Shortage of TDI (Toluene Diisocyanate) – one of the main raw materials used to make flexible polyurethane foam – is, again, disturbing the supply of flexible polyurethane foam to downstream markets such as upholstered furniture and mattresses across Europe.
In the past weeks, none of the three TDI manufacturing facilities in Europe have been operating, due to various reasons, as reported in the trade press. While production at some plants recently restarted at low volumes, TDI is currently being mostly imported from Asia and the USA. As such imports do not nearly compensate for local production, many foam producers are on allocation, significantly down compared to requested volumes, and are thus struggling to supply their customers normally. Also, the extra costs of transportation from overseas means that prices for TDI in Europe are significantly higher than in the USA or Asia and are to reach the historically high levels seen in April-May 2022.
Although in these troubled times, it is difficult to make any reliable predictions, the current anticipation is that the supply situation could ease somewhat later in the year, with a continued need for larger volumes of imports. October is still expected to be a very difficult month for availability of TDI with prices further rising, as indicated by Plastics Information Europe.
Commenting on the issue, Bart ten Brink, President of EUROPUR said: “The current situation is another blow for the industry, where traditionally stocks are being replenished in view of end-of-year sales. Inability to build such stocks simply means a lack of product and supply. On one hand, clearly the energy crisis that Europe faces plays a role and explains why imports may seem more attractive to some raw materials manufacturers in a globalised market. But on the other hand, it is not the first time in recent years that all TDI production facilities in Europe are down at the same time and this once more shows the need for the general supply chain to work to ensure better security of supply.”
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