The Japanese chemicals and petrochemicals industry is currently in a restructuring phase as per a report by companiesandmarkets.com. Japanese companies benefit from the proximity of a large market in China. Major chemical companies are now stepping up efforts to reduce their reliance on naphtha as higher crude oil prices have increased the price of this major petrochemical raw material. On the other hand, competition will intensify as a number of petrochemical plants in the Middle East will become operational during 2008. The industry produces petrochemical products such as low-density polyethylene (LDPE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS), mono ethylene glycol (MEG), polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). Major players in the industry include Japan based Mitsubishi Chemical, Mitsui Chemicals, Idemitsu Kosan, Maruzen Petrochemicals, Showa Denko, Asahi Kasei and Sumitomo Chemical.
Moves toward alliances are underway between refiners and petrochemical makers at the Kashima, Chiba and Mizushima complexes under the government-backed Research Association of Refinery Integration for Group-Operation project. In September 2007, Japan-based Nippon Oil Corp's subsidiary Nippon Petroleum Refining announced the completion of the construction of a new high-efficiency power generation facility at its Sendai refinery and a capacity enhancement to produce petrochemical products. Mitsubishi Chemical announced that it is raising ethylene oxide (EO) supply at its Kashima petrochemical site located at Ibaraki Prefecture. Idemitsu Kosan, Cosmo Oil and seven other firms planned to jointly produce energy for their plants in an effort to increase power supply efficiency. Mitsui Chemical announced that it would increase the manufacturing capability for Apel at its Osaka facility.
he Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) forecasts annual growth of world demand for ethylene derivatives in the 2005-2011 period at 4.1%, propylene derivatives at 4.5%, benzene at 3.0% and paraxylene (PX) at 7.6%. It also forecasts that global demand for these products will rise steadily, due to growth in Asia centred around China. Domestic demand for ethylene-based petrochemical products is expected to fall by an average 0.5% a year in Japan to the equivalent of 5.51mn tonnes of ethylene in 2011 as compared to 5.68mn tonnes in 2005, while demand for propylene-based products is expected to rise during the same period. The fall in the former is mainly due to the overseas shift of production facilities that use ethylene-based products as feedstock. Olefins and polyolefins are likely to record a higher output in the next 3-4 years. In the long term, Japan's petrochemical industry will face intensified competition due to addition of capacity in Asia and the integration of domestic and international markets.