NUREMBURG, Germany—Arlanxeo's recent decision to modernize its nitrile rubber production facility at La Wantzenau, France, is part of targeted growth plans, particularly around specialty grades of the material, according to a company executive.
The move also sends a positive signal to the NBR market, said Christian Strauch, who is head of global marketing and research and development for this business within Arlanxeo's High Performance Elastomers unit.
"We are showing a commitment to our NBR business, which was in question in the past" Strauch said, speaking in an interview at the recent DKT expo in Nuremberg. "Now we are showing a clear way forward for NBR and also HNBR."
In a company-wide restructuring plan back in 2013, then sole owner Lanxess said it was considering "all strategic options" for its 130,000 metric ton per year NBR/HNBR business, including the La Wantzenau facility. This was just a year after starting up an NBR plant in Nantong, China—one with capacity of 30,000 metric ton per year—as a 50/50 joint venture with TSRC Corp.
At DKT 2018, emphasizing Arlanxeo's renewed ambitions in the market, Strauch noted current growth in all NBR applications requiring oil-resistance and grease-resistance, including seals, O-rings, gaskets, pump stators for oil and gas, and belts.
"The global market is growing, and we want to play a leading role (and be) a strong partner for customers," he said of the Lanxess-Saudi Aramco JV's strategy for the market.
According to Strauch, material from the French plant is exported to around 50 different countries worldwide, with key markets are Asia and NAFTA.
"With the investment in La Wantzenau we can support our customers globally, (with whom) we have very close cooperation projects," the executive continued.
While NBR production has fallen in Europe—particularly after the closure of Zeon's Sully, England, plant in 2015—Strauch emphasised that Arlanxeo's investment in La Wantzenau "is not focused on increased capacity, it is about upgrading and having a state-of-the-art facility.
"So, it is a clear commitment to our NBR and HNBR business and to raising the standard of our plant and equipment… to have our world-class and state-of-the art technology."