Hi! I have tried to compile the information in a excel sheet. Hope it helps. I have updated the data till Q3FY23.
GFL.xlsx (14.6 KB)
Hi! I have tried to compile the information in a excel sheet. Hope it helps. I have updated the data till Q3FY23.
GFL.xlsx (14.6 KB)
Solvay has posted good results for Q4 2022. However, has cut EBITDA by -3% to -9%
year-on-year for 2023, as it expects slow down in demand. Q4 2022 witnessed slowdown in automotive (incl batteries).
On asked about the outlook on PVDF during call, management has to say this -
There seems to be two types of PVDF grades - emulsion grade and suspension grade. Both are used in electric batteries. So as per the management the risk of commoditization may be in emulsion first, where there is competition from China. Here it looks like so far the price is driven by R142b, which is in short supply and this in my view will continue.
Whereas in suspension Solvay seems to be way ahead of the league and is the only manufacturer which manufacturers PVDF using both suspension and emulsion polymerization processes .
Solvay manufacturers PVDF under the brand Solef -
Though both grades are in demand, it looks like suspension grade is superior.
GFL on the other hand seems to manufacture both emulsion and suspension grade PTFE (easily available in AR and product catalogue), but does not look like the same when it comes to PVDF. Both PTFE and PVDF in my view belong to the same family but are very different, involving complex chemistry especially where different grades are involved.
GFL does not seem to have developed the technology to manufacture PVDF using suspension polymerization. GFL manufactures PVDF under brand Inoflar and no where there is a reference to the process adopted.
In my view, battery grade does not look like the differentiating factor as Solvay claims they are agnostic to battery technology. There are more finer nuances to this technology and its very complex to understand. Then again this is only one part, there are different grades among FKM, FPA etc. as ananth has put above. If someone has more info on this and my understanding above is wrong, happy to stand corrected.
Here’s a summary of discussions with a Industry source. (using the 10 Questions Template)
[Travelling, so please bear with me as I keep updating]
What can you tell us about GFCL Management?
From what I have seen Vivek Jain (Forbes Profile) is smart, educated (St Stephens, IIM A grad), widely travelled, and a genuine person. His vision from the starting was aiming for global success. Has built a team of dedicated professionals around him since inception of GFCL. He has travelled abroad and studied the market/industry extensively before starting GFCL PTFE factory in 2006/7 in Dahej. EOY 2022 ‘Business Transformation’ category winner. Contemporary business leaders call him “The Slog Overs Man” !
Anecdotally we know a set of 3-4 Key people were identified by Vivek in the early years, empowered and given a free hand -after taking a commitment – We are in for the long haul, this is a very long journey, you can’t leave midway! You will have the freedom to do things the way you want, build the organization, build the “Culture” and enable creative expression. Core Team has been with GFCL for 15+ years now I think.
Are you able to elaborate on GFCL Culture?
You might have seen the EOY Finalist Video - Vivek Jain’s advise to aspiring Entrepreneurs - No short cut to Success. Hard work, Perseverance, and Focus are pre-requisites.
GFCL Culture is about inculcating – hard work, commitment - come what may, persevere through adversity, remain totally focused on the job at hand – with “fearlessness”. Extensive training given for 6 months to new joinees – technical, commercial, behavioural by in-house leaders and outsourced agencies. Have heard that Sales guys for example are told "go out in the field, learn from customers, you can plan your own travels, don’t need to ask anyone; responsibility is yours – just meet the targets.
New recruits who have excelled in this environment by showing initiative – some have within 5 years been promoted to leadership positions.
What can you tell us about the Genesis of GFCL PTFE Ambitions?
Hindustan Organics started a fluorocarbon factory in 1987 for 500T. That time the Indian PTFE Market was ~1500T market. 1000T was imported, and rest supplied by HOC. They are probably still at that capacity. Never expanded, sold everything domestically. Never exported.
GFCL had been doing R22 from ‘1999-2000. That was a core competency. Everyone knew phase-out was going to happen in 20-25 years. They would have to compete with new molecules. Realised PTFE was a good upstream possibility.
When GFCL started PTFE in 2007-08, Indian demand was 1000T. Recognising that the chemical/polymer business requires scale economics – they straightaway put up a 5500T plant for the Global Market. The Chemical complex in Dahej had a captive power plant, caustic soda and chlorine plant, chloromethane plant, and a PTFE Plant. The carbon credits money had come in handy for them!
