After less than two years of construction, BASF has started up its new PolyTHF® (polytetrahydrofuran) plant at the integrated production site at the Shanghai Chemical Industrial Park (SCIP) in Caojing, Shanghai. By the middle of 2005, BASF will also gradually start up its neighboring THF (tetrahydrofuran) plant. With an annual capacity of 60,000 metric tons of Poly THF and 80,000 metric tons of THF, this is the largest PolyTHF production facility in the world. This is also the first investment project in China that has been wholly owned by BASF right from its inception.
The facilities in Caojing represent a further step in meeting the BASF Group’s objective of achieving 20 percent of its sales and earnings in the chemical business in Asia Pacific by 2010, with 70 percent coming from local production.
A new proprietary technology for THF production is being used for the first time by BASF in Caojing. In this process, butane - obtained from widely available natural gas – is used as a raw material for manufacturing THF, which is then used to produce PolyTHF. The innovative process eliminates the intermediate step of 1,4-butanediol (BDO), which was previously necessary.
“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 Dr. Walter Gramlich, head of BASF’s Intermediates division.
With the new plants, BASF will primarily supply Chinese textile fibers manufacturers. PolyTHF is an important component in the production of elastic spandex fibers for sportswear, swimsuits, underwear and outerwear fabrics. In China, PolyTHF will be marketed under the brand name Bao Li Fu, which means “Enrich your fabric.”
“The new production plant is designed to make us the leading supplier of spandex raw materials in the rapidly growing Chinese market,” said Gramlich. “Our close proximity allows us to serve our customers with additional flexibility, speed and increased delivery reliability.”
In addition to its role in textiles, PolyTHF is also an important intermediate for thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU), which are used for example in the manufacture of highly abrasion-resistant, yet flexible hoses, films and cable sheathing. Other TPU applications include thermoplastic polyetheresters and polyetheramides or cast elastomers required for the production of wheels for skateboards and inline skates. THF is a precursor of PolyTHF, but is also used as a special solvent, for example, in the production of pharmaceuticals.
The new facilities supplement BASF's network of THF and PolyTHF production sites around the world. In Asia, this includes the Yokkaichi site in Japan and the Ulsan complex in South Korea. In addition, BASF manufactures both products in Ludwigshafen, Germany and Geismar, Louisiana, in the United States. BASF has total THF and PolyTHF capacities of 230,000 and 200,000 metric tons per year, respectively.