The rapidly increasing polypropylene capacity in China is likely to bring the market into an oversupply state in the future. Market players believe that one solution is to explore application fields of specialty grades, high-end grades and modified grades. This report exhibits a general picture of the market situation of high-end polypropylene products such as ultra-low ash polypropylene.
Major consumption markets are shrinking
Ultra-low ash polypropylene refers to polypropylene products with ash content less than 0.005, which is mainly used in electronic and electrical fields, such as battery diaphragm material, capacitor film material, etc. In addition, it is used in the production of baby plastic products and home appliances. In the consumption fields of ultra-low ash polypropylene in China, according to surveys, the proportion of battery diaphragm material is the largest, at more than 60%, followed by diaphragm material of capacitor, which accounts for more than 30%. The total consumption of vehicles, baby products and home appliances takes up less than 10%.
The battery diaphragm material is used in the production of dry lithium battery diaphragm. However, the lithium battery diaphragm market tends to develop UHMWPE wet lithium battery diaphragm in the future, and in response, dry lithium battery diaphragm is being gradually replaced by wet grade. As such, this main consumption market of ultra-low ash polypropylene in China is shrinking.
High import price and heavy dependency on imports
In China, 95% of ultra-low ash polypropylene products are covered by imports, which are mainly from KPIC, Borouge and TPC.
The representative imported grades of ultra-low ash polypropylene include Borouge’s HC310BF, KPIC’s S800 and TPC’s FS3030, with the ash scale of 10-5-2×10-5PPM and the degree of isotacticity equal to or higher than 96. Table 1 shows the imported ultra-low ash grades and corresponding suppliers.
According to rough statistics, the annual consumption of ultra-low ash polypropylene in China exceeds 100 000 tons, of which, the import volume accounts for about 95%, reaching over 90 000 tons, while the domestic output is only 10 000-15 000 tons.
It is reported that the prices of ultra-low ash polypropylene are RMB2 000-3 000/ton higher than those of general polypropylene, and even higher than RMB4 000/ton at maximum.
According to the definition of import price, the import prices of ultra-low ash polypropylene are US$1 500-1 800/ton, of which, the maximum import prices of ultra-low ash polypropylene for capacitor film material are US$2 000/ton. The prices of ultra-low ash polypropylene produced in China are equivalent to US$1 400-1 650/ton, which reflects a big gap with the international market.
To increase domestic output based on the demand side
Chinese producers are making great efforts to improve the production of ultra-low ash polypropylene. As of November 2021, producers such as Zhongyuan Petrochemical, Shanghai Petrochemical, Xinjiang Dushanzi Petrochemical, Qingdao Refining and Chemical, Yangtze Petrochemical, Luoyang Petrochemical, North Huajin Chemical and Liaoyang Petrochemical have successfully produced ultra-low ash polypropylene grades, and some of them can reach the level of battery diaphragm material or capacitor film material. Table 2 is a breakdown of the main grades of domestic ultra-low ash polypropylene.
In a nutshell, although the main application markets of ultra-low ash polypropylene are likely to weaken, Chinese producers should make headways in the technologies to replace import grades. In addition, China's ultra-low ash polypropylene market should explore new application fields, such as baby products and automotive products. Therefore, the demand-driven environment will give a push for the upgrade of technologies in turn to increase the localization rate and hence the dominance of domestic ultra-low ash polypropylene products.