There are different PTFE Grades fro different applications. China Market Grades, and Developed Market grades. Will be great if you can throw some light on base grades and value-added grades, qualification/ approval process, and price realisations
Can’t comment on detailed segmentation.
They started in 2007/8, must have been selling base grades for first 2-3 years, and stabilising operations. Post 3-4 years, they started selling higher grade applications for Automobiles and others
From what we know, Qualification takes up to 6months to 1 year usually for basic grades; at the same time with a foot in the door, everyone starts pursuing Plus grades – that can take up to a year or two; and then Super+ grades it takes about 1.5 to 2.5 years plus of hard grind - rejections to repeat trials to passing performance benchmarks of customers. There are Simulators for performance testing that shorten timeframes (~say 3L Kms for automobile grades, needs 1000 hours simulation; similarly foir Aerospace)
Rough price realisations:
China Market: Base Grades $5-6/Kg; Plus grades $6-8/Kg
US/EU/Japan: Base Grades $8-10/Kg; Plus Grades $12-15/Kg; Super Plus Grades $15-18/Kg
(Incumbent realisations like those of - Dupont, 3M, Daikin, AGC, Solvay)
GFCL has 18000T PTFE capacity today, and expanding to 21000T by debottlenecking. Do they have to do this all over again?
Getting to full utilisation might take time based on how supply demand/pans out. Now that they have many grades qualified, next expansion is always easier.
Is there a lot of gap between value-added grades qualified by GFCL, and that of Incumbents?
It appears that there is some gap, passing higher-grades performance benchmarks is not easy. It takes repeated trials, enhanced R&D capabilities, dogged perseverance. There are probably 10-15 super plus grades, some $200/kg, $500/kg but are today niche applications.
Would you give more credit to GFCL In-house R&D? Or External Consultants might have played a big role?
Both are required. The perseverance/skills displayed by R&D Teams guided by External consultant’s experience/expertise and/or direction setting.
Would you know the profile of such consultants?
Ex-Incumbents would be a good guess
LiPF6 CS Report - global capacity growing @61% CAGR, but demand growth @34% CAGR
In 2022 utilisation rate 72%, utilisation to fall to 42% by 2025 ! Has GFCL got the Timing/Expansion off?
Yes, supply-demand in medium term may look iffy - if based only, on China expansions.
It seems CS Report talked about till 2025, right – 2-3 years from now. Did they talk about what is happening by 2030? Did they talk about who are the Battery Cell technology guys, what is happening there? They didn’t?
See a 2-3 years view is probably self-defeating.
Meanwhile in the near to medium term, better realisations are probably possible in US/EU/Japan markets, but not in China Market.
Chinese Fluorochemicals play
Why won’t the huge Capacities cause a problem down the line for GFCL. 2024 may be good, but post that, things can become worse?? Why have the Chinese NOT got into the more promising Fluoropolymers? PFA, FKM, et al. Is Technology a real barrier? Sourcing? What is preventing them?
You have to understand the Chinese way of working
PTFE – they were into – from 25 years back. China – will only go after – Mass consumption markets
Volumes Market/Base grades/Base Plus grades.
Would they have allowed someone like GFL or other Challenger to become 4th largest player globally?
They are NOT interested in Niche Markets and/or Specialised Applications. These are hard to Qualify, Long Term Markets. They dont want to get into any contractual-obligations type market. Almost all of Chinese produce is SPOT Sales, Distributors driven, Easy-Meat market.
Yes, should some of these products become mass market one day (say PFA), they for sure will get into it. Even if they don’t have the technology today, there are probably ways and means for that .
PTFE Scale up
3M exit opportunity. Is it a fair argument that GFCL is in the best position to get a bigger share of the pie from EU Market than Others
Probably, right. Remains to be seen if it can free up further capacity by de-bottlenecking (new capacities haven’t been announced) and also move up the value chain, with newer grades.
It may be good to point out there are 3 FKM polymers - Co-polymer, Tar Polymer, Tar Polymer Peroxide. Domestic use of Tar Polymer FKM use is expected to go up significantly with enhanced Ethanol blending (20% from existing 10%) becoming widespread.
Is it correct to say that PVDF Separator is a commoditised business, while PVDF Binder is a protected (2-3 player) market?
Well definitely commercially available PVDF Binders there are very few players.
