By Liz White, UT staffHerzogenaurach, Germany-BASF is “investing heavily to ensure sufficient supply of raw materials” for the polyurethane sector, said Dr John Feldmann, BASF board member responsible for polyurethanes, at a 13 April meeting in Herzogenaurach to promote BASF’s strategy of joint development projects with its customers. Last year saw high demand for polyurethanes in Asia and especially China, Feldmann added. The European PU market also saw good growth. The result has been scarcity of MDI, there have been some “problems and limitations, especially in MDI … that’s a fact,” he said. But the BASF executive vice president seemed keen to play down current difficulties in MDI supply, commenting that this year, “I think we will be able to supply market needs. In some places, there has been “speculative buying,” he indicated, which may have obscured true market demand. This year, supply “will continue to be difficult,” Feldmann admitted, but, “2006 will be better, more MDI is to come. … Currently we are enhancing [MDI] capacity at Antwerp,” with a 90 kilotonnes per annum expansion, due on stream in May-bringing capacity there to 450 ktpa-Feldmann added. Also, next year will see BASF’s joint 160 ktpa MDI plant in Caojing with Hunstman, and their Chinese partners come on stream, he said. BASF also has a 130 ktpa toluene diisocyanate plant coming on stream next year. Other suppliers are also expanding capacity: Bayer MaterialsScience is adding 230 ktpa of MDI at Caojing by 2008 and 150 ktpa of TDI there by 2009. Huntsman also recently announced plans to add 160 ktpa of MDI capacity, 60 ktpa in the US and 100 ktpa in Europe, in increments, in a project which will be complete by the end of 2006.”
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