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SOEs boost production of of essential raw material for medical masks

(People's Daily Online)    14:05, March 11, 2020

Major Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have rapidly set up meltblown nonwoven fabric production lines, significantly increasing the country’s output of key raw materials for medical masks, reported Tuesday.

Workers produce medical N95 masks at a mask production company in southwest China's Chongqing, March 2, 2020. (Xinhua/Li Ziheng)

“I feel like so many masks are running toward us,” said one netizen, while watching work on the production lines of China’s centrally-administered SOEs via live streaming videos along with millions of other Internet users on March 6.

By March 6, daily output of the fabric from the country’s centrally-administered SOEs reached around 26 tonnes, according to a special working group on medical supplies established by China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC).

With new production lines completed and put into operation, China will see its shortages of meltblown nonwoven fabric significantly eased, as output of the material is expected to increase greatly in the coming week.

Meltblown nonwoven fabric is the filtering layer used in the middle part of medical face masks. It is an essential raw material that is regarded as the “heart” of the mask because of its good filtering, insulation, and absorption abilities.

In an effort to help solve the country’s shortage of the fabric amid the novel coronavirus epidemic, many enterprises that were unrelated to the direct raw materials of face masks, including Sinopec, one of the three biggest oil and gas companies in China, have joined in efforts to produce the material.

On Feb. 24, Sinopec began setting up 10 meltblown nonwoven fabric production lines in cooperation with China Hi-tech Group Corporation, a Chinese textile giant, with the aim of arranging for Sinopec Beijing Yanshan Petrochemical Company, a subsidiary of Sinopec, to build a meltblown nonwoven fabric production factory with annual production capacity of 14,400 tons within half a month.

While it usually takes around half a year to build a factory with an annual production capacity of more than 10,000 tons, Sinopec Beijing Yanshan Petrochemical Company completed construction of the factory in 12 days and started to produce approved products on March. 6, thanks to the unremitting efforts of more than 600 workers from various parties.

According to its designed daily production capacity, the factory is able to produce 4 tons of meltblown nonwoven fabric for N95 respirators or 6 tonnes of the fabric for surgical masks per day, meeting the production needs of 1.2 million N95 respirators or 6 million surgical masks.

The efforts of various parties have resulted in China’s production capacity for face masks constantly increasing. By Feb. 29, the country had a daily output of 116 million various types of face masks, which was 12 times the amount on Feb.1.

More meltblown nonwoven fabric production lines are being established around the country. While the two production lines in Sinopec Beijing Yanshan Petrochemical Company are busy producing key materials for medical face masks, eight production lines of Sinopec Yizheng Chemical Fiber Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of Sinopec in east China’s Jiangsu province, are currently under construction.

These eight production lines are scheduled to be put into operation by mid-April. With an investment of about 200 million yuan (around $28.8 million), these 10 production lines of the two subsidiaries of Sinopec will be able to produce 18 tons of meltblown nonwoven fabric for medical face masks every day. The fabric can then be used to produce 18 million surgical masks.

SASAC is paying close attention to the supply chain and industrial chain of epidemic prevention and control materials, according to an executive of SASAC, adding that the commission is guiding efforts by centrally-administered SOEs to take the initiative to strengthen the weak links in these chains.

Intensified efforts will be made to guide and promote the efforts of relevant centrally-administered SOEs to speed up construction of meltblown nonwoven fabric production lines and put them into operation as soon as possible, said SASAC’s special working group on medical supplies.

Guidance will also be provided for these companies in their efforts to maintain sound deployment of resources for production and ensure stable output, so as to expand market supply and stabilize market prices of meltblown nonwoven fabric and better support the country’s epidemic prevention and control efforts, according to the special working group. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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