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Reflections of Barcelona

The Carbon Black World conference was held last week in Barcelona, Spain. Organized by Smithers Rapra, this year’s conference was one of the largest and most comprehensive, bringing together more than 275 industry leaders — including carbon black producers and customers, feedstock and equipment suppliers, investors, and consultants — for three days of talks, socializing, and networking. Andrew Smaha of Smithers Rapra worked diligently this year to expand the program and to bring in new voices, and his efforts certainly paid off in terms of both the presentations and the attendance.

Notch Consulting’s keynote address was entitled “Global Carbon Black Outlook and Trends,” and it looked at three major trends affecting the carbon black industry: 1. the US EPA’s program to tighten air emission regulations for US carbon black plants; 2. the Chinese carbon black export boom, its causes and effects; and 3. the ongoing competition between carbon black and precipitated silica in tire treads. The paper also presented an overview of carbon black supply/demand as well as forecasts. Unfortunately, due to a last minute travel snafu, I was unable to attend the conference and was profoundly grateful to my friend David Shaw, who stepped at the last minute to deliver Notch’s paper. David runs Tire Industry Research, a new consulting firm dedicated to the tire industry. David’s own excellent paper was entitled “Tire Industry Demand by Region; Macro Stressors and Potential Future Outcomes.”

Altaf Jiwani of Phillips Carbon Black presented a paper on specialty blacks for plastics, printing inks, paints, and adhesives. Timofey Kucherenko of Omsk Carbon Group presented an overview of the Russian carbon black industry, while William Jones of Sid Richardson Carbon & Energy presented the North American perspective. Feedstock issues were addressed in a session that included papers from Ms. Madhurima Gupta of Birla Carbon, Vince Guercio of CTC International, Kris Vanherbergen of RUTGERS, and Professor Li Bingyan of the China Carbon Black Institute.

In other notable papers, Martin O’Neill of Cabot Corporation presented an overview of the EPA activity in North America, while technical and process issues were addressed by CP Natarajan of Ganpads (technology enhancements to improve yield and reduce emissions); Cui Jianbo of Doright (air preheaters); Greg Homoki of ARVOS GmbH (air preheaters); and Volker Schmitz of PCME (baghouse filters). Markets for conductive blacks were addressed in papers by Fabrizio Corti of Imerys Graphite & Carbon and Dr. Yangyong Wang of AdvanPro Limited. Finally, a full session was dedicated to the important issue of sustainability and carbon black recycling, featuring talks by Sanford Ewing of Tellus Technology, Dr. Philipp Theden of carbon clean tech AG, Dr. Ulrich Sattler of Pyrolyx AG, and Thomas Redd of Reklaim Inc.

There are three separate conferences covering the carbon black industry: Carbon Black World and Carbon Black Asia Pacific are held in October/November on alternating years in North America/Europe and Asia, respectively, while Carbon Black China is held every other year in China. The next Carbon Black Asia Pacific conference will be held from November 4-6, 2015 at the Bey Hotel Tokyu in Yokohama, Japan. The next Carbon Black China conference will be held in April 2016 at a site in China to be determined. The next Carbon Black World conference will be held October/November 2016 at a site to be determined.

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