Published March 2017
Caprolactam is used primarily in the production of nylon 6 fibers and nylon 6 engineering resins and films. About 53% of world caprolactam consumption is for nylon 6 fibers and 26% is for nylon 6 resins and films; the remainder is accounted for by trade in polymer chip. Nylon 6 fibers are used in the textile, carpet and industrial yarn industries. Nylon resins are used as engineering plastics, with applications in the automotive industry, specialty film packaging for food, and wire and cabling. In addition, this report covers caprolactam polymerized and sold as chip used in fiber or resin applications.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of caprolactam:
Chinese nylon fiber and resin production continues to expand rapidly. In 2016, Chinese consumption of caprolactam eclipsed that of all other Asian countries combined and accounted for 42% of global demand, up from a 27% share in 2011. Chinese consumption of caprolactam is expected to increase at an average annual rate of 5.5% on strong overall nylon demand growth. The expected oversupply of caprolactam caused by capacity additions during 2011-16 and additional increases in Chinese capacity during 2016-21 will drive prices down and provide greater stability to the nylon industry as a whole.
Other Asian countries (excluding China, but including the Indian Subcontinent) collectively accounted for 24% of the global demand in 2016, with more than half of the volume being consumed in Taiwan. The gradual shifts in nylon 6 textile fiber production to Asia, followed by development in automobile, plastics, and electronics manufacturing away from more industrialized regions, have all contributed to historical growth. However, an expected decline in Taiwan will lead to an overall decline for the region through the forecast period.
Asia, particularly China, has excess capacity that will continue to drive down the global operating rate for caprolactam. As a result, capacity reductions are taking place in other parts of the world. Fibrant (formerly DSM) has shut down capacity in the United States, and BASF is in the process of reducing capacity at its Ludwigshafen plant. China is in a very different situation from the rest of the world, as there is gross oversupply of caprolactam; some older units in China may shut down in the near future.
World consumption of caprolactam is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 2.6%.