But it will be wrong to infer that PVDF Separator is a commoditised business. That anybody can make it. Not at all.
What has happened though is that Margins have normalised back. It is still a healthy 30%, though.
One way to appreciate better what has really happened. Say PVDF was being initially sold at 100. Raw Material (R142B+) was 40, and other costs 30, leaving a margin of 30%
Now RM price went through the roof due shortages. Progressively from 40 to 400 (10x). PVDF prices went upto 550, beyond that pass-through was not possible. This was NOT sustainable, anyways! Subsequently RM comes back to 80, and PVDF corrects to 200. Gross margins are still 60%. Other expenses take away 30%; Margins back to 30%
It’s NOT as if the whole PVDF (battery grades) opportunity has gone away. Just that Peak Margins have moderated.
PTFE Binder vs PVDF Binder
Is it correct to say PTFE Binder is becoming more preferred route, as it has advantages?
As far as we know there are 2 technologies. Wet Electrolyte Tech - PVDF binder. Dry Coating Tech - PTFE Binder. Demand for both exists.
Battery Chemicals Subsidiary
On one hand this holds out exemplary opportunities to harness. On the other, there are many who claim to be setting up say Battery Electrolyte factory as the “formulation” is easy?. Neogen (Lithium Carbonate manufacturer) is one such Indian player. Is GFCL biting off more than it can chew? Can there be margins sustainability as more and more players enter the field?
At the moment the Industry needs capacities build up, and there is room for more players. India itself has plans for 280GW by 2030 as mentioned before, whereas installed is less than 1 GW. There are 3-4 players who have applied and got PLI Approvals for batteries in India. And there is ample scope for global supply (3000-4000 GW by 2030) on scale efficiencies.
But the question is valid - can everyone go on a spree of adding Electrolyte capacities (easy to do as you say from efficient sourcing) since LiPF6+ Lithium Carbonate are say in abundant supply?
My sense is at some point this will come down to shortage of flourspar mining. The Battery Cell technology guys must be taking that into account while scouting/securing end-to-end supply chains (which is the new imperative).
You guys could do more work on Battery Cell technology guys - to get a clearer picture. Who are they? And what are they doing?
PFAS/Non-PFAS polymerisation technology
Lot of noise made out on the above. On the one hand Incumbents like Arkema are on record saying new Fluoropolymers are central to modern industry, ecological and energy transition. Complete phase out is impossible/impractical and NOT necessary as fluoropolymers produced without fluorosurfactants should be exempted from proposed restriction. On the other hand PFAS Master List by US EPA now lists 12034 fluorochemicals currently . Even PTFE, PFA, and FEP seem to be on the list, but not FKM or PVDF. What is the Reality - Business as usual, Or?
The proposed ban to phase out between 18 months to 12 years starting 2027, is a joint EU proposal by 5 collaborating countries - Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and non-EU state Norway.
As far as the fluorochemcial industry is concerned, we find it short on relevance/ feasibility aspects. Whether you take the EU ban List (10000 chemicals) or the US EPA lists (430 chemicals) - the relevant chemicals are probably only 35 or 43.
Its like preparing a list with historical known pollutants (many of which are not even in existing use today). Its almost like saying we are banning memory sticks, but we must also ban CD ROMs, floppy disks, and wait Kodak Films too.
The consultative process that is on should restore balance, as feasibility/alternatives are investigated more thoroughly, more practically.
We know multi-Step Reaction Yields generally improve over time in Chemicals (e.g.Divi’s in Pharma, PI Industries in AgChem). Does the same apply for Flurochemicals process industry?
Any chemical process that would apply. Yield improvements are a constant quest and give us better yield from the same capacities over the years as we gain experience with the process. We use new additives, new surfactants, better catalysts and recipes, or reaction initiators, better control systems, washing cycles, drop by drop release, and the like.
[forgot to ask range of typical yield improvements possible over years - 25%, 50%??]
Disclosure: Invested (read probably biased)
PS1: fully transcribed now from my Notes
PS2: Let’s use this what we learnt here, with the next domain/industry expert we get access to
PS3: Over to you @sahil_vi and other young turks
Some more perspective/data-points to think about the Battery Electrolyte Market in India till 2030
[“Electrolyte”/“Battery Electrolyte” search powered by Needl.ai]
Source: Neogen Chemicals Con call Transcript Feb 2023
Tattva Chintan Con call Jan 2023
Ami Organics Con Call Feb 2023
Gujarat Fluorochemicals acquired 26% stake in GFL GM fluorspar (morocco based mining & selling company of fluorspar), a subsidiary company of GFL singapore.
