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Analysis of China's Domestic Nylon Industry

October 17,2023

Nylon  is a common name for polyamide polymers, also known as Polyamide (PA) in English. Nylon is currently the synthetic fiber used in textiles, second only to polyester in production. In the field of synthetic fibers, its most prominent advantage is that its wear resistance is higher than that of all other fibers. Adding some nylon fibers to the blended fabric can greatly improve its wear resistance. The country strongly supports the development of the new material industry, the downstream consumption market of nylon is steadily growing, and the global supply and demand imbalance of the nylon industry is accelerating. Especially, the production of nylon 66 and downstream products is showing a trend of gradient transfer from developed countries to developing countries. If the existing industry, technology, brand, and talent base are fully utilized, the nylon industry will show a good development trend.

Ⅰ. Characteristics and Applications of Nylon

Nylon has a wide variety of common types, including nylon 66 and nylon 6. Nylon ranks among the top in terms of strength and wear resistance among synthetic fibers; Nylon has excellent cold resistance, moth resistance, corrosion resistance, and moisture absorption properties. In response to the shortcomings of nylon such as high water absorption, high thermal shrinkage, easy deformation of products, and difficulty in demolding, the comprehensive performance of nylon can be improved by adding various catalysts for modification.

Main uses of modern nylon:

1. Engineering plastics: processed into various products to replace metals, widely used in the automotive and transportation industries. Typical products include pump impellers, fan blades, valve seats, bushings, bearings, various instrument panels, automotive electrical instruments, cold and hot air control valves, and other components.

2. Industrial nylon yarn: Nylon is widely used in industry to manufacture tire cords, industrial fabrics, cables, conveyor belts, tents, fishing nets, etc. Mainly used in military as parachutes and other military fabrics.

3. Civil nylon yarn: It can be blended or pure spun into various medical and knitted products. Nylon filament is commonly used in the knitting and silk industry, such as weaving single stockings, elastic stockings and other wear-resistant nylon stockings, nylon gauze, mosquito nets, nylon lace, elastic nylon outerwear, various nylon silk or interwoven silk products. Nylon staple fibers are mostly used to blend with wool or other chemical fiber wool products to make various wear-resistant and durable clothing materials.

In recent years, with the rapid development of new energy vehicles, high-end nylon products such as lightweight and safe nylon have become extremely important new materials for contemporary polymer materials. The wind power industry has also become a potential consumer market for high-end nylon. As a key raw material for wind turbine blades, reinforced nylon has better mechanical strength, heat resistance, impact resistance, and dimensional stability. In addition, with the continuous growth of demand for thermal conductive plastics in display technology and intelligent devices, the market has driven the demand for special nylon.

Ⅱ.Nylon 66 industry situation

At present, the current domestic production of nylon 66 is insufficient to meet market demand, and it is still necessary to import nylon 66 to meet production needs. However, the proportion of net imports in domestic nylon 66 consumption has been decreasing year by year, the supply structure has gradually optimized, and the import substitution effect has gradually strengthened. With the maturity of domestic nylon 66 production technology, the structural adjustment of the entire nylon 66 industry chain will bring greater import substitution space and further open up the application and demand space of nylon 66. The domestic nylon 66 industry may enter a period of rapid development. Previously, the upstream raw material of nylon 66 in China had a high import dependence of up to 100% on dinitrile, which was essentially completely constrained by the current situation of foreign giants. In recent years, China has successfully broken through the nitrile technology and taken the initiative in the development of the nylon 66 industry, filling the gap in the production of adipic nitrile technology materials, which is of great significance for improving the high-end development level of the nylon industry.

Ⅲ.Problems in the development of nylon industry

1. High raw material costs and complex optimization of technical routes

The biggest constraint on the nylon industry is cost, which is fundamentally due to two reasons: firstly, the slow release of production capacity of the key raw material adiponitrile. The second is that the chemical synthesis route of nylon is technically complex and has a long process. From a cost perspective, comparing the three most widely used general engineering plastics, nylon 66, PC, and PBT, nylon 66 has no advantage in cost per ton compared to PC and PBT, as the high price of hexamethylene diamine directly leads to a cost disadvantage for nylon 66. If the acrylonitrile method is adopted as the technical route, there are problems of high energy consumption and high pollution, while the butadiene method production process has technical difficulties in product separation.

2.Strong dependence on energy consumption and enormous pressure on industrial transformation and upgrading

The nylon industry belongs to a resource dependent industry and is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. There is a lack of motivation for low-carbon economic development, which is difficult to align with the green concept of sustainable development. In terms of the products themselves, the products with high carbon emissions include basic products such as coal to hydrogen and ammonia, which are important raw materials for downstream products and urgently require green alternative solutions to reduce CO2 and N2O emissions. At the same time, downstream enterprises have set emission reduction targets and are facing pressure to control and reduce carbon emissions from raw materials. Therefore, the nylon industry is facing tremendous pressure to transform and develop from "black" to "green".

3.The supply of slicing raw materials is uneven, and the production capacity of civilian silk is relatively low

During the 13th Five Year Plan period, China's caprolactam production capacity increased rapidly. With the continued growth of caprolactam production capacity in the future and the gradual slowdown of downstream demand, there is a risk of overcapacity in conventional polyamide chips. However, at the same time, high value-added, functional, and high-speed spinning polyamide chips are still mainly imported, and the localization of adiponitrile is progressing slowly, and some supply structures need to be improved. High quality matting agent titanium dioxide mainly relies on imports, and there are serious deficiencies in the quality of domestically produced products. The main nylon production bases in Henan Province are Pingxiangshan and Hebi, but both Pingmei Shenma Group and Hebi Zhongwei Chemical Fiber mainly produce industrial silk. Their products are mainly used for tire cord lines, conveyor belts, structural components, etc., and have not yet formed nylon long and short fiber products for textile and clothing.

At present, in the context of the "dual carbon" goal, the nylon industry is facing challenges and opportunities. In the future, it is necessary to build a full industrial chain upstream and downstream based on the advantages of raw materials. By improving advanced technology and introducing talents, and utilizing the research and development advantages of the industry, we can achieve "product high-end" and promote the development and growth of the industry.

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