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China’s Nylon 6,6 Industry

July 03,2023

Nylon, an important synthetic fiber, is also the world's first synthetic fiber.

Nylon material  has high abrasion resistance and mechanical strength, is lightweight, easy to dye, and has good moisture absorption ability. In the industrial field, it is mainly used for ropes, fishing nets, tire cords, landing gears, and engineering plastics; in the apparel field, it is mainly used for stockings, swimwear, mountain climbing clothes, etc.

But to be ashamed, although nylon is the first synthetic fiber used by man, the scale of application was quickly exceeded by the upstarts, this situation is particularly obvious in China. For example, current our country's polyurethane production capacity of 15 million tons, the polyethylene production capacity of 28 million tons, the polypropylene production capacity of 36 million tons, but China's nylon production capacity of only a few million tons, the core product of nylon 66 production capacity of only 550,000 tons. On the one hand, the scope of application of different materials, other materials may indeed have a wider range of applications; on the other hand, China's nylon industry still has the problem of inherent deficiencies, and is always subject to constraints.

so the price is expensive, which also restricts the development of nylon.

01

The nylon industry has a large family and a wide range of products, mainly including nylon 6, nylon 66, nylon 610, nylon 11, nylon 12 five major varieties, and several small varieties. Among them, the use of nylon 6 and nylon 66 is the largest, accounting for about 90% of the total nylon consumer.

Nylon 66 is basically better than nylon 6 in all performances, and in the field of textile and apparel, compared to nylon 6, nylon 66 has better performance in terms of abrasion resistance and skin friendliness and is widely used in jackets, underwear, yoga pants, etc. The following table shows the performance of nylon (polyamid) 66 and nylon (polyamid) 6.

In engineering, nylon 6 is even more incomparable than nylon 66. Nylon 66 can be used as various mechanical parts, such as bearings, gears, pulley pump impellers, vanes, high-pressure seals, bushings, oil pipes, ropes, transmission belts, cable joints, etc. In addition, nylon 66 is particularly beneficial in the automotive industry, where it can replace metal materials to greatly reduce the weight of cars, saving energy and reducing costs.

Of course, you get what you pay for, and the price of nylon 66 is much higher than nylon 6. The following chart shows the price and price difference between the two. From a long-term view, the average nylon 66 is twice as expensive as nylon 6, in addition to the difference between the two production processes, more from the nylon 66 key raw material "neck".

China's nylon 6 technology is well developed and has full production capacity, but nylon 66 has been slow to complete the local substitution. 2020 overseas (except China) nylon 6 / nylon 66 production ratio of about 1.40, while China's ratio is as high as 11.67. Can't do out of course expensive, expensive natural cannot afford to use.

02

The medium of nylon 66 includes HMDA and adipic acid, of which adipic acid has mature production technology, excess capacity, and strong cyclicality, so there is no need to elaborate here. The upstream raw material of HMDA is adiponitrile, and for a long time in the past, China has been 100% dependent on imports of adiponitrile. Adiponitrile "neck", has become the heart of the industry localization of nylon 66.

In fact, China's localization of adiponitrile is not without effort. However, due to the high technical barriers of adiponitrile, many technical routes, complex processes, and very difficult product separation and purification, the industrialization process in China has remained at the pilot stage for a long time. In addition, the production involves critical chemical raw materials, and the safety risk is very high. The closest to industrialization in China was the construction of a 100,000 t/a industrialized unit of adiponitrile at Shandong Runxing Chemical Technology Co.

In recent years, the situation has changed dramatically. in July 2019, Chongqing Huafeng Chemical built a 50,000-ton adiponitrile large-scale production plant and successfully put it into operation, achieving stable operation in 2020. up to now, Chongqing Huafeng Chemical has 100,000 tons of adipic acid method adiponitrile production capacity, breaking the foreign technology blockade and monopoly on China's adiponitrile and filling the domestic technology and industry gaps.

In addition, recently, Qixiang Tengda (002408) and China Tianchen jointly invested in the first phase of the Tianchen Qixiang butadiene adiponitrile plant successfully broke through the whole process, and successfully started up and produced superior products. This is the first industrialized nylon 66 plant with a complete industrial chain in China, which is of great significance.

Compared with foreign industrialized production of adiponitrile, INVISTA, and other companies have upgraded their adiponitrile production technology many times and have strong advantages in industrial support, China's industrialized production of adiponitrile is still at an early stage and needs to continuously optimize the process, whether it can get a lower price of raw materials and electricity, reduce raw material unit consumption, improve catalyst performance, optimize plant operating efficiency, etc. will be the key factors for the profitability of the project, and there is expected to be a distance from production to full production.

In addition, 2023 is the key stage of domestic adiponitrile release. Once the world is known, the current domestic companies have planned millions of tons of adiponitrile capacity, the table below shows the current completed, under construction, and planned adiponitrile capacity. It is important to know that the global adiponitrile capacity will only be 2.31 million tons by the end of 2022. After addressing the localization of adiponitrile, we may have to start looking at the possible surplus of adiponitrile again. But in any case, this is the "sweet trouble" of the future.

The current downstream application of nylon 66, which is greatly restricted due to its expensive price, and is mainly used in engineering plastics (62%) and other fields that cannot be replaced by other materials. In the field of textile and garment (2%), the market space originally belonging to nylon 66 is occupied by  nylon 6, spandex,  polyester, and other fibers with poor mechanical and abrasion resistance.

The military uniform industry is a good case. International developed countries in Europe and the United States military equipment of more than 70% of the use of nylon, including training uniforms for nylon 66 material, combat uniforms using Aramid, flame retardant viscose fiber, and nylon 66 blended material preparation. Due to the congenital shortage of nylon 66, China's military clothing and equipment mostly use nylon 6, polyester, and other materials, performance, and the developed countries there is a gap. With the acceleration of the localization of nylon 66, the renewal of China's military clothing is inevitable. In the long run, nylon 66 is expected to replace polyester and nylon 6 to become many fabrics used by the army.

With the localization of adiponitrile and nylon 66 cost reduction, the downstream application scale of nylon 66 is expected to continue to expand, the industry may suddenly emerge a lot of nylon 66 "ten years old powder", which in turn will promote the development of the industry chain. We can refer to the development path of carbon fiber, the development of large filament carbon fiber has reduced the cost of carbon fiber, so that carbon fiber from the temple to the jungle, and brought prosperity to the whole industry chain


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