(From the Oct. 15, 2012, issue of Rubber & Plastics News)
SCHKOPAU, Germany—Styron L.L.C. has completed work on a solution styrene-butadiene rubber production line at its Schkopau plant.
The company plans to have the train fully operational in the fourth quarter, which a spokeswoman said is in line with initial construction plans, within budget and “remarkably fast in comparison to projects of similar scale and complexity in the industry.” The official opening of the line was marked by an event hosted by the firm Oct. 15.
The new line, which the company began constructing in May 2011, was built alongside existing trains at the Schko¼pau facility and will give Styron about 50,000 metric tons of additional SSBR capacity, according to Francesca Reverberi, business director for the company's Rubber Business operation.
The addition will create about 40 more jobs at the site, she said.
Styron added the SSBR line because its customers are focusing on tires that deliver better performance based on lower rolling resistance without sacrificing safety, said Reverberi, who had spent more than 15 years in the chemical industry before being named to her present post.
Before joining Styron, she served as product director for Dow Chemical Co.'s Dow Emulsion Polymers, Europe and Americas operation.
“SSBR, especially in silica-filled tread formulations, can significantly reduce hysteresis behavior to achieve a low rolling resistance, which leads to lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, and simultaneously optimizes tire grip and wear,” she said.
Demand for higher performing polymers is increasing, Reverberi said, and will accelerate when the new European tire labeling regulation becomes a reality in November, most likely followed soon after that by similar regulations in the U.S. and other countries.
SSBR is used heavily in the tire industry, she said, and “we are focusing to develop enhanced products for this industry,” especially with Europe's tire labeling regulation coming into play.
Reverberi said Styron also is exploring a technology based on its own functionalized Nd-PBR chemistry that would complement the firm's advanced SSBR grades in high performance tires to further reduce rolling resistance.
Functionalized SSBR is adaptable and can be used to make high-quality technical rubber goods in other industries, according to Reverberi. “Therefore, our technical resources can support our customers to insure innovative solutions if needed,” she said.
She said Styron launched its second generation of SSBR in 2009 and will launch the third generation in 2013. It's already working on a fourth generation.
Reverberi said with the new tire labeling mandates in Europe coming, it will become increasingly important to reduce rolling resistance, emissions and fuel consumption while improving wet grip performance and optimization of wear.
Those improvements are especially important considering the growing scarcity of raw materials, she said, and “Styron's functionalization technology will be to effectively and efficiently help customers succeed in those focus areas.”