Increasing demand and supply chain challenges are causing shortages of epoxy resins. Demand is being driven by large sectors of the global economy opening after COVID-19 shutdowns. Prices are escalating and ongoing disruptions are taking their toll on downstream manufacturers. The issues do not look like they will be totally resolved within the next few months. For high-Tg products such as composites, adhesives, coating powders and the like, dianhydrides such as BTDA may offer a way to overcome some of the supply chain issues.
Epoxy resin price increases
Scarcity of supply and increase in demand are driving up prices. Beginning in late 2020 with multiple fires and explosions at Asian resin manufacturing plants and the ensuing scrutiny on regulatory practices, followed by the historic cold snap that hit Texas and the Gulf states in early 2021, production shortages are widespread. In addition, the global supply chain is experiencing soaring logistics costs due to a lack of containers and clogged shipping lanes. Lastly, steady gains in crude oil pricing are impacting key raw materials including epichlorohydrin, phenols, and solvents. Taken altogether, it is little wonder that prices are increasing.
Downstream effects of epoxy resin supply disruptions
Because of the epoxy resin shortage, downstream manufacturers are having to delay their own production. The issues appear to be widespread with a survey from Composites World showing that 64% are advising their customers about potential delays, 41% are searching for alternative suppliers, and 38% are looking for substitute raw materials. Demand for composites does not appear to be letting up and neither do the supply constraints with 27% of respondents expecting the supply chain to normalize in the next 16 weeks and 41% saying they are not sure when it will improve.
Dianhydrides, a potential solution for high Tg epoxy resin formulations and fabricated parts
Novel solutions are being developed to combat the price and logistics challenges facing the sourcing of epoxy resins. Dianhydrides, as exemplified by BTDA, impart very high levels of crosslinking in simple bisphenol-A based epoxy resins without the need for tri- and tetra-functional resins. A basic pause and assessment of performance requirements can lead to simpler solutions using more cost-effective and more readily available resins and curatives. While formulation changes may not be realized so quickly, the uncertainty of normal market conditions makes investigating potential alternatives an attractive option.