LANXESS to expand global production network for high-tech plastics

LANXESS is expanding its global production network for high-tech plastics. The specialty chemical company broke ground today on a new compounding facility in the United States. Additionally, LANXESS and U.S. chemical company DuPont will double the capacity of their joint compounding facility in Hamm-Uentrop, Germany.

The capacity expansions reflect the growing demand for high-tech plastics being driven above all by rising car production and the trend towards lighter automobiles. The global demand for high-tech plastics is expected to increase by roughly seven percent per year through 2020.

Groundbreaking for first production facility in North Carolina, USA
The new production facility in Gastonia, North Carolina, will have an initial capacity of 20,000 metric tons per year. It will be the first compounding facility for the LANXESS high-tech plastics Durethan and Pocan in the United States. Basic polymers, such as polyamide and polybutylene terephthalate, are mixed and refined with additives in the compounding facility to produce Durethan and Pocan as per customer needs.

The facility represents an initial investment of Euro 10 million and is expected to create up to 55 new jobs locally. Construction is expected to commence in the second quarter of 2011 and production is scheduled to begin in 2012.

"The U.S. is the largest market for high-tech plastics, with the automotive industry at the forefront. It is here that increased CAFE fuel efficiency standards are driving demand for these advanced materials,” said Werner Breuers, Member of the Board of Management of LANXESS.

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations aim to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks sold in the United States.

The automotive industry is the largest customer for the Semi-Crystalline Products (SCP) business unit, which produces Durethan and Pocan. These highly innovative products allow for the design of lighter-weight plastic parts to replace metal parts in automobiles, contributing to fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. In addition, Durethan and Pocan enable carmakers and car parts suppliers to achieve considerable savings through cheaper production and easier assembly.

Doubling of compounding capacity in Hamm-Uentrop, Germany
LANXESS and U.S. chemical company DuPont plan to double the capacity of their joint compounding facility for polybutylene terephthalate (PBT). The partner companies will invest an extra Euro 10 million in the facility in Hamm-Uentrop, Germany. The expansion is expected to create nine new jobs in addition to the 70 positions already in existence. Production is scheduled to begin in 2012. The plant is one of the largest of its kind in the world and was opened in 2004.

"This capital investment is the two partners' response to the mounting worldwide demand for PBT compounds. This growth is being driven by the global automotive and electrical/electronic industries, where sales of these high-performance thermoplastics are growing not only organically but also as a result of the many new and innovative applications,” said Michael Zobel, head of business unit semi-crystalline products at LANXESS.

The strengths of PBT are its high rigidity, impact strength and heat resistance. It is an electrical insulator, resistant to abrasion and wear, and has outstanding dynamic load strength. Typical applications include plug connectors, lamp sockets and engine housings. A new field of application with particularly good growth prospects is that of large-sized add-on parts for truck cabs, such as fenders, wind deflectors and radiator grilles. Special PBT grades with a high content of glass fibers for even greater rigidity are playing an increasingly important role in the substitution of metals and thermosetting plastics.

Global high-tech plastics production network
LANXESS has made a series of investments in its global high-tech plastics network in the last 12 months. In January, 2011, LANXESS broke ground on a new facility in Jhagadia, India. With an initial capacity of 20,000 metric tons per year, the new compounding facility will start producing the high-tech plastics Durethan and Pocan at the beginning of 2012. The investment of more than Euro 10 million will create 60 new jobs. The company is also investing Euro 10 million to increase the annual capacity of its facility in Wuxi, China, to approximately 60,000 metric tons per year by mid-2011.

With its investments in the U.S. and Asia, together with its site in Krefeld-Uerdingen, Germany, the company has further strengthened its global market position for Durethan and Pocan. The company also recently invested Euro 35 million to expand production of the plastic precursor caprolactam at its site in Antwerp, Belgium. Production will increase by 10 percent from its current volume of 200,000 metric tons per year.

The LANXESS Year of High-Tech Plastics
LANXESS has declared 2011 the Year of High-Tech Plastics. As part of the theme year, LANXESS will be initiating a series of events and taking part in trade fairs and exhibitions that will provide information to all interest groups, ranging from customers and political representatives to the media and employees. The company will be highlighting where high-tech plastics are used, the benefits they offer and, in particular, how they can also help ensure sustainable development.

The Semi-Crystalline Products business unit belongs to the Performance Polymers segment. It employs around 1,500 people worldwide with current production sites in Belgium (Antwerp), Germany (Krefeld-Uerdingen and Hamm-Uentrop (JV)), and China (Wuxi).