Mitsubishi Rayon Co. Ltd. (MRC, Tokyo, Japan) announced on June 30 that it will expand production capacity of its carbon fiber plant at Mitsubishi Rayon Carbon Fiber and Composites Inc. (MRCFAC, Irvine, Calif., USA). MRCFAC plans to install new facilities capable of 2,000 tons of annual carbon fiber production at its site in Sacramento, Calif. The site expansion, scheduled to be completed by mid-2016, will double the annual production capacity of 2,000 tons up to 4,000 tons. The Sacramento facility manufactures carbon fiber of 12k tow and greater, but less than 50k tow.
MRC notes that worldwide demand for carbon fiber is increasing for industrial applications (automotive and wind in particular) at an annual rate of more than 20 percent. Among industrial applications, carbon fiber-reinforced pressure vessels are becoming widely used for compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel tanks as well as large-scale CNG transporting vessels. In particular, large buses and trucks are increasingly converting to CNG, all due to the increased cost efficiency of using natural gas, partly attributed to shale gas development and the tightening of automobile exhaust gas regulations.
In addition, fuel tanks to carry high-pressure hydrogen gas for fuel cell vehicles, and storage tanks installed at hydrogen stations are expected to use carbon fiber as well. MRC will use MRCFAC as a production center of high-performance regular tow carbon fiber to serve the growing demand in the North American market. MRC will continue the further expansion of value chains related to industrial applications including pressure vessels, windmills and automobiles.