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Status quo and prospects of development for China synthetic rubber industry.

The synthetic rubber (SR) industry in China has experienced 40 years of development. In the early 1960s, China began production of chloroprene robber (CR), styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) and acrylonitrile-butadiene rubber (NBR). In the 70s, China was successful in developing the technology for butadiene rubber production, as five units were put into operation; China imported two sets of production plants of SBR in the late '70s. Since 1990, the commercialization of China's own SBS production technology has come true, the 10,000-ton-sized plants were put into production and the technology reached the world's leading level. Moreover, the technology has been licensed abroad. Also, solution-SBR (SSBR) has been commercialized.

In 1996, the capacity and production of China's synthetic rubber amounted to 637,300 tons and 553,000 metric tons, respectively; both ranked fifth in the world; China consumed 870,000 metric tons of SR and became the third biggest SR-consuming country. SR's production capacity was over 700,000 metric tons in 1997 and the yield reached 600,000 metric tons.

Production capacity

In 1996, the total SR production capacity in China reached 637,300 mt with 11 plants and 23 production units. Among all the units:

* Seven sets produce BR with the capacity of 310,000 t/a, accounting for 50% in SR industry, which is the largest capacity among all SR products;

* Three sets of ESBR (emulsion styrene-butadiene rubber) with the annual capacity of 200,000 t/a, accounting for 31% and the second largest capacity;

* Two sets of SBS with 40,000 t/a;

* Three sets of CR with 30,000 t/a;

* Five sets of SBRL (styrene-butadiene rubber latex) with 26,300 t/a;

* One set of SSBR (solution styrenebutadiene rubber) with 15,000 t/a and;

* Two sets of NBR with 14,000 t/a.

With the establishments of SR plants in both Mao Ming Petrochemical Co. and Jilin Chemical Corp., the production capacity of China's SR has exceeded 700,000 t/a in 1997.

Production

In the mid-1980s, SR annual production in China was approximately 190,000 metric tons, including SBR, BR, NBR and CR, which were commercially manufactured. Prior to 1996, China's SR yield achieved 553,000 if a, about three times as much as that of ten years ago, with the newly added brand of SSBR, SBRL and SBS. As EPR, LCBR and other new plants were built, the total production of SR reached 600,000 metric tons in 1997. At present, the production of both SBR and BR accounts for over 80%.

Consumption

SR production in China was reported to have had an annual growth rate of 10.2% from 1986-1996, which could not meet the development of China's economy. The degree of SR self-sufficiency has gradually declined since 1991, below 70% nowadays, which resulted in an increase of SR import every year. It is reported that SR consumption accounts for only 46% of total rubber consumption in China.

Tires account for over 70% of total SR consumption; next are bands and hoses, motorcycle tires, shoes, etc.

Research and development

China is one of the first countries that carded out R&D work for manufacturing BR and IR (isoprene rubber) by using rare-earth metal catalysts, and it had successfully produced rare-earth, metal-based, oil-enriched BR of consistent quality, good processing property in a semi-commercially sized plant. This BR is more friction-resistant than Ni-based BR, and the mileage that the tires of this kind of BR will carry can be raised by 20%.

Remarkable progress has been made in research and development of Li-based SR. Both SBS and SSBR have been commercially produced whose qualities reach the world's standards of similar products. China has applied its own proprietary Li-based process to two sets of 10,000-sized SBS plants. The first set was built up in 1989 and went into operation in early 1990. The plant is characterized by adopting fast polymerization technology, a DCS system and a large polymerization reactor with a volume of 30 [M.sup.3]. After the technology renovation took place in 1996, its production capacity has increased to 30,000 t/a, with SIS (styrene-isoprenestyrene rubber) successfully commercialized. Sinopec built up the second set of 10,000 t/a SBS plants with a polymerization reactor of 53 [M.sup.3], and the trial production of LCBR has been carried out successfully. China has licensed its process technology for SBS production overseas.

The Ni-based BR production technology that was developed by China has come up to advanced world standards with a well-equipped DCS system, optimized process conditions and a substantial consumption decrease of raw materials and energies. The capacity of Ni-based BR has reached 360,000 t/a, all adopting domestic technology, and the products are exported to more than 20 countries in the world.

China developed its own production technology of XSBL (carboxylic-styrene-butadiene latex). A 10,000 t/a plant went into operation in 1990. The process features the low-soap-content emulsion polymerization method, which produces high-solid-content (56%) XSBL products through intermittent feed charge, whose quality is stable under the conditions of high temperature and high conversion. The technical and economic figures of the process reached world standards.

After the success of trial productions, a SSBR plant has been on stream and a LCBR plant will soon be established, which, coupled with a complete set of technology for production of SBS, mark important advances and new achievements in the development of SR and Li-based polymers. China has also made great progress in the hydrogenation of SBS, and a great deal of research work has been done on other Li-based SRs such as vinyl-polybutadiene rubber (VBR), from which pilot run results has been attained.

Sinopec

China Petrochemical Corp. (Sinopec) is a multi-industrial, trans-regional economic entity founded in 1983. Sinopec has 80 directly subordinate units, including 25 giant and 13 large enterprises for oil refining and petrochemical, synthetic fiber and chemical fertilizer production, 11 specialized companies, seven research and design institutes, five enterprises of construction and exploration, 11 universities, colleges and professional schools, as well as the units for sales, foreign trade, goods and materials supplying, engineering and information, etc.

Sinopec produced about 440,000 metric tons of SR in 1996, accounting for 80% of total SR production in China. In the past ten years, Sinopec established successively a set of SBR plants with a capacity of 80,000 t/a, a set of BR plants with a capacity of 50,000 t/a, two sets of SBS plants with combined capacity of 40,000 t/a and a set of SSBR plants with capacity of 15,000 t/a.

Sinopec was the sixth biggest SR producer in the world in 1996, and possessed a total SR capability of approximately 500,000 if a, including BR with the capability of 290,000 t/a; ESBR of 120,000 if a; SBRL of 25,000 if a; SBS of 40,000 if a; SSBR of 15,000 t/a and NBR of 4,000 t/a. In 1997, Sinopec constructed a set of BR plants with a capacity of 50,000 if a, a set of SSBR plants of 30,000 t/a, a set of LCBR plants of 10,000 t/a and a set of SBS plants of 10,000 t/a. The total SR capability of Sinopec has already gone up to 600,000 t/a, accounting for 80% of China's SR capacity

Sinopec is planning to build new plants for producing IIR, EPR, NBR, SBR, etc., in order to meet the demand for the development of China's economy in the next ten years.

China's SR supply and demand

According to information analysis reports from the ministries and companies in China and domestic petrochemical industry sources, the total capacity of China's synthetic rubber will come up to 1,150,000 t/a in 2000, an increase of 80% over 1996. The annual growth rate of demand for rubber is 8% since 1990.
China's SR production capacity

 1996 New Expan- 2000
 cap. projects sions
BR 31 9.50 40.50
ESBR 20 10 2.00 32
SBRL 2.63 1.50 4.13
SSBR 1.50 11 1.50 14
LCBR 3 1.50 4.50
NBR 1.40 1.50 2.90
CR 3.20 2.00 5.20
EPR 2 2
IIR 3 3
SBS 4 1 2.00 7
Total 63.73 31.50 20 115.23


(This report was presented at the 1998 International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers annual meeting).

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Article Details
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Author:Wu Dihua
Publication:Rubber World
Date:Sep 1, 1998
Words:1810
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