Companies in this industry manufacture acrylics, amino resins, epoxy, and other thermosets, as well as thermoplastics such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and polystyrene (PS). Major companies include Celanese, Chevron Phillips, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Huntsman, and Momentive Specialty Chemicals (all based in the US), along with Alfa (Mexico), BASF (Germany), China National Chemical Corporation, LG Chem (South Korea), LyondellBasell Industries (the Netherlands), Nan Ya Plastics (Taiwan), and Sumitomo Chemical (Japan).
Demand depends on the level of manufacture of plastic products, which is closely linked to US industrial production. Because resin manufacture is a high-volume process, the profitability of individual companies depends on operating efficiencies. Large companies have significant economies of scale in production and in the purchase of raw materials. Smaller companies can compete effectively by producing specialty resins and fibers. Many smaller companies buy commodity resins from large producers and rework them into specialty compounds. The US industry is highly concentrated: the top 50 companies account for about 80% of industry revenue.
Products, Operations & Technology
The two basic types of plastic resins are thermosets, which harden permanently after they are cured by heat, and thermoplastics, which may be hard or soft after being cured, but can be remelted or dissolved in a solvent. Thermosets include acrylics, amino resins, epoxy, unsaturated polyesters, polyurethanes and vinyl esters. Polyethylene (PE); polypropylene (PP); polyvinyl chloride (PVC); and polystyrene (PS) are thermoplastics. A third type of resin, elastomers, are thermoplastics that remain elastic after being cured, such as polyurethane foam. By mixing various resins ("compounding") and adding colorants and other chemicals, companies can produce plastics with a wide range of physical and chemical properties.