Bayer MaterialScience is considering building a world-scale production methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) facility in Europe. A feasibility study is underway to focus particularly on factors such as costs and infrastructure for a number of possible locations. A decision on the construction of the facility is due to be made next year. The plant would have an capacity of 400,000 tpa and could be commissioned in 2012. If the project were realized, the total worldwide MDI capacity of Bayer MaterialScience would increase to 1,850,000 tpa, including the 350,000 ton capacity of the new production plant at the integrated Shanghai site scheduled to go onstream next year.
"This strategy is intended to create the basis for meeting the rising demand for MDI in eastern and western Europe and in the Middle East in the medium to long term. The new plant would be an important addition to our worldwide production network, further improving the supply to our customers," said Peter Vanacker, head of the Polyurethanes Business Unit and member of the Executive Committee of Bayer MaterialScience. The demand for MDI in Europe is currently estimated to be growing at about 6% pa. Just last year, the company increased its production capacities at Krefeld-Uerdingen and Tarragona to 200,000 and 150,000 tpa, respectively. Further debottlenecking measures in existing production facilities in Europe are scheduled to be implemented before the new world-scale plant is completed.
It is intended that the new world-scale facility should incorporate, for the first time, a new, highly energy-efficient technology for the final stage in the reaction, that of phosgenation. Thanks to this process innovation the energy consumption of the plant can be decreased considerably by reducing the solvent cycles. Consequently, the emissions per unit of manufacturing will also be significantly reduced. Furthermore, the specific investment costs are expected to be clearly lower than for a conventional plant of the same size. The new facility is intended to form part of a complete, newly designed MDI train that will also include production plants for the precursors nitrobenzene, aniline and diphenylmethane diamine (MDA). The train would be the largest and most modern integrated MDI production facility in Europe.
MDI is an important chemical building block in the production of polyurethane foams and elastomers. Rigid insulating foams are used, for example, in the production of refrigerators and freezers, as thermal insulation in the construction industry and in district heating pipelines. MDI elastomers are used in the footwear, automotive, and electrical industries.