By David Reed, UT EditorLudwigshafen, Germany-BASF Group has started up its 60-kilotonnes-per-annum (ktpa) plant for making polytetrahydrofuran in Caojing, People’s Republic of China, just two years after construction began, according to a 17 March announcement. A neighbouring plant for making 80 ktpa of tetrahydrofuran (THF) will gradually be brought on stream by the middle of the year, the firm added.The material, which BASF offers under the PolyTHF tradename, is used in making elastane fibres and thermoplastic polyurethanes. The plant will primarily supply Chinese textile fibre manufacturers with the PolyTHF being marketed under a Chinese brand name, Bao Li Fu, which means ‘Enrich your fabric,’ the German firm added. While most of the THF will be used captively, some is also used as a speciality solvent in pharmaceutical manufacture, BASF said.”The new production plant is designed to make us the leading supplier of spandex raw materials in the rapidly growing Chinese market,” said Walter Gramlich, head of BASF’s Intermediates division. “Our close proximity allows us to serve our customers with additional flexibility, speed and increased delivery reliability,” he added, in the prepared statement.In addition to being BASF’s first wholly owned unit to come on stream in China, the plant uses the firm’s latest technology. This is based on the direct oxidation of butane to THF which is then converted to PolyTHF. Earlier processes have an intermediate step making 1,4-butanediol (BDO), BASF explained. The butane is derived from “widely available natural gas,” the firm added.”Our innovative production technology is less complex and thus enhances our competitiveness as one of the world’s leading producers of THF and PolyTHF,” said Gramlich.BASF already makes the materials in Asia, at its Yokkaichi site in Japan and the Ulsan complex in South Korea, as well as in Ludwigshafen, and Geismar, Louisiana. It has total THF and PolyTHF capacities of 230 and 200 ktpa, respectively. “
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