International Specialty Products Inc. plans to nearly double capacity for emulsion SBR at its Port Neches, Texas, plant in the coming two years to take advantage of market opportunities and serve growing end-use businesses.
The multimillion-dollar expansion will boost capacity at the former Ameripol Synpol factory to 750 million pounds from 400 million, the company said. The project will include new reactors and finishing lines.
ISP sees growth potential for SBR from a number of sources in both the tire and non-tire sectors, according to Mel Martin, ISP senior vice president and general manager of ISP Elastomers.
``First of all,'' he said, ``we see the potential to replace some of the more than 300 million pounds of SBR imported every year and to start exporting more as well.''
Some of the growth in imports has come because Goodyear Chemical last year decided to phase out most of its outside commercial accounts, opening the door to those suppliers with capacity, Martin said.
At the same time, demand for SBR from the domestic tire makers is up, despite a decline in unit production of passenger tires. Rubber consumption is rising, Martin said, because North American tire plants are increasing their output of larger diameter tires, which require more rubber.
Demand from producers of other rubber goods-such as hoses, belts, adhesives and sealants, and flooring-is growing as well, and adding hot polymer types for adhesives uses is a high priority, Martin said.
ISP declined to specify the size of its investment, but Martin said the company has spent more than $20 million in the factory since taking it over in mid-2003 and likely will make ``similar size'' investments as the company moves forward.
The investment/expansion also will allow ISP to improve the quality of and expand its range of grades. ISP already offers more than 40 grades, Martin said, in both the hot and cold polymer types.
Wayne-based ISP bought the Port Neches facility in 2003 after Ameripol Synpol's Chapter 11 filing. Output fell to about 50 million pounds that year but rebounded last year to more than 300 million pounds.
Sales by the elastomers business segment hit $170.1 million last year, compared with $25.7 million in 2003 after the date of its acquisition, and contributed $7.4 million in operating profits vs. an operating loss of $3.3 million in 2003.
Besides ISP, DSM Copolymer is the only domestic source of emulsion SBR.