New fiber plants in Asia and the Middle East to meet ramping demand

South Korea's Hyosung and SABIC announce carbon fiber manufacturing.

On June 4, Hyosung (Gyeonggi-do, South Korea) announced that it has successfully developed an intermediate-modulus carbon fiber after three years of independent research. The company says it will invest 250 billion South Korean won (about $231 million USD) to construct a carbon fiber plant at the Jeonju Eco High-Tech Complex in the city of Jeonju, in South Korea’s North Jeolia Province. According to the company, the manufacturing plant will have a comprehensive production facility, with both precursor and carbon fiber lines. Hyosung expects to commission the plant in 2013, with a planned production rate of 2,000 metric tonnes/4.41 million lb per year. Further, Hyosung announced it plans to invest another 1.2 trillion won ($1.1 billion USD) in the new undertaking through 2020.

Tony Roberts, a senior advisor to Hyosung, says the world market is currently about 50,000 metric tonnes/110.23 million lb (valued at approximately $2 billion USD). In 2020, the market is expected to grow to about $5 billion USD, he adds. Korean demand accounts for 2,400 metric tonnes/5.29 million lb of the current global market and is growing by more than 11 percent per year. Vice chairman Lee Sang-Woon says, “Because Hyosung has successfully developed carbon fibers, Korea no longer has to rely on imports.”

Following the Hyosung announcement, Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) announced on June 15 that it has signed a technology agreement with acrylic manufacturer Montefibre SpA (Milan, Italy) granting SABIC and its affiliates an extensive international license to carbon fiber technology developed by Montefibre. It is presumed that Montefibre’s acrylic will be used to produce the polyacrylonitrile (PAN) precursor. SABIC will first use the technology for a yet to be built industrial-grade (heavy tow) carbon fiber plant in Saudi Arabia. It will enable SABIC to serve the growing demand for carbon fiber in alternative energy, transportation and infrastructure markets. SABIC and Montefibre also signed a memorandum of understanding to study the feasibility of a carbon fiber plant in Spain, integrated into Montefibre’s existing acrylic fiber production site, enabling SABIC to accelerate product development. This plant would supply more than 3,000 metric tonnes/6.61 million lb of industrial-grade carbon fiber per year.