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BASF PolyTHF celebrates 25 years in fibre supply
12
Sep '08
Twenty-five years ago, in September 1983, BASF brought its first plant for the production of polytetrahydrofuran on line at its “Verbund” site in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

The product is now marketed under the name PolyTHF throughout the world. With a nameplate capacity of altogether 4,000 tons per year the first plant was the launch pad for a remarkable success story.

Now with an aggregate capacity of 185,000 tons and a world-spanning network of production plants, BASF is globally the most important supplier of this multifaceted intermediate.

Driven by growing demand for PolyTHF, a second plant was built in Ludwigshafen and started operations in 1995. It had to be expanded in 2002. At the same time BASF was building added capacities close to Asian and NAFTA customers.

Beginning in 1987 the company began supplying customers from a plant in Geismar in the U.S. state of Louisiana, while Asian customers started receiving PolyTHF from the Ulsan site in South Korea as of 1998.

The newest chapter in the annals of success is the PolyTHF plant at the Caojing production base near Shanghai. Since becoming operational in early 2005 the plant has mainly supplied customers in Asia, now not only the largest PolyTHF market, but also the fastest growing.

“For us, PolyTHF is a core business. In keeping with our practice for the past 25 years, we will therefore continue to be a reliable partner in support of our worldwide PolyTHF customer base,” declared Dr. Beate Ehle, president of BASF's Operating Division Intermediates.

Not only are the world's most important Spandex and Elastan fiber manufacturers customers, but also a constantly growing number of smaller producers in Asia. Ehle added: “Together with our customers we keep working on innovative fibers for the future.”

PolyTHF is a typical “Verbund” product:
The success of PolyTHF is rooted in BASF's integrated production concept, involving in this case natural gas, as the starting material, to produce acetylene which is converted in a reaction with formaldehyde to butindiol and, in turn, into butanediol from which by way of cyclization tetrahydrofuran (THF) is formed in the presence of a catalyst and then polymerized to PolyTHF, chemically speaking to polytetramethyl¬ene ether glycol (PTMEG).

PolyTHF provides lasting elasticity:
The textile industry accounts for most of BASF's PolyTHF output, roughly 70 percent. The industry recognizes the intermediate as an invaluable raw material for manufacturing elastic fibers.

Known throughout the world either as Elastan or Spandex, the fibers are processed with nylon, cotton or polyester fibers into high-quality fabrics.

Because these fibers consist up to 80 percent of PolyTHF, their properties are largely determined by the BASF product. They will not only stretch up to 500 to 700 times of their original length, but also keep their form durably, meaning they retain their extreme elasticity without losing their shape.

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