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Ascend HMD force majeure could further tighten PA 6/6 market

By: Frank Esposito

9 January 2019

Ascend Performance Materials’ production of polyamide 6/6 (PA 6/6) resins and compounds will be impacted by the firm’s recent declaration of force majeure supply limits on hexamethylene diamine (HMD) feedstock.
Houston-based Ascend declared force majeure on HMD on 7 Jan. In a news release, officials cited “events beyond the company’s control” as reasons for the move.
“Manufacturing delays arose as [the company] completed projects in December to expand both adiponitrile (ADN) and HMD,” the company said in a statement.
“While the company’s ADN expansion is operational and meeting anticipated post-expansion rates, the HMD expansions have not yet met the company’s targeted production rates,” officials added. “As a result, the company must declare force majeure.”
The force majeure affects all Ascend polymers, compounds and fibres. At present, availability is reduced for all polymer products and HMD. Ascend is one of the world’s largest makers of PA 6/6.
Global supplies of PA 6/6 have been tight since early 2018, largely as the result of limited supplies of adiponitrile (ADN) feedstock. This has led to higher prices for the material and concerns that processors may turn to other types of plastics or other materials for auto parts or other products.
Ascend officials added that the firm will allocate existing products as prescribed in its contracts and is currently working with affected customers to minimize the impact to their businesses.
Market analyst Quentin de Carvalho with Houston’s Wood Mackenzie consulting firm said in an 8 Jan statement that Ascend’s announcement is the 11th declaration of force majeure in the PA 6/6 market in the last 12 months. He added that Ascend’s move “reinforces the shortage of ADN/HMD intermediaries in the market, compounding existing questions about supply reliability in the industry."
Ascend operates six plants in the US and Europe and employs 3,200. Company officials said in October that Ascend would add almost 90 million pounds of annual production capacity for ADN in Decatur, Alabama, by the end of the year. An additional ADN expansion there of almost 400 million pounds should be online by 2022.
Last month, Ascend announced that it was investing $35.2m (€3-.7m) to increase PA 6/6 resin production in South Carolina. The firm plans to upgrade several lines in early 2019 to increase polyamide production capacity by 50% at its site in Greenwood, South Carolina. That expansion is expected to create 30 new jobs.