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Regional Spotlight: China



INDA reports growth will slow but still remain high by Western standards



Published August 30, 2005
Related Searches: roll goods Roofing Hygiene nonwoven
Regional Spotlight: China
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INDA reports growth will slow but still remain high by Western standards
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In 2004, China accounted for nearly half of the nonwovens output within the Asia-Pacific region. In the past 10 years, its production capacity increased more than five-fold, from 115,000 to 650,000 tons. This represents industry growth exceeding 18% a year during the past decade. INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, in its report examining the Asia-Pacific region, estimated that China's nonwovens industry will continue to expand but at a more moderate rate of 12% a year.

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One of the main risks facing China is a potential shortage of raw materials, electrical power, which is already strained, and oil. Demand for oil has risen sharply and within the past few years, China has changed from a small exporter of crude oil to a net importer. The country currently consumes nearly six million barrels of oil per day and accounted for 40% of the global growth in demand during the previous four years. The U.S. Energy Department projects that China's oil consumption will rise to nearly 13 million barrels per day within 20 years.

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Table 1 illustrates a decade of China's nonwovens production by technology from 1994 to 2004 with a forecast through 2009. Currently, the country has an estimated 500-600 nonwovens manufacturers producing nonwovens on an estimated 1000 to 1500 lines. This volume will require the addition of an estimated 60-80 nonwovens production lines to meet the country's forecast needs.

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China is industrializing and the government is encouraging private enterprise to expand with efficient factories-a policy they have pursued for two decades. The country is also investing in communications, highway and transportation infrastructure and modernizing its cities. However, the country is still very much an agrarian economy with incredible rural poverty.

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One example of the development of the rural nonwovens industry was the establishment of small carded thermal bonded factories that produce cover stock for locally made feminine sanitary napkins. From a western business perspective, these nonwovens producers are inefficient. Often the workers are local farmers and work only part time. While the nonwovens quality leaves a lot to be desired, these plants have expanded the industry to the agricultural areas of the country where there is little industry.

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While there are many small rural operations, most of the nonwovens industry is centered in the eastern industrialized areas of the country. For example, the province of Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong, is one of the principal nonwovens production areas within China and accounts for one-third of the country's total nonwovens production. The region has 140-150 nonwovens producers with about 330-340 production lines representing each of the various nonwovens technologies. Many of these facilities are relatively new with state-of-the-art nonwovens technologies. Reportedly, about half of Guangdong's nonwovens are exported as roll goods. The other main nonwovens production regions of China are the provinces of Fujian, which also borders Hong Kong, as well as Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Hebei in the north.

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Spunlaid Technologies

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Spunbonded and SMS Polypropylene: China's spunbonded polypropylene and SMS polypropylene nonwovens output in 2004 was estimated at 240,000 tons. This production came from at least 120-130 production lines by 75-90 producers. The first spunbond production lines were installed in the late 1980s and were built mainly by western companies such as Reifenhauser, STP Impianti, NKK, NWT and Mechannica Moderne. Since the 1990s, Chinese domestic machinery producers have entered the market. Their production lines are single-beamed, 3.2-meter-wide units with an annual capacity of 2000-2500 tons per year but in fact many of these lines operate at a much lower rate of output, in the 1000-1500-ton-per-year range. INDA has located nearly 25 of these domestic lines throughout the country and understands that there are others.

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The domestic machinery producers' technology is based on the Lurgi circular spin pack technology rather than on the curtain drawing system typical of the Reifenhauser system. Nonwoven spunbond quality from many of these domestically built lines still does not meet world quality standards, particularly lightweight materials such as coverstock. Thus, spunbonded producers using this technology target the medium and heavy weight markets of furniture and bedding, banners, disposable apparel, shopping bags and the like.

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These domestic machinery producers have been successful in selling their technology in China and the prices are reasonable-reportedly less than $5 million. We are aware of only one possible sale outside of China to a company in India, which could begin production next year. The country has four spunbonded/meltblown composite lines that have been operating for several years. Most of the output fuels the coverstock and medical apparel markets. Further SMS technologies are scheduled for start-up in 2005 by PGI, Liaoing Petroleum & Chemical and the Avgol/Hubei Goldking joint venture. These lines are Reifenhauser systems. Two other SMS lines are being installed by Nordson with a 2007 start-up planned.

