Korean petrochemical firms focus on high-value products to overcome crisis

2023.11.28 12:01:02 | 2023.11.28 17:53:58

Polyolefin elastomer (POE) [Courtesy of LG Chem]이미지 확대

Polyolefin elastomer (POE) [Courtesy of LG Chem]

South Korean petrochemical companies are steering their strategies toward high-value products with an aim to overcome challenges posed by an evolving market landscape.

According to industry sources on Monday, LG Chem Ltd. is in the process of expanding the production of polyolefin elastomers (POEs), widely used in solar panel encapsulation.

POEs are high-value synthetic resins that combine the properties of rubber and plastic. It is extensively utilized to protect solar panels and minimize power loss.

LG Chem is expected to expand POE production capacity to 380,000 tons by the end of this year, up from the current 280,000 tons. The expansion will position the company as the world’s second-largest producer of POE.

LG Chem is also expanding the production of nitrile butadiene latex, a material used in medical gloves, to 630,000 tons by the end of this year from 390,000 tons.

Nitrile gloves, known for their strength and chemical resistance, have been replacing traditional rubber gloves. They are widely applied in medical, industrial, and culinary fields.

LG Chem also plans to increase its production capacity of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) from the current 2,900 tons to 6,100 tons by 2025.

CNTs possess a thermal conductivity equivalent to copper and diamond while exhibiting strength 100 times that of steel. With rising demand as an anode material to enhance charge and discharge efficiency, demand for CNTs are gaining significant attention.

Lotte Chemical Corp. also aims to enhance profitability through the expansion of high-value materials in the construction sector.

The company is investing a total of 250 billion won ($193 million) to complete the expansion of ethylene oxide (EOA) by 150,000 tons and high-purity ethylene oxide (HPEO), the raw material for EOA, by 250,000 tons this year.

Lotte Chemical is also focusing on expanding its battery materials business by completing facility construction for high-purity ethylene carbonate (HP-EC) and high-purity dimethyl carbonate (HP-DMC) production by the end of this year at its Daesan plant in South Chungcheong Province.

The expansion of ethyl methyl carbonate (HP-EMC) and diethyl carbonate (HP-DEC) will be completed by the second quarter of next year, with a total investment of 350 billion won.

Lotte Chemical also plans to complete the construction of a factory for a high-value green material Hecellose, at its Yeosu plant in South Jeolla Province by the end of this year.

Hecellose, a non-toxic white powder, is a water-soluble polymer product added to paints and shampoos to increase viscosity. Lotte Fine Chemical Co. will produce Hecellose for Lotte Chemical.

By Jung You-jung and Minu Kim

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