Toray unit-carbon fiber plant

GUMI, South Korea, April 3 (Yonhap) -- Toray Advanced Materials Korea Inc., the local unit of Japanese chemical firm Toray Industries Inc., said Wednesday that it has started commercial production of high-end carbon fiber at its plant here.

The plant in Gumi, an industrial city some 261 kilometers south of Seoul, will produce 2,200 tons of carbon fiber annually, the South Korean unit said.

Toray Industries holds 40 percent of the global market of carbon fiber used for auto parts and wind turbine blades, which is forecast to replace steel because it is 10 times stronger than steel, but weighs less than one-fourth the weight.

Toray Advanced Materials Korea said it plans to start work on its second carbon fiber plant with the aim of commercially producing 2,500 tons of carbon fiber a year from March 2014.

If the second plant is completed, the Toray unit's annual production capacity of carbon fiber will be increased to 4,700 tons, becoming the largest carbon fiber manufacturer in South Korea.

The Toray unit's mass production of carbon fiber will stiffen competition among Korean and Japanese carbon fiber manufacturers in the local carbon fiber market, market watchers said.

In March last year, Taekwang Industrial Co., a local chemical fiber company, launched a mass production of carbon fiber for the first time in the country. The plant in Ulsan, about 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul, produces 1,500 tons of carbon fiber annually.

Hyosung Corp., a South Korean maker of textiles and heavy machinery, is slated to start commercial operation of its carbon fiber plant in Jeonju, 243 kilometers of Seoul in mid-April. The plant has a capacity production of 2,000 tons of carbon fiber per year. Hyosung plans to increase its carbon fiber production capacity to 17,000 tons by 2020.

However, the carbon fiber products of local manufacturers lag behind those of the Toray unit in quality, market watchers said.

The products of Taekwang and Hyosung could be used for sports gear, but those of the Toray unit could be used for parts of autos and planes, they said.

The global carbon fiber market is estimated at US$2 billion, or 50,000 tons a year, and predicted to grow to $5 billion in 2020, according to the watchers.

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