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PPG to boost silica capacity at Dutch plant

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PPG Industries is expanding its silica capacity at its site in Delfzijl, Netherlands.
PPG Industries is expanding its silica capacity at its site in Delfzijl, Netherlands.

DELFZIJL, Netherlands—PPG Industries Inc. plans to increase precipitated silica production capacity at its site in Delfzijl as a result of a supply agreement with a major tire maker.

The capacity increase would help PPG meet growing demand for its silica products, PPG said, and is set to come online in 2016. The increase is more than 15,000 metric tons per year. Total expected expenditure is in the tens of millions of Euros.

“Growing customer demand for Agilon performance silica was the primary driver of this particular expansion,” Bill Fish, PPG global segment manager, rubber applications, said via email.

“Delfzijl has been involved in producing Agilon since the product's inception and, as such, was a logical choice for PPG's first large-scale Agilon production facility. The Delfzijl plant has a dedicated work force that has accumulated a great deal of experience with the chemistry involved in making Agilon, and they have the established infrastructure necessary to support the growth of this product.”

Another reason PPG selected the Delfzijl plant is its proximity to Rotterdam, one of the largest ocean ports in the world.

“We are very comfortable shipping Agilon performance silica globally from Delfzijl, and in fact currently supply growing commercial quantities of the material to customers in many regions of the world outside of Europe,” Fish said.

“Access to a broad number of ocean carriers serving a wide variety of shipping lanes makes Rotterdam an attractive base of operation.”

Agilon silica from PPG.
Agilon silica from PPG.

PPG said its Agilon performance silica is a high-value technology platform of chemically modified precipitated silica that can improve the performance of products in which it is used.

“It can also drive manufacturing efficiencies by reducing capital, improving throughput and reducing volatile organic compound emissions,” Fish said.

Besides producing Agilon performance silica, he said the expanded capacity will be capable of producing traditional precipitated silica products, including classical and highly dispersible silica materials.

As part of this project, PPG is making the necessary investment to more efficiently and effectively produce Agilon performance silica in the base capacity that currently exists, Fish said. This way, the plant could produce any potential product mix, ranging from 100 percent traditional precipitated silica to 100 percent Agilon performance silica and any combination thereof.

“This flexibility is critical in that it will allow us to react quickly to the needs of our customers,” he said.

In tires, the silica can replace traditional silica-silane in rubber compounds. PPG said it can improve vehicle fuel efficiency, tire traction and treadwear by as much as 5 to 10 percent.

Besides the Delfzijl expansion, PPG has expanded a few times in the past five years, most recently a 20,000 ton expansion of its Lake Charles, La., facility in 2014.

“While we cannot speculate on future expansion plans at the moment,” Fish said, “we can say that we are committed to supporting the growing needs of our global silica customers and target markets, and that we regularly evaluate expansion opportunities so that we are prepared to quickly take the next logical step when the need for more capacity arises.”