SABIC solidifying plans for precursor, carbon fiber plants in Saudi Arabia

Following a technology licensing agreement with acrylic producer Montefibre SpA in 2011, SABIC says it plans to build a polyacrylonitrile (PAN) precursor and carbon fiber manufacturing plant in Saudi Arabia, with carbon fiber ready for market by the end of 2015. The company plans to produce at least 3,000 metric tons annually to start.

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SABIC (Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) representatives met with CompositesWorld on March 27 at JEC Europe 2012 in Paris and reported that the company is moving forward with plans to manufacture precursor and carbon fiber in Saudi Arabia, with commercial availability of the fiber expected in 2015.

Derek Buckmaster, general manager Carbon Fibre Technology & Application Development at SABIC, says the Saudi government has identified carbon fiber as necessary for downstream industry development and has sought a manufacturer to meet this need. SABIC took a step forward in June 2011 when it signed a technology licensing agreement with acrylic fiber manufacturer Montefibre SpA (Milan, Italy).

Buckmaster says Montefibre's technology will be the basis for a new polyacrylonitrile (PAN) precursor facility to be built by SABIC in Saudi Arabia. The PAN precursor will feed a new SABIC carbon fiber manufacturing plant in Saudi Arabia. The carbon fiber plant, says Buckmaster, is expected to produce 48k tow standard modulus fiber, with commercial material available to the market before the end of 2015. The Saudi government has requested 3,000 metric tons of capacity per annum; Buckmaster says, "We'll start at or above that capacity, with room to grow as needed."

Although some of the carbon fiber from the SABIC facility in Saudi Arabia will be consumed in-country, Dieter Lindemann, marketing and sales manager for SABIC, comments, "We expect most of this material will go outside Saudi Arabia." Further, before 2015, SABIC expects to commence pre-production of carbon fiber from a new SABIC facility at an existing Montefibre acrylic plant in Spain. Material from this plant, says Buckmaster, is expected to be sold into Europe.