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PS – Polystyrene

Polystyrene was discovered in 1839 by Eduard Simon, an apothecary in Berlin. From storax, the resin of the Turkish sweetgum tree Liquidambar orientalis, he distilled an oily substance, a monomer that he named styrol. Several days later, Simon found that the styrol had thickened, presumably from oxidation; into a jelly he dubbed styrol oxide ("Styroloxyd"). The company I. G. Farben began manufacturing polystyrene in Ludwigshafen, Germany, about 1931, hoping it would be a suitable replacement for die-cast zinc in many applications. Success was achieved when they developed a reactor vessel that extruded polystyrene through a heated tube and cutter, producing polystyrene in pellet form. In 1959, the Koppers Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, developed expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. In 1937, the Dow Chemical company introduced polystyrene products to the U.S. market.

Polystyrene is generally classified as :
  • Crystal polystyrene (general purpose)
  • Impact polystyrene (HIPS). Polystyrene is produced by suspension, bulk/mass, or solution polymerization.
LG Chem, Polimeri Europa, The Dow Chemical, Styron, Dow, SABIC, Nova chemicals and Supreme Petrochem Ltd, are some of the leading producers of polystyrene in the world. In India total PS capacity is expected to reach 490 KTA by 2016-17 against projected demand of 275 KTA.

Polystyrene is used in varied applications:
Packaging : Eggs and dairy products, meat, fish and poultry, cold drinks or carry-out meals. All these products are safely packed with polystyrene packaging materials; by doing so spoilage of foods is prevented.

Appliances : From refrigerators and air conditioners, to ovens and microwaves, from hand-held vacuum cleaners to blenders, polystyrene resins meet almost all end-product requirements. Polystyrene resins are safe and cost effective, with excellent appearance and functionality mainly due to easy-processing.

Consumer electronics : Polystyrene is used for housing for TV's and all kind of emerging trends in IT equipment where the criteria for use are combinations of function, form and aesthetics and a high performance/cost ratio. Polystyrene is the leading choice for media enclosures, cassette tape housing and clear jewel boxes to protect CD's and DVD's.

Construction : Polystyrene resins are among the most popular materials for building and construction applications, like Insulation foam, roofing, siding, panels, bath and shower units, lighting, plumbing fixtures. With their excellent price performance balance and good process ability and other performance properties, polystyrene resins find use in these building products.

Medical : With excellent clarity and process ability and outstanding post-sterilization aesthetics, polystyrene resins are used for a wide range of disposable medical applications, including tissue culture trays, test tubes, petri dishes, diagnostic components, and housing for test kits.

Solution (bulk) polymerization is commonly referred to as mass polymerization in the industry. The vast majority of all polystyrene produced today is produced via this technology. The common solvents used in this process are the styrene monomer itself and ethyl benzene. The two types of mass polymerization are batch and continuous, of which continuous mass is by far the most popular.

Batch mass polymerization consists of a polymerization section containing agitated vessels polymerizing up to 80% conversion in a batch method. The polymerized solution is then pumped to a batch finishing section for either devolatisation or plate and frame final polymerization and grinding. The most widely used process for polymerization of polystyrene today is the continuous mass process. This solution is continuously prepared in a holding vessel and will then be injected into the reactor system.

Capacity (kt) Actual Actual Actual Actual Actual Actual Projected
2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Supreme Petrochem Ltd 272 272 272 272 272 272 272
LG Polymers India P. Ltd. 100 100 100 104 118 118 118
Styrolution India P. Ltd. 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Total 472 472 472 472 476 490 490
Source: Industry

PS: India Demand Supply
Actual Actual Actual Actual Actual Actual Projected
2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Capacity 472 472 472 472 476 490 490
Production 305 298 266 281 308 366 365
Dom Sales 239 234 207 226 241 255 270
Imports 11 16 17 15 20 20 20
Exports 64 58 63 50 71 70 70
Consumption 250 250 224 241 261 275 290
Source: Industry
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