The Rupp Report: 53rd Dornbirn Man-made Fibers Conference

The 53rd Dornbirn Man-made Fibers Congress (MFC) took place in Dornbirn, Austria, Sept. 10-12, 2014. The congress is without any doubt still the most important event for the global man-made fibers (MMF) community. It is organized by the Austria-based Man-made Fibers Institute and supported by the Brussels-based European Man-Made Fibers Association (CIRFS).
The MFC’s goal was to “communicate the future of man-made fibers.” With the current economical and political environment in mind, organizers were afraid that the number of attendees would be much lower compared to the past five record-posting years. However, attendance wasn’t that bad with more than 700 people gathering in Dornbirn. The main topic of the conference was “Innovation – Efficiency – Competitiveness,” which should “reflect the necessary evolutionary constraint for renewal in the transition to a new industrial era.” The European man-made fibers industry thinks that: “interdisciplinary cooperation along the processing chain will be the recipe for success. Still, the Europeans are committed to the European production sites and claim from the European Union the creation of a favorable political/economic ambience.”
One can say that the level of the presentations were – as is typical in Dornbirn — mostly very good. However, the author would prefer to hear speakers present in their native language rather than in English if they are not completely comfortable speaking in English.
Fibers Demand And Long-term Perspective
One of the highlights of the conference was certainly the presentation from Peter Driscoll, director, PCI Fibers, United Kingdom. Driscoll’s presentation was titled “Fibers Demand: Mid-term Direction/Long-term Perspective.” He first covered world fiber volumes as mill demand. In addition to the increase in demand in 2013 — a total of 83.5 million metric tons (mt) with an increase of 4.4 percent — 85.7 million mts are estimated for 2014; which is an increase of 2.7 percent. According to Driscoll, the forecast for 2015 is some 88.3 million mt with an increase of 3.0 percent. He pointed out that from 2002-07, the five-year average growth was 5.6 percent year annum; and for the period 2010-15 it is only at 3.2 percent per year. Driscoll said, “the market is still struggling, with a generous monetary policy as the big factor.”
Asian Fiber Demand
Looking at the world fiber demand by region, the situation is quite critical. On the one hand, textile activity in China grew by 4 percent in 2013, but activity is estimated to edge up just 2 percent this year. In contrast to this, activity in the rest of Asia grew by 7 percent in 2013, and Driscoll expects that Asia will add another 4-percent-growth in 2014. China’s share of the global textile industry peaked in 2012-13 at 52 percent; however, its loss of share long-term is very gradual. On the other side the forecast, its share is estimated to be 49 percent in 2030. Over the five-year-period from 2010-15, mill demand in China is estimated to grow 3.2 percent per year, but in the rest of Asia it will be 4.4 percent, even though countries such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan will show further decline. The growth in the rest of the world is estimated at just at 1.8 percent per year.
European Fiber Demand
Mill demand in Western Europe — the EU15 plus European Free Trade Association (EFTA) — with annual growth of 2.0 percent from 2010-15 is by “no means dead” according to Driscoll. In 2014, Western Europe’s share of polyester staple fibers is forecasted at 26 percent, and polypropylene — continuous filament, spunbond and staple fibers — is expected to be 23 percent.
The mill demand for East Europe — the Russia-led Commonwealth of Independent States, plus middle Europe, now mainly in the EU — is unstable. This region has stronger, but irregular growth, supported by a transfer of textiles from Western Europe, and also, for example, by initiatives like the cotton textiles project emerging in Uzbekistan. The growth in the 2010-15 period is estimated at 2.7 percent. For polyester, the staple share in 2014 is put at 23 percent, and cotton at 35 percent.
The mill demand in Turkey still shows a strong marketplace. This market is considered to be maintaining its considerable growth; with an average increase of 5.6 percent for the period 2010-15. Reflecting the domestic textile industry and its products, in 2014, the polyester staple share is put at 11 percent, polyacrylic at 8 percent, cotton at 41 percent, and polyester textile filament at 23 percent. In this context, polyester textile filament is seen as a bigger threat to cotton than polyester staple. This product sector comprises 25 percent local polyester filament and 75 percent imported yarn; with the proportion evolving to 15/85 percent by 2030.
One of the global top players in fiber consumption is polyester textile filament. However, there is plenty of spare polyester around, especially in China. This means there is no need for Turkey to increase its own capacity. China had 35 percent of the global capacity in 2000, in 2010 it was 7.0 percent, and is estimated to be 77 percent by next year since China continues to install a new plant.
Too Much Polyester Capacity
The consequences of this new plant – and others – is that there is a polyester capacity surplus compared to demand. Where the capacity surplus is 25 percent or less, then operations are probably feasible, but above 40 percent, they can be considered to be in real trouble. In the case of polyester staple however, according to Driscoll, a distinction has to be made between large-scale modern plants aimed at producing short-staple for yarn-spinning, and the smaller batch plants using polymer chip or recycled bottles as feedstock. These smaller plants could be stopped in times of low demand and started depending, for example, on seasonal demand for fiberfill. Driscoll mentioned that it could well be that the larger plants might currently be running at 70-75 percent, while the smaller ones, at least in China, would only run at 50-60 percent of capacity. The second part of Driscoll’s paper from Dornbirn will be highlighted in the next Rupp Report.
Papers from PCI Fibers are an excellent source of information. The Rupp Report: “PCI Fibres Conference In Istanbul,” informed readers about the next PCI Fibres Conference, which will take place in Istanbul, Turkey, November, 6-7, 2014, at the Hotel Hilton Istanbul Bosporus. This is an event that shouldn’t be missed!

September 19, 2014