GFL singapore is wholly subsidiary company of Gujarat Fluorochemicals.
Basically morocco based company is a step down subsidiary company of a Gujarat Fluorochemicals.
Earlier it was 74% stake, and now acquired fully.
Cost of acquisition is INR ~3.72 crores (USD 4,52,954).
Orbia Q4CY22 concall snippets (on PVDF and LiPF6)
Two of the most significant announcements that we made in this call are on our projects, the PVDF joint venture with Solvay that we are kicking off. And the LiPF6, which is 100% or be own venture that is also being kicked off. These are transformational and very significant, right? And so we are putting up 20,000 tons of PVDF and 10,000 tonnes of LiPF6. But the market potential for these over the course of the next 10 years, you’re looking at a 5 to 10x expansion in these markets in the course of the decade. And in terms of investment, the PVDF investment is an $850 million investment with – of course, we have a 49% stake, so it will be proportional. And the LiPF6 investment is roughly $300 million investment with a $100 million grant from the Department of Energy. Now if you remember, Frank, at the Investor Day, we had shared that most of our growth will come from organic growth projects. 80% or more of a growth is coming from organic growth projects in this 5-year period with investment to EBITDA ratios of 2 to 4x. And what I can say to all of our investors and the analyst community that the economics on these 2 projects are on the more favorable and more attractive side of that range. Which is a huge deal, right? And of course, it’s going to take 3 years to deploy that capital and kick that off and then plan for subsequent expansions. But especially given the near shoring of supply chains and the United States desire to have security of supply for both battery and semiconductor value chains and the fact that we are fully integrated from my end to market from Mexico to the United States. This is a big, big deal, okay? So I just wanted to make sure we get that out there.
And then later on in this year, we’ll start deploying the early phase of the capital for the LiPF6 and the PVDF projects.
Update on Lithium Prices
An interesting article on PFAS
Interesting view points:
European Chemicals Agency published a proposal from five member countries to ban per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) containing at least one fully fluorinated carbon atom—an estimated 10,000 molecules in all, including popular fluoropolymers. Member states would vote on a ban in 2025; if it’s enacted, exceptions for fluorinated chemicals that cannot be replaced with alternative chemistries would expire in 7–12 years.
You’re talking about replacing a chemistry that’s been around for 60, 70, 80 years.
The European proposal, if it stands unchanged, would spell the eventual end for common fluoropolymers like PTFE and PVDF.
Ever since fluoropolymers were introduced, in the middle of the 20th century, making many of them has required using fluorosurfactants. These processing aids are critical to the emulsion polymerization process, in which a polymer is built in water from fluorinated monomers. The surfactant stabilizes the growing emulsion particle during polymerization, so you don’t get agglomeration or coagulation. When the polymerization is done, the surfactant is washed out of the polymer mixture, but some residual surfactant remains. Fluorosurfactants have minimal impact on the polymer’s final properties, he says.
The task is trickier than merely swapping one fluorinated surfactant for another, Gaboury says. “It’s relatively easy to make the emulsion polymer with a nonfluorinated surfactant,” he says. “It’s difficult to make products with a nonfluorinated surfactant that have the same performance profile at the very end. When chemists change to a nonfluorinated surfactant, they usually change other ingredients as well, such as the initiator and the transfer agent. “You have a little bit different profile of reactor materials, and ultimately there’s a little bit different residual profile in the product.” That can cause performance problems.
new surfactants are typically hydrocarbon-based. But the hydrogen-carbon bond isn’t as strong as the fluorine-carbon bond. “The presence of that hydrogen results in side reactions that you don’t want when you’re making a fluoropolymer.
PTFE is made with a highly reactive monomer, tetrafluoroethylene, that creates many unintended fluorinated by-products. Chemours hasn’t found fluorosurfactant alternatives for PTFE or for similar polymers such as fluorinated ethylene propylene and PFA copolymers that don’t result in such by-products.
DONGYUE GROUP LIMITED
Financial reports for year ended 31.12.2022.
Page 28 - 29 speaks about the performance of fluoropolymers and Refrigerant gases