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Published: April 2012
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) polymer, also referred to as melt-phase PET resin, reactor-grade polyester or polyester chip, is the base polymer used in the production of polyester fibers, polyester film, solid-state (bottle-grade) resins and PET engineering resins. PET is produced by polycondensation of ethylene glycol with either dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) or terephthalic acid (TPA). Most PET polymer is produced for captive conversion to polyester fibers, PET solid-state resin and polyester film. PET engineering resins are also captively manufactured, but most PET engineering resins are compounded from recycled PET resins.
After the recession in 2008–2009, demand recovered in 2010. During the second half of 2010, PET polymer was in tight supply in Asia, as a result of particularly strong polyester fiber demand (because of a cotton shortage and peaking cotton prices), and also in Europe (lacking TPA raw material). During the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, converters were building up stocks, fearing further polymer shortages and price increases. In the second half of 2011, demand slowed, primarily because inventories needed to be reduced, but also because of economic uncertainty in developed countries as well as stagnating polyester fiber demand in China.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of PET polymer:
The largest consumer of melt-phase PET is China, accounting for 49% of the total consumed worldwide in 2011.
World consumption is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of approximately 4% per year over the forecast period. Demand for PET solid-state resin in Asia and the Middle East will drive growth.
In Western Europe and North America, PET polymer demand for solid-state resins is reaching maturity and will not show much growth in the next five years. In Asia (particularly in China), slower growth in consumption of PET polymer will be caused primarily by a stagnating polyester fiber market (polyester fiber is still by far the largest end use for PET polymer in the region). Africa and the Middle East will increase their share of consumption. PET solid-state resin production for domestic consumption—mainly for products exported to Europe—will be the driver of this growth.
Recycling of PET is gaining importance in the PET supply chain. Currently, more than two-thirds of recovered PET is used in textile applications, whereas bottles and sheets represent less than one-third of recycled product. Most of the rPET is sourced from bottle and fiber scrap recycling and goes into end uses such as polyester staple and fiberfill (60–70%), strapping and bottles. China is the major world supplier of rPET, followed by Europe. During the next five years, production of rPET is expected to increase at an average annual rate of 12%.