Rubber and chemicals manufacturer Lan-xess A.G. plans to expand its butyl rubber plant in Zwijndrecht, Belgium, boosting capacity by about 10 percent.
The $24.6 million project—which primarily will occur during a scheduled turnaround in the third quarter of 2011 and be completed in the second quarter of 2012—will meet growing global demand for regular butyl and halobutyl synthetic rubber.
The expansion, which will include the addition of a sixth reactor, will increase capacity at the Belgian site by 14,000 metric tons per year; the current annual plant capacity is about 135,000 tons. The plant, which started operations in 1963 with an annual capacity of 30,000 tons, employs about 400.
Overall demand for butyl rubber has returned to “precrisis levels” already in 2010, said Axel C. Heitmann, chairman of Lanxess' board of management. Demand stabilized in the second half of last year and the butyl market is expected to grow again annually by an average of more than 3 percent in the next few years.
The Leverkusen-based firm expects demand in the coming decade to rise to the level that the new capacity in Belgium and the company's yet-to-be-built butyl rubber plant in Singapore will be fully absorbed by the market, Heitmann said. More than half of the Belgian plant's export goes to Asia, the firm said.
Lanxess broke ground in May for the facility in Singapore, which will have a total capacity of 100,000 tons per year. That facility—which will be constructed at a company-record cost of about $575 million—is expected to start production in the first quarter of 2013.
The company has another butyl rub- ber plant in Sarnia, Ontario, with a capacity of 150,000 metric tons per year. Both the Sarnia and Zwijndrecht sites are running at full capacity.
The largest application for butyl rubber—given its high air impermeability based on the raw materials isobutene and isoprene—is in the manufacture of tire inner liners and tire inner tubes, Lanxess said.
The new capacity Lanxess is add-ing will help serve rising demand for tires being driven by the global mega-trend towards greater mobility, Heitmann said. The growing middle-class in particular in emerging markets such as China and India is embracing this trend, he said.
Butyl rubber also is an important product for the pharmaceutical industry, particularly in Asia, the firm said
Lanxess' Butyl Rubber business unit generates sales of more than $630 million annually and is part of the company's Performance Polymers segment. The segment recorded sales of $3.02 billion in 2009.
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