Red led off with a review of end-market activities that are driving and will drive carbon fiber use over the next decade or so. Noted projects under development include several 75-95-seat aircraft in the works like the Dash-8-400 and the MRJ-700/900, possible carbon fiber use in new single-aisle aircraft expected to replace the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, and the quickly growing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market. Regarding UAVs, Red asserted, "I believe the days of manned fighter aircraft are over following the development of the F-35." Red also is particularly bullish about carbon fiber use in wind turbine blades, and by 2018 he and Roberts believe that the wind energy market will be the largest overall consumer of carbon fiber.
Roberts, for his part, provided a review of carbon fiber use in China. He reported that the vast majority (85 percent, 6,930 metric tonnes) of carbon fiber use in China is for sporting goods applications. The largest importer of carbon fiber is Xiamen Xinkai Composites Materials Co. Ltd. (448 tonnes), followed by Weihai Guangwei Group Co. Ltd. (282 tonnes) and SK Chemical (Qindao) Co. Ltd. (243 tonnes). In 2007, Chinese carbon fiber uses paid about $33,500/tonne for carbon fiber, but $23,000 in 2008 as the recession began. By 2012, Roberts expects China carbon fiber demand to 12,000 tonnes, up from 7,400 tonnes in 2009. Top three end markets will be sporting goods, infrastructure and wind power.
Red and Roberts finished their presentation with their forecast of carbon fiber demand, and an estimate of nameplate capacity (see tables). Given a knockdown percentage of 65 percent (65 percent of nameplate capacity is actually sellable for use by processors), Red and Roberts expect a supply/demand equilibrium in 2014-2017, with excess supply until then.
Total Global Carbon Fiber Demand, metric tonnes
| ||2008||2009 ||2010 ||2014 ||2018 |
|Roberts ||34,760||34,895 ||41,240 ||74,500 ||113,500 |
|Red||30,150 ||31,800 ||36,975 ||71,875 ||111,150 |
PAN-based Carbon Fiber Nameplate Capacity, metric tonnes
|2008 ||2009 ||2010 ||2011 ||2012 ||2013 ||2014 |
|Small-tow (up to 24k)||49,150||53,750 ||62,300 ||65,300 ||66,200 ||66,700 ||66,750 |
|Large-tow (>24k)||18,050 ||26,550 ||30,750 ||34,050 ||35,950 ||41,950 ||45,200 |
|Total ||67,200 ||80,300 ||93,050 ||99,350 ||102,150 ||108,650 ||111,950 |
Editor PickMelt-spinning carbon fiber precursor begins in Australia
Australian R&D center CSIRO is working on melt-spinning polymers to produce precursors for carbon fiber. Polymers being used include polyacrylonitrile, cellulose, lignin and blends of these materials. Q&A with Derek Buckmaster.