Encapsulant film is a key material that determines the quality and lifespan of modules. Major application of such film is module encapsulation, during which solar cells are encapsulated and assembled into the space between glass and backsheet. Encapsulant film works to protect solar cells and enhance efficiency of modules.
It is a wide belief among industries that the supply of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) resin will remain tight or even runs short this year, due to its nature of longer capacity expansion time and higher manufacturing difficulty. In light of this, InfoLink analyzes supply and demand of encapsulant films and particles.
Encapsulant film demand
Estimated based on 173 GW of annual PV demand in 2021 and the share of encapsulant film calculated by CPIA, there were 780,000 MT of EVA resin demand in 2021. Comparing with 730,000 MT of EVA resin supply estimated by InfoLink, last year should see 50,000 MT of EVA shortage. Unspecified POE manufacturer told InfoLink that actual POE (polyolefin elastomers) particle shipment exceeded 200,000 MT, 60,000 MT more than the chart indicates. The extra POE particle can make up for EVA particle shortage.
With the adoption of large formats, current mainstream of the diameter of ribbons sits at 0.32/0.3mm, with EVA film weighing 480g and 460g on the front and back side of a module. The weight of EVA film reduces as diameter of ribbons shrinks. Once SMBB comes into vogue, the weight of EVA film may reduce to below 400g/m2. Still, calculation here is conducted based on 480g/m2 of weight, given uncertainties in future developments.
Based on InfoLink’s latest forecast for global PV demand, there will be 930,000 MT of EVA resin demand and 160,000 MT of POE-based encapsulant demand in 2022. Demand for EVA resin will stay at around 890,000 MT, if POE particle supply sustains at 200,000 MT.
2021 saw a peak of capacity expansion in the encapsulant film sector. Including POE encapsulant, total encapsulant capacity could reach beyond 5 billion m2 by the end of 2022, sustaining more than 500 GW of demand. However, actual progress of new capacities coming online is much subject to late commissioning timelines and limited EVA resin supply.
Theoretically, there should be an evident glut of encapsulant production capacity. However, the volume of effective capacity is limited, as subject to short-term raw material supply bottlenecks and limited real demand from the market.
From expansion plans’ point of view, First Applied Material, HIUV New Materials, and Sveck retain the top 3 largest manufacturers. Cybrid Technologies, Lushan, and Betterial Film Technologies are also intent on larger expansions. For EVA film manufacturers, the key to competitiveness lies in assuring their ability to secure materials amid tight raw material supply.
Solar-grade EVA resin supply
Before 2021, there were only three EVA resin providers in China, namely Sierbang Petrochemical, Levima Advanced Materials, and Formosa Polypropylene (Ningbo). The three aggregately produced 250,000 MT of EVA resin in 2021. Meanwhile, Yanshan Petrochemical and Yulin Energy and Chemical also produced small amount of solar-grade EVA resin.
In 2022, Sierbang Petrochemical is currently keeping a monthly shipping volume of 15,000 MT, but in the meantime, said that it can release an additional 40,000 MT from solar-grade resin production lines using tank process. 240,000 MT of resin supply for PV will be available, if the market has the demand. Formosa Polypropylene (Ningbo) sustains share of solar-grade resin supply, whilst that of Levima Advanced Materials continually increases, with 18,000 MT capacity from modified lines expecting to come online this year. New PV EVA resin manufacturers include BASF-YPC, Yulin Energy and Chemical, and Sinochem Quanzhou Petrochemical. Zhejiang Petroleum & Chemical (ZPC)’s 300,000 MT-production capacity is the biggest uncertainty. Several EVA resin facilities of ZPC have been certified and successively providing particles in small batches. ZPC claimed to have 800 MT to 1000 MT of production capacity a day for the time being. Given 70% of capacity dedicated to PV, and that shipments will only start in the second quarter, ZPC is expected to supply more than 160,000 MT by 2022.
Provided that supply overseas remains unchanged, there should be 1,120,000 MT of PV encapsulant production capacity in 2022, sufficient to satisfy 890,000-930,000 MT of demand.
Another variable in overseas markets is the 300,000 MT tubular process production capacity co-invested by Modern Chemical Industry and LOTTE Chemical. LOTTE has already been providing PV EVA resin continually. Therefore, once commissioned, the joint investment can produce PV EVA resin very quickly, significantly bolsters supply. However, whether the capacity can successfully come online by the first half of 2022 remains obscured.
The industry’s anxiety over EVA resin supply in the second half of 2021 was mainly caused by uncertain solar-grade EVA resin supply capacity of Yulin Energy and Chemical and ZPC. While ZPC has yet to announce its official trademark of solar-grade material, its EVA resin has been certified by several encapsulant manufacturers and it has received orders of thousands of tons. Based on the current EVA resin supply of the two manufacturers and on the premise that overseas supply sustains, cumulative solar-grade EVA resin capacity may reach 1,120,000 MT by the end of 2022, sufficient to fulfil EVA resin demand of 890,000 MT to 930,000 MT.
However, variable still exists for the supply of solar-grade EVA resin – whether the quality and quantity of China solar-grade particles can satisfy requirement and demand. In addition, chemical suppliers have more motives to produce solar-grade materials despite high prices, and thus it’s possible that industries other than PV will also compete to secure particle capacity with higher prices.