My review of Carbon Black World 2018

(First published on Linkedin)

The Carbon Black World in Düsseldorf was a well organised and well attended conference on all topics carbon black, including feedstock markets dynamics, market overviews, production technology and also recovered carbon black.

In this article, I am covering the sessions I ran, chaired or listened to.

There was only one presentation slot allowed for recovered Carbon Black and that was the presentation I had together with Pieter ter Haar. I also ran a workshop about recovered carbon black on on the evening, which lead eventually to the founding of the recovered Carbon Black Conference in Berlin in 2019, which had 160 participants and a keynote by Michelin. Over the years, I built the community and the recovered Carbon Black Conference 2022 in berlin had already 260 participants.

“A well organised and well attended conference on all topics carbon black”

The organising company, Smithers, appointed an all-star advisory board who helped identifying key carbon black topics and speakers: Paul Ita (Notch Consulting), Bill Jones(Sid Richardson/Tokai), Bruce Lambillotte (Smithers Rapra), Ricky Magee (Birla Carbon) and François Terrade (Pro2act Management).

The conference took place on September 25th and 26th and there also were two 3 hour workshops on the topic of feedstocks and recovered carbon black. I had the opportunity to run the recovered carbon black workshop, to chair the first two conference sessions and to present about recovered carbon black, together with Pieter ter Haar from Pyrolyx.

“After the conference is before the conference”

If you also attended the conference, you will be in the following up phase and contacting people you had business conversations with. Smithers made networking a breeze before, during and after the conference by using the Whova mobile app. Within this app, you can see the attendee list, contact people of interest, upload picture of the event and edit your own profile for personal and corporate branding. I love this app, it is like Tinder for business!

After filling out the event evaluation survey, you get a link for downloading the conference presentations as PDF files, which is always useful to keep for future reference.

It is also good practice to follow-up with contacts here on Linkedin, follow company pages, join relevant Linkedin groups or even write an event review like I am doing now ?

“Feedstocks drive the carbon black economy”

The feedstocks used for carbon black production with the furnace process are a very important industry driver and there have been quite a few changes to legislation and markets.

Shane Perl held a 3 hour workshop on “The changing carbon black feedstock world and the impact of sourcing on total value”. It was a very data rich interactive presentation with valuable deep insights about the different types of feedstocks (e.g. fuel oil, ethylene cracker residues or coal tar) and their different market dynamics. IMO Sulphur 2020, the International Maritime Organisation‘s programme for cutting sulphur oxide emissions, is a big global topic with impact of carbon black feedstocks which will go from 1% sulphur to 0,5% sulphur along with marine fuels.

Brett Wehmann, Director Global Feedstock Supply at Cabot Corp, deepened on the topic of IMO 2020 sketching a couple of scenarios for the future.

Monique Lempereur, Managing Director Europe at Continental Carbon, talked about the changing feedstock landscape in China where the company has three plants. Because of the price evolution of coal tar distillation products, a shift to other types of feedstock in China appears inevitable.

Vince Guercio and Tim Bart deepened on the topic of feedstock markets and the market disruption through IMO 2020.

A future alternative feedstock with high carbon content I find very interesting for the carbon black industry is tire pyrolysis oil. I mentioned this in my presentation “Recovered carbon black (rCB), threat or opportunity?”.

“An Exciting Time for the Carbon Black Industry”

John Loudermilk, COO at Birla Carbon, painted a positive picture for the global carbon black industry in his conference keynote on Day 1. Global consumer mega trends demand innovation in carbon black technology, products and sustainability and these investments will be valued by the market.

Paul Ita at Notch Consulting, the gold standard for carbon black market reporting, gave a global carbon black market overview. With continued growth in the global tire industry (e.g. Nexen in Czech Republic) and shortages in the US, Europe and India, many carbon black makers have announced expansions and, of course, price increases. Once India has come out of its market shortage, it could well become an important carbon black exporter.

Kevin Hocevar from Northcoast Research gave an “Equity research analyst perspective on the carbon black market” with a generally bullish outlook and detailed data driven reasons for an upside to the Cabot share evaluation.

“Predicting the future of carbon black vs. silica”

Michael Amman from Goodyear gave a big picture view from the tyre retailer perspective and sketched 3 main drivers for growth in tire business: Electric cars, e-connectivity and digital and autonomous driving.

In my workshop on recovered carbon black, we had discussed these drivers already and our verdict was that:

  1. Electric cars point to further lowering rolling resistance for longer battery reach, hence likely increasing the use of silica in tread compounds (time of introduction 0 – 5 years).
  2. Autonomous driving (as a service) could have tire requirements close to TBR tires and rather focus on longevity and mileage, hence likely increasing the use of natural rubber and carbon black in tire treads (time of introduction 5 – 10 years).

