BASF raises production capacity for THF intermediate

By Pete Mansell

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Basf

BASF is boosting by 30,000 tons its annual production capacity for
the chemical intermediate tetrahydrofuran (THF) at the group's site
in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

The move will put BASF's total annual THF capacity at 210,000 metric tons from the end of this year.

According to Hartwig Michels, who heads up the regional Diols and Polyalcohols business unit of BASF's Intermediates division, the main rationale for the increase is "to guarantee our ability to meet the growing THF demand of the European pharmaceutical industry".

The German chemicals group does not disclose sales beyond the divisional level, so no revenue figures were available for THF, which BASF manufactures in Europe, Asia and the North American Free Trade Agreement countries (i.e., the US, Canada and Mexico).

Spokesman Klaus-Pieter Rieser said the heavier demand from pharmaceutical companies was due to that industry's "steady growth" and the "outstanding capabilities" of the tetrahydrofuran manufactured by BASF.

The group claims it is the only supplier in the world to offer high-purity THF with an "extremely low" residual water content of 0.01 per cent or less.

THF is particularly useful as a solvent in the complex water-sensitive reactions that often occur in the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients, BASF points out.

These are based on organometallic compounds that disintegrate on contact with water, such as Grignard reagents.

Outside the pharmaceutical sector, THF serves as a basis for PolyTHF, an important component in the manufacture of highly elastic spandex fibres for textiles such as sportswear and swimsuits, BASF notes.

PolyTHF is also a major intermediate for thermoplastic polyurethanes, which are used by BASF's customers to make products like flexible but highly abrasion-resistant hoses, films or cable sheathing.

Like other intermediates sold by BASF, THF has been affected by rising raw material costs.

In March the group informed its customers that the European list and off-list selling prices for THF, PolyTHF and two other products (gamma butyrolactone and n-methyl-2-pyrrolidone) would rise by €0.15/kg with effect from 1 April 2007, while the prices of 1,4 butanediol would increase by €0.10/kg.

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