GS Caltex is poised to enter carbon fiber market

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GS Caltex is poised to enter carbon fiber market

GS Caltex, the oil firm jointly owned by GS and the United States’ Chevron, is set to enter the carbon fiber market starting from next year.

According to industry sources and local media reports, the nation’s second-largest oil refiner recently finished the development stage of producing pitch-based activated carbon fibers (ACF) and will produce 60 tons of prototypes next year.

This will likely spur competition among local carbon fiber manufacturers, including Toray Advanced Materials Korea, Taekwang Industrial and Hyosung.

Taekwang last year started to mass produce 1,500 tons of carbon fiber from its plant, and Hyosung is also set to complete construction of its plant in Jeonju, North Jeolla, which will produce 2,000 tons of carbon fibers.

Just last week, Toray, which is the No. 1 producer of carbon fibers, completed a plant in Gumi, North Gyeongsang, to produce 2,200 tons fibers a year.

But industry insiders said since these companies are mainly producing polyacrylonitrile, or PAN-based carbon fibers, GS Caltex can differentiate itself with its pitch-based fibers.

Pitch-based carbon fibers are made using oil or coal residue. Although its function is similar to PAN-based carbon fibers, company officials said it is cheaper and could show better performance in absorbing, desorbing and purifying contaminants. It could be widely used in filters of water purifiers or semiconductor plating.

According to industry sources, GS Caltex aims to commercially produce ACF from 2015, while finishing development of mesophase pitch-based carbon fibers, which are used to make lightweight auto parts and electrode materials for rechargeable batteries, by 2016.

Carbon fiber material that has the potential to replace steel with higher density and lighter weight. According to industry estimates, the global carbon fiber market is expected to expand from the current $2 billion to $5 billion by 2020.

By Joo Kyung-don []
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