GOOSE CREEK, S.C.—Evonik Industries A.G. has launched production of precipitated silicas at its new world scale plant in Goose Creek.
Construction of the facility, located near Charleston, S.C., was completed recently, a company spokesman said. The firm started building the structure in December 2016, he said, and has invested about $120 million in the production site that will bolster Evonik's Smart Materials segment, which produces silicas.
About 40 jobs were created at the plant, the spokesman said. The size and capacity of the new facility were not disclosed.
Evonik built the plant in South Carolina to be close to a large number of its customers in the tire industry in order to serve them better and faster, he said.
There has been high demand from the tire industry for precipitated silica in North America, the firm said, and the company is responding to that need. It noted that the automotive sector needs highly dispersible precipitated silica for the production of tires with improved rolling resistance and better wet grip.
"From here we plan to supply our local customers with innovative products and custom-tailored solutions," said Johannes Ohmer, a member of the management board of Evonik Resource Efficiency, which oversees the Smart Materials operation and is one of three business segments operated by Evonik Industries.
The company's two other business segments are Performance Materials and Nutrition and Care.
Opening the new Goose Creek production facility "is an important step in strengthening our position as a global partner for the tire industry," said Harald Schwager, deputy chairman of the Evonik Industries executive board.
"In the expansion of our silica business we're following a clear strategy," he said. "In addition to taking over the activities of Huber Silica, we're continually expanding our capacities for silica."
Huber Silica was purchased by Evonik for $630 million in a transaction that closed in September 2017. Evonik said the deal further strengthened and expanded the company's Smart Materials operation.
Evonik currently is integrating Huber Silica into its Resource Efficiency segment.
Because Evonik's silica business has been more focused on industrial applications, including the tire and coatings industries, Huber Silica, which concentrates heavily on the consumer goods industry, is an excellent regional fit for Evonik with its focus on the U.S., China and India, according to Christian Kullmann, executive board member for strategy at Evonik.
He said that combining the two "will strengthen an important pillar of our portfolio."
In addition to the production of precipitated silicas at the Goose Creek plant, the company will also produce its recently developed Ultrasil 7800 GR silica at the site.
Because of its larger specific surface area, Ultrasil 7800 GR gives the tire tread compound more rigidity without negatively impacting its processability, the firm said.
Ultrasil 7800 GR is a custom-tailored silica made for use in large sport-utility vehicle tires as well as high-mileage all season tires. When it was introduced, the company said the silica optimizes the production of green tires.
Because the main global market for SUVs is the U.S., the firm decided the Goose Creek facility would be an ideal place to produce Ultrasil 7800 GR, it said.
The addition of the new South Carolina facility is the second expansion Evonik has made in the last four months to expand its silica operation and capacity.
In late June, the company said that it will increase its precipitated silica capacity at a plant it operates as part of a joint venture in Adapazari, Turkey. About 40,000 metric tons of additional capacity will be available at the facility once the startup of the new production begins in 2020.
Ohmer said that "as one of the world's leading producers of silica products such as Ultrasil, with this capacity expansion we are reacting to the massive demand in the industry, strengthening our business partnership with the tire manufacturers."