Roger Rothon, who just published a report with Smithers about the “Impact of Electric Vehicles on Tires to 2028”, said that in 2028 the majority of the electric cars will still be hybrids and not fully electric cars. Roger explained that tires for electric cars will have special requirements for:

  • High “fuel” economy (for larger battery range)
  • High Grip (due to high torque and high weight)
  • Low Cabin noise (as no engine sound, the only unique tire discriminator)
  • Low tire wear (Roger called it the “elephant in the room”, this would speak for growth of carbon black )

“The carbon black exporter’s perspective”

There were excellent presentations from countries that are carbon black exporters, for example China, Russia and India.

Li Binghong, professor at the China Carbon Black Institute, said that Chinese carbon black production is increasing, but the growth is slowing. China is also catching up in carbon black technology, product capabilities and energy recovery as seen through many new Chinese patents.

Tomasz Celka from Omsk Carbon Europe presented about Russian carbon black imports to Europe (550 ktpa in 2018) and the new Omsk plant in Mogilev, Belarus, which will start up in Q4’18. Supply chain and handling aspects are key to make this success working. After all, the carbon black is imported from more than 7000 km into the German distribution centre in Waltrop.

Igor Levenberg from Makrochem gave excellent insights about Russian carbon black production, feedstocks, exports and the requirements for transportation and carbon black handling. Makrochem is one of the biggest trading houses and has a 20 year track record with sales of Yaroslavl carbon black. The company also imported 30+ ktpa carbon black from China for Continental Tire in Europe.

“The wolf and the girl – about reducing oxygen in the furnace”

François Terrade, from Pro2act Management and former technical colleague at Cabot, gave a concise and wholistic overview on “Carbon black greening”, including all possible aspects like:

  • Contributions to fuel economy in tires
  • Reduction of emissions from furnace process (CO2 reduction through oxygen reduction)
  • Carbon black from new types of feedstocks (natural gas etc.)
  • Bio-based carbon black (from lignite etc.)
  • recovered carbon black from tire pyrolysis

François’ recommendation for strict oxygen reduction in the carbon black furnace will be remembered as he not only put up an image sketch but also acted the scene!

“REACH & IARC – Is carbon black a toxic nano-material?”

This question was one of my personal highlights of the conference, as I have worked and consulted on the same topic for white pigment, titanium dioxide (“TiO2”) with a top 5 food company in Europe.

Dr. Yufanyi Ngiewih from Orion Engineered Carbons gave an excellent “Review of carbon black under REACH – objectives”, highlighting possible outcomes and implications. He drew the line to the TiO2 industry who is working on the same topic. I found it great to see a collaboration of these complementary industries. I probably highjacked the question session, but to me it was important to add the following points:

  • Most (all) studies indicating carcinogenic properties in pigments have been carried out through powder exposure of rodents by inhalation. This is not a typical exposure for humans (unless working in the pigment production) and no human studies have proven similar results.
  • In their applications, both titanium dioxide and carbon black are bound into polymer matrices and hence are no risk to inhalation.
  • While some titanium dioxide pigments do have up to 30% nano content (ISO or EU definition), carbon black macro-particle aggregates are typically micron size material and do not break up into the nano-size micro-particles.

“Recovered carbon black (rCB): Threat or opportunity?”

On Day 1, session 3, I shared a presentation with Pieter ter Haar and we showed the state and the capabilities of the tire pyrolysis industry with an honest and realistic view. I have estimated the rCB threat to virgin carbon black in Europe to be about 87 ktpa and the opportunities together with the carbon black industry to be more than 120 ktpa (see attached slide from my presentation).

“Recovered carbon black (rCB): From promise to products”

On Monday, 24th of September, I ran a very interactive 3 hour workshop “Recovered carbon black – from promise to products” with a panel of all-star industry experts: François Terrade(PRO2ACT MANAGEMENT), Pieter ter Haar (Pyrolyx AG), Serge Da Silva(AlphaCarbone), Chris Norris (Artis) and Scott Farnham (Kaltire). Many workshop participants got the microphone to ask questions or introduce them selves. There were 16 tire pyrolysis companies attending from Germany, Canada, USA, Vietnam, Sweden, France, Poland, India, Scotland and Australia. The workshop was also attend by major carbon black producers, investors and machine suppliers. It felt great to have such a great group talking about rCB!
If you want to know more about recovered Carbon Black, you can get the industry reference report Prospects for recovered Carbon Black 2023.

“Thank you!”

Thank you for reading!! I would like to give a special thanks to the team at Smithers (Amanda CrabbeNaomi BrookerSharleen Lyseight and Steve Hill) for the great organisation of the Düsseldorf Carbon Black World! Also, Harry, the A/V expert, was a great support. Many thanks! Thanks goes also to my workshop panel and to Pieter ter Haar for enduring me as a co-presenter!

Together with Smithers, we are currently assessing whether a full conference on recovered carbon black would be of interest in 2019.

Now it is over to you! Please share your thoughts about the conference, about sessions I have not attended and about whether you would attend a stand-alone conference on recovered carbon black!