(From the Oct. 17, 2011, issue of Rubber & Plastics News)
AKRON—DuPont is expanding its Vamac ethylene-acrylic elastomer capacity, Dow Elastomers is contemplating an EPDM rubber expansion—further evidence that the economy is hurting today, but there's hope for tomorrow.
Some sectors, like construction, remain in the doldrums, and it's expensive and not easy to get financing for growth projects following the banking scandal. Yet things aren't so bad for much of the rubber industry today. Automotive-related businesses have been doing well, and anything connected with mining—like belting—continues to be strong.
The two synthetic rubber projects are a reaction to current and definitely future business conditions.
At DuPont Performance Elastomers, the company will increase its finishing capacity by 50 percent for its Vamac elastomer at its LaPorte, Texas, operation. The automotive sector is behind the project; the company said it is responding to higher demand for Vamac for use in automotive powertrains, such as turbo charger hoses, air ducts, oil cooler hoses, tubing and gaskets.
Dow Elastomers, DuPont's erstwhile, decade-long partner in SR, is contemplating building a world-scale plant to produce metallocene EPDM. Again, automotive is a key market for the Nordel-brand rubber, used in hoses and belts, as well as many other applications like roofing membrane and in footwear.
This is in the feasibility stage, and Dow is looking for partners on the project. It does show that, like DuPont, the company sees a need for more capacity.
A few weeks ago it was Bridgestone Americas announcing a huge capacity expansion. On Oct. 6, it was Continental officially declaring where it will build a plant in the U.S. And Ford's new contract deal with the United Auto Workers includes a promise by the company to spend another $4.8 billion on its U.S. plants. That ultimately means more vehicle production, increased business for component makers and higher demand for materials, ingredients and machinery from rubber industry suppliers.
It's a domino effect that, for once, is positive.