asia business development.
Moving quickly is important in the LFRT market to get a ``first- move advantage,'' Cole said. He added that the company could expand the new operations in the near future.
``If the GUR market in China grows at the rate of the last couple of years, that capacity won't take long to fill up,'' Cole said.