BRUSSELS, Belgium—Solvay S.A. is building a highly dispersible silica plant in Wloclawek, Poland, and is in the process of expanding its facility in Qingdao, China.
The firm is spending more than $100 million on the factory in Poland, which will produce about 85,000 metric tons of HDS annually. Solvay did not give specific financial details on the addition at the site in China.
Work on both projects has begun, a spokesman said. The factory in Wloclawek will be operational "and producing at the highest standards in less than two years," he said, estimating it should open in the third quarter of 2014 and will have a work force of more than 50.
The China plant expansion is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.
Solvay, an international chemical company, said the two additions will boost Solvay's global HDS production capacity by about 30 percent.
Located in central Poland, the new plant will create logistical benefits to the firm's customers in Eastern Europe and Russia, the company said. It is being built on a lot that covers more than 200 acres in a designated Special Economic Zone within Wloclawek, according to the spokesman.
Solvay is adding the Wloclawek facility because "we are committed to support our customers' growth in Eastern Europe, Russia and around the world," said Tom Bender, president of Solvay Silica, a global business unit of the company.
The new site "will offer our most innovative products from a very reliable and competitive platform," he said.
Among the products made at the plant will be Zeosil Premium, HDS used by tire manufacturers to make energy-saving tires, the firm said. Solvay claimed the offering cuts fuel consumption by 7 percent while enhancing other tire performance properties.
Bender said there is strong demand for more silica innovation to improve tire performance.
"Tire labeling regulation has led to a four-fold increase in Zeosil Premium adoption over the past year, and we expect a strong growth trend to continue," he said.
In addition to tires, its primary application, silica also is used in a wide range of other markets, including industrial, personal care and nutrition.
Solvay's facility in Poland "is part of a continued commitment to provide a reliable supply of HDS and respond to the growth needs of our customers," the spokesman said.
He said the factory ties in nicely with the growth of the firm's new innovative products.
Meanwhile, the company's expansion at its existing factory in China is progressing nicely. "It is an extension of the current building and operations area," he said.
"Capacity in China is growing to support the demands of our customers," according to the spokesman.
He said demand for the firm's HDS "is supported by the need for safer and more energy efficient tires."
The Qingdao plant produces various grades of HDS, all of which are "used by the tire industry to decrease fuel consumption by up to 7 percent while enhancing other tire performance properties," he said.
Solvay has been on a growth spurt since 2010 when it opened the plant in Qingdao. It followed that move with expansions at its HDS sites in the U.S. in 2011 and France a year later.
The firm said the expansions were made to support current and future growth of its customers.
Its Chicago Heights, Ill., addition was made through Solvay's Rhodia business. The expansion boosted the facility's 16,000-ton capacity by 33 percent.
The plant, launched in 1995, is one of eight HDS sites Rhodia operates.
Solvay's expansion project at its Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or, France, HDS facility included an addition and a modernized research and development operation.