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While actual spunbonded polypropylene output in 2004 is estimated at 240,000 tons, total production capacity is estimated around 330,000-360,000 tons, indicating that the industry is operating at about 65-70% of capacity. However, spunbond polypropylene and SMS production is forecast to double to 480,000 tons by 2009, indicating that roughly 48,000 tons per year during the next five years of spunbonded and SMS will be added to China's production base. To meet this projected rise in output, an additional four to seven high capacity, state-of-the-art spunbonded polypropylene lines will need to be installed in China each year.

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Spunbonded Polyester

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China produced an estimated 24,000 tons of spunbond polyester in 2004 on at least nine production lines. These nine lines have a capacity estimated at 30,000-35,000 tons. The first two lines were installed in 1995 with the most recent in 2002 and 2003. All the lines are technically up-to-date and principal markets for their output are geotextiles, modified bitumen roofing substrates and small quantities of filtration materials. We forecast that the spunbonded polyester technology will produce at least 43,000 tons of material by 2009. Yizheng Nonwovens is possibly the largest producer, operating two 4.3-meter lines using Toray technology.

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Meltblown

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Monolithic meltblown production in China was at 13,000 tons in 2004 and there are about 30 lines using the technology in China. This technology had a major boost in China with the outbreak of Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). A considerable amount of the material is consumed annually in disposable masks used by medical and dental professionals. When SARS broke out, Chinese producers were working hard to meet demand for these masks from China as well as North America and Europe. Other markets for meltblown in China are liquid filtration, battery separators and thermal insulating materials used in footwear, gloves and outerwear.

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Carded Technologies

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Thermal and resin bonded: China's carded thermal and resin bonded production nearly tripled between 1994 and 1999, rising from 51,000 to 143,000 tons. Since 1999, these technologies have been declining and volume output has dropped about 2% a year since 1999 to an estimated 130,000 tons last year. This drop is expected to continue because of the replacement of carded coverstock with spunbond and SMS materials and the growth of spunlaced and airlaid pulp technologies replacing carded resin bonded materials. Resin bonded materials are also decreasing worldwide but some lines are being revitalized by the use of the material as a transfer layer in absorbent hygiene products. PGI Nonwovens, for instance, is installing a carded resin bonded line in its Hainan plant to service that market.

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Spunlaced: This technology has grown rapidly in China since the first production lines were installed by Hainan Xinlong after 1994. From 1999 to 2004, output rose from 8000 tons on 10 lines to 49,000 tons on 44 lines.

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Needlepunched: Needlepunched nonwovens continue to advance in China, rising from 39,000 tons in 1994 to 103,000 tons in 1999 and 165,000 tons in 2004. Demand is growing in several end use markets including geotextiles and automotives, two markets that are growing extremely quickly in China.

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Needlepunched technology was one of the first nonwovens technologies developed in China in the early 1970s. Since then, a number of lines have been imported from western machinery producers. Shoo Shyng, a large Taiwanese producer, has been a major supplier of production equipment over the years but domestic producers have equipped the bulk of the machines.

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Airlaid Pulp

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INDA estimated that 23,000 tons of airlaid pulp nonwovens were produced in 2004. There are at least six known producers. Most of the 23,000 tons come from a BBA operation that is producing wipes materials but making primarily absorbent hygiene core materials for feminine sanitary products. Two other companies, Nanning Quaohong New Materials Company and Honggao Industrial Development, announced their intention to install a single, high capacity, multibonded line to make absorbent core and wipes materials. These two lines make 50,000 to 60,000 tons per year.

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Wetlaid

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An estimated 6000 tons of wetlaid nonwovens were produced in China in 2004. Hangzhou Xinhua Paper Making Company is the principal wetlaid producer, producing at least two-thirds of the country's wetlaid output. Several other paper mills are also producing small quantities of specialty wetlaid nonwovens. Major markets include disposable vacuum cleaner bags and stencil papers.

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Table 1
Overview of China's Nonwovens Production By Technology
 19942004Forecast 2009Growth Rate
rn 1994-2004
Growth Rate
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Spunbond Polypropylene and SMS2424048025.914.9
Spunbond Polyester024043developing12.4
Other spunbonded0050Embryonic
 
Subtotal Spunlaid2527755527.214.9
 
Carded thermal/resinbonded51130989.8(5.5)
Needlepunched3916525515.59.1
Spunlaced049127developing21.0
 
Subtotal Carded9034448014.36.9
 
Airlaid pulp02385developing29.9
Wetlaid0611developing12.9
 
Total China115650113118.911.7
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This information was taken from INDA's Asia-Pacific Report, which inlcudes detailed information on the region's key markets as well as forecasts through 2009. For ordering information: Cyndi Garcia, 919-233-1210 ext. 111; cgarcia@inda.org.