DETROIT (April 20, 1:30 p.m. ET) – Arkema Group and Invista are among the suppliers that are stepping in to help automakers avoid production disruptions as a result of a shortage of nylon 12 resin.
The nylon 12 market has been in turmoil since March 31, when an explosion and fire at a plant making cyclododecatriene (CDT), a nylon 12 feedstock, resulted in two deaths and placed severe limits on nylon 12 production. The plant in Marl, Germany, is owned and operated by Evonik Industries AG.
Arkema is offering its own bio-based nylon 10/10 and 10/12 resins to customers as a replacement for nylon 12, technical polymers business director Aurelien Paumier said in an April 20 phone interview. From a chemical standpoint, those materials are closest to nylon 12, he said. Several Arkema customers now are sampling those products as potential replacements.
Arkema produces bio-based nylon 10/10 at sites in Shanghai and in Normandy, France. The Shanghai site also makes bio-based nylon 10/12. Arkema acquired those products late last year when it bought two Chinese firms — bioplastics maker Hipro Polymers and bio-based feedstock supplier Casda Biomaterials.
Another Arkema material that Paumier said could function as a nylon 12 replacement is its bio-based nylon 11, but the firm's production of that material already was sold out even before it recently was taken down for maintenance. Arkema's production of bio-based nylon 11 is expected to resume in the third quarter. Some Japanese automakers already had been using the material in fuel lines, he added.
Colombes, France-based Arkema buys CDT from Evonik and other suppliers that Paumier declined to identify. Since the accident, Arkema has been able to source some additional volume from its suppliers, but Paumier said that the additional amount “doesn't cover our entire nylon 12 needs,” which is why it's offering nylon 10/10 and 10/12 instead. Arkema makes nylon 12 resins and compounds at a plant in Birdsboro, Pa, as well as at sites in France and China.
BASF SE and Invista also produce CDT, but don't make nylon 12. Invista spokesperson Jodie Stutzman said that her firm's CDT plant in Victoria, Texas, is “running hard” and that Invista “is working to squeeze out as much [CDT] as we can.” Stutzman declined to provide capacity information for the plant or to say which or how many of the four nylon 12 makers buy CDT from Invista.
Stutzman did add, however, that Invista has a lot of its CDT capacity committed to existing customers, and that the Wichita, Kan.-based firm “has limited excess capacity after supply agreements are filled.”
Automotive supply executives called an emergency meeting on April 17 to discuss the situation, which included looking at available supplies of nylon 12 and prospects for alternative materials.
One executive who attended the supplier forum told Plastics News that original equipment manufacturers “will need to drive the approved material options.”
At the summit, the executive said that injection molding firms were offered material options, but that “there was no real solution for flexible fuel lines.”
“The problem as I see it is that people have used nylon 12 in very small applications as part of a subassembly,” he said. “These different ‘silent' applications are coming out of the woodwork and creating chaos.”
In addition to Evonik and Arkema, other nylon 12 suppliers are Ube Industries Ltd. and EMS-Grivory.
Total global production of nylon 12 is no more than 100 million pounds, with Evonik being the only nylon 12 maker producing its own CDT feedstock.
In North America, EMS-Grivory produces nylon 12 compounds in Sumter, S.C.