LEVERKUSEN, Germany-Bayer A.G. will expand its worldwide capacity for synthetic rubbers by more than 10 percent through 1996, adding more than 75,000 metric tons of capacity in North America and Europe.
About two-thirds of the expansion will focus on butadiene rubber and solution-SBR to meet rising demand from tire manufacturers, said Gunter Monn, manager of rubber business marketing.
That portion will be derived from process optimization involving the firm's five BR plants, each of which operates with a slightly different base technology.
Also, Bayer revealed an investment of $32 million at its Filago, Italy, site to expand capacity for silicone elastomers and nitrile-butadiene rubber and SBR lattices.
The new unit for silicones brings Bayer's annual specialty elastomer output to 10,000 tons. The investment includes a new research and development laboratory.
Bayer also produces silicone rubber at plants in Leverkusen and in Santa Clara, Mexico.
The company declined to be more specific about which plants would be involved in the 75,000-ton SR capacity increase or what investments will be necessary.
Building a new facility with at least 80,000 tons capacity would represent an investment of about $250 million, according to Bayer information.
The firm's plants in Sarnia, Ontario, and Port Jerome, France, have existing capacities for both BR and SBR. Other BR plants are in Orange, Texas, and Marl and Dormagen, Germany.
The BR/S-SBR projects have strategic importance in that capacity can be shifted easily between the two products, giving Bayer greater flexibility in meeting demand for S-SBR, the polymer of choice for silica-reinforced low rolling resistance tires.
Bayer managers have indicated considerable interest from tire makers for S-SBR, but concrete orders have been too sporadic to warrant large-scale investments to install or convert capacities.
Groupe Michelin, the leading proponent of silica-reinforced S-SBR, satisfies most of its demand through its own SR operations located in France and the U.S.
Bayer, which advanced to the top of the world synthetic rubber league last year with the purchase of Huls A.G.'s BR and EPDM businesses, reported a 10.3-percent increase in rubber-related sales in fiscal 1994 to $2.1 billion as a result of both organic growth and acquisitions.