Hydrogenated Nitrile-Butadiene Rubber (HNBR) is a class of special rubber with best combination performance, it is also a class of strategic new materials, with the properties of oil, corrosion, low temperature, high temperature, oxidation, dynamic fatigue and ozone resistance. It has been mainly applied to car manufacture, oil field, aerospace and military industries, etc.
Since 1980s, HNBR has been manufactured by two main producer Zeon from Japan with brand of Zetpol and Lanxess from Germany with brand of Therban. The global capacity of them is over 20000 tons per year. With the rapid development of automotive, oil field, charcoal recovery, new energy discovery and aerospace field as well as the requirement of high quality products, the domestic demand for HNBR will reach 2000-3000 tons annually in the following years. Therefore, HNBR represents a potential market in China in the future. Nowadays, although several domestic institutions have started developing the synthetic technology of HNBR, obtaining a large amount of products still depends on importing.
In the preparation development of HNBR, the catalyst selection for NBR hydrogenation is always a troubling issue. Therefore, the superior quality of catalyst represents the advantage of HNBR manufacture technology. Compared to Zeon that uses the Palladium/Carbon solid phase catalyst and Lanxess that uses Rhodium based catalyst, we are using Ruthenium based catalyst. Due to the scarcity of rich metals, the price of Rhodium and Palladium is 10-fold and 5-fold higher than that of Ruthenium. In terms of the hardness of catalyst selection for higher activity, milder reaction, less usage quantity, it is still very hard to make a breakthrough for HNBR preparation technology in the past 20 years.
At the end of 2010, since the advence of our new facilities for HNBR domestic manufacturing, new HNBR product named as “Zhanber” came out, the stable production of which was realized at the end of 2011, therefore creating a new record of HNBR manufacturing in China with independent technology. The industrialization of HNBR broke the situation of entire importing, making us the third country following Japan and Germany to manufacture HNBR with proprietary intellectual property right. The achievement we made is not only a honor of Zannan, but also a milestone of great progress in rubber industry of China. Moreover, innovation of HNBR manufacturing inspires the rapid development of application technology in China compared to the former situation of property right limitation. Currently, the global demand of HNBR is about 20 000-30 000 tons per year while demand of HNBR in China is around 1500-2000 tons annually, the number of which will increase in the following decades.
In terms of costly of catalyst, high requirement for manufacture technology and facilities, only two enterprises throughout the world Zeon (Japan) and Lanxess (Germany) can achieve the industrialization of HNBR manufacturing. The production capacity of them is around 20000 tons per year. Previously, Europe and USA are the biggest demanding market for HNBR. However, in recent years, along with the great improvement in areas of new energy, automobile, aerospace and oil drilling, the demandings for HNBR in Asian is becoming larger and larger. Countries such as Korea, Russia and China, etc., are more and more interested with HNBR to meet the demands of their domestic industrial development. Zeon and Lanxess have also attached attentions to this change. As a comparison, Zhansheng, one of our subordinate company, comes up and caters for the Asian HNBR market with the geographic and cultural advantage. Currently, institutions in our country have started the comprehensive studies on the replacement of HNBR for fluorine, nitrile, neoprene rubbers in the applications in automotive industry, oil field and mechanical industry, etc. In order to fulfill the requirement of higher strength, bigger modulus and better thermostability, HNBR has gradually replaced the traditional materials CR to manufacture V-type timing belts or cog belts to meet the higher standard for auto-parts and -components in China. Moreover, the nitrile rubber are being replaced by HNBR for the production of oil sealing and fuel line, etc. The power steering hoses made of NBR/CR previously has already started to use HNBR/CSM as raw materials. In addition, the research that mixes HNBR with plastics (PVC, PE), rubbers (EPDM, Norbonene rubber) as well as some macromolecular polymers to enhance performance has been in progress in some institutions of our country, therefore increasing the progress rate of HNBR. Above all, because of the irreplaceable high performance advantage as well as the rapid development of industrialization in our country, the demands and application areas of HNBR are continuously expanding.