Construction of a 48k large-tow carbon fiber project, a major breakthrough by Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Co Ltd (SPC), began on Monday.
On completion, the 3.5 billion yuan (US$5.37 billion) project will produce 24,000 tons of carbon fiber precursors and 12,000 tons of 48k large-tow carbon fiber.
A tow is an untwisted bundle of continuous filaments and China was dependent on imports, mostly from the US and Japan, for its 48k large-tow carbon fiber — bundles with 48,000 carbon fibers.
Carbon fiber is mainly used in aerospace, civil engineering, the military and in automobiles, with advantages including stiffness, tensile strength, low weight, high chemical resistance, high temperature tolerance and low thermal expansion.
The relative density of carbon fiber, for example, is about a quarter of steel, but its tensile strength is seven to nine times greater.
However, it is relatively expensive when compared with similar fibers, such as glass or plastic, and its application is relatively limited.
The mass production of 48k large-tow carbon fiber technology will bring down the cost of producing carbon fiber and expand its application.
Sinopec Shanghai began researching carbon fiber in 2007. By 2018, it had developed its first 48k carbon fiber. Last March, it decided on the current investment.
By 2018, the Chinese market was consuming 31,000 tons of carbon fiber, 32 percent more year on year and more that 70 percent was imported.
Sinopec Shanghai expects that by 2025 China will consume at least 50,000 tons, with 30,000 tons being large tow carbon fiber.
Sinopec Shanghai in Jinshan District is a subsidiary of China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec Corp). Is main business covers refined oil products, intermediate petrochemicals, synthetic resins and synthetic fibers.