SBR: Strengthen application development and broaden its domains
Click:1    DateTime:Mar.11,2024

Xiao Ming

Based on polymerization methods, styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) can be divided into emulsion styrene butadiene rubber (ESBR), and solution polymerization styrene butadiene rubber (SSBR), of which the former is mainly applied into tapes, hoses, rollers, soles, medical supplies and other industrial products, a little for non-rubber products such as wires and cables. The latter SSBR is widely used in tires (tread), hoses, conveyor belts, shoe soles and air cushions.

Production status

By the end of September 2023 (the following is expressed by 2023), 18 enterprises in China produced SBR with a capacity of 1 887 000 t/a, of which 11 enterprises produced ESBR with a capacity of 1 450 000 t/a, occupying 76.84% of total SBR capacity. And 7 enterprises produced SSBR at a capacity of 437 000 t/a, or 23.16% of overall SBR capacity. Figures 1 and 2 show China’s SBR capacity and key producers in 2023.


Figure 1 China’s SBR capacity changes from 2015 to 2023


Figure 2 China’s Major SBR producers in 2023

According to production equipment distribution, China’s SBR production equipment is primarily in three regions: East China including Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces and Shanghai city, Northeast China including Liaoning and Jilin provinces, and Northwest China including Gansu province and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. China’s major capacity provinces, cities and regions for SBR in 2023 are shown in Figure 3.


Figure 3 China’s 2023 SBR major capacity provinces, cities and regions

Seen from equipment scale, Sinopec Qilu Petrochemical Co., Ltd. is the biggest SBR producer in China, with a capacity of 230 000 t/a in 2023, accounting for 12.19% overall, followed by CNPC Fushun Petrochemical Co., Ltd. with a capacity of 200 000 t/a, occupying 10.60% totally. With a capacity of 230 000 t/a, Sinopec Qilu Petrochemical Co., Ltd. is the largest ESBR producer holding 15.86% overall, followed by CNPC Fushun Petrochemical Co., Ltd. with a capacity of 200 000 t/a, holding 13.79% of total ESBR capacity. Moreover, PetroChina Dushanzi Petrochemical Co., Ltd. is the largest SSBR producer in China, with a capacity of 120 000 t/a in 2023, holding 27.46% of the total, followed by Zhenjiang Chimei Petrochemical Co., Ltd. with a capacity of 80 000 t/a, accounting for 18.31% of overall SSBR capacity.

In 2023, according to the nature of enterprises, China National Petroleum (including Joint Venture) in 2023 possessed 557 000 t/a of SBR capacity, accounting for 29.52% totally, PetroChina Co., Ltd. held 610 000 t/a, representing 32.33% overall, and other enterprises involving private ones owned 720 000 t/a, occupying 38.15% of the whole.

Concerning upstream material sources, China’s SBR producers including China National Petroleum and Sinopec Group are all equipped with butadiene production equipment, and other enterprises except Zhejiang Petrochemical Co., Ltd. all need to purchase butadiene equipment.

The analysis of import and export

According to the General Administration of Customs of China, China's SBR imports grew yearly and then gradually declined during 2018 to 2022, of which the imports in 2022 dropped 14.60% year-on-year to 306 600 tons. From January to September 2023, the imports were up 13.96% year-on-year to 270 200 tons, mainly coming from South Korea, Russia, Singapore, Japan, Germany, and Thailand with total imports of 219 700 tons, up 20.45% year-on-year, accounting for 81.31% of the total. In 2022, relying on general trade and import processing trade, China's SBR imports reduced 23.08% year-on-year to 242 600 tons, accounting for 79.15% of total imports.

China's SBR exports, mainly to Indonesia, Pakistan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, climbed annually from 2018 to 2022, except for a slight decline in 2019. In 2022, the total exports were up 58.21% year-on-year to 82 900 tons, accounting for about 74.82% totally. The exports are mainly in the form of general trade and logistics in customs special supervision areas, with the exports up 62.78% year-on-year to 103 200 tons, representing 93.14% of total exports.

Consumption status and outlook

China’s SBR apparent consumption first grew by years and then declined between 2018 and 2022, of which the apparent consumption in 2018 was 1 328 300 tons, while in 2022 was 1 516 800 tons, decreasing 1.69% year-on-year. Accordingly, product self-sufficiency in 2018 was 73.63% while in 2022 was 87.09%, up 7.41 percentage points year-on-year. China’s SBR supply-demand from 2018 to 2022 is shown in Figure 4. 


Figure 4 China’s SBR supply-demand from 2018 to 2022

China’s SBR is mainly used in tires, rubber shoes, hoses and tapes, and power tires. The consumption structure in 2022 was about 68% for tires and their products, 7% for cycle tires, 10% for hoses and tapes, 7% for rubber shoes, and 8% for other items.

China's SBR consumption is mainly in East China, which is basically the same as the regional distribution of downstream tires, footwear, hoses and tapes and cycle tires. Among them, about 30% of the total consumption is from Shandong province, followed by Jiangsu with 17%.

In recent years, tire companies such as Shandong Linglong Tyre Co., Ltd. and Zhongce Rubber Co., Ltd. have picked up the pace of "go global" and built factories in Southeast Asia and the US. Affected by this, it will be very limited for the demand growth of synthetic rubber in the tire industry, which will be difficult to support SBR market. In addition, domestic SBR consumption in the footwear industry will drop, while the consumption in other areas such as tires and pipe belts will slightly go up. China's consumption on SBR will reach 1 700 thousand tons by 2027, and the demand growth for traditional ESBR will slow down, and high-performance ESBR and SSBR will become the main demand, with increasing consumption.

Development advice

(1) China’s SBR overcapacity will become more severe, especially for SSBR, as new equipment is launched. Therefore, it is essential to be cautious when building and expanding equipment.

(2) Existing production units should optimize production process, and decrease energy and materials consumption and production cost to realize cleaning production using current production equipment. Moreover, develop new technology for ESBR, and concentrate on cutting-edge technology including polyurethane modified and wear-resistance modification products, liquid ESBR equipment, grafted SBR modified copolymer equipment, liquid phase mixing and master batch, high-solid latex production technology. Increase the performance control of vinyl and styrene content in SSBR polymerization, and develop the continuous polymerization process with intellectual property rights by refining the batch polymerization process.

(3) According to the market demand and industrial development, it is necessary to develop high-end customized new products with high added value, specialization and differentiation, such as oil-filled ESBR, ammonium-nitrite-free ESBR, SBR suitable for high-performance asphalt modification special powder, SBR filled with reinforcing materials, amorphous block SSBR.

(4) Strengthen application development and broaden its domains. Develop new processing aids and technologies, and adopt them in the combination with other rubbers to create materials that perform better and cost less. Make composite materials with graphene or carbon nanotubes to better thermal performance and conductivity of SBR, expand new application fields, meet the need of different uses and enhance consumption. 

(5) Increase product quality and lower production cost to actively expand international market, and ensure steady development of SBR-related industries.