Cancarb has been owned by Tokai Carbon Co. Ltd. of Tokyo since 2014, and the parent company gave approval for the expansion project in 2018, Donnelly said. Construction began in late 2019 just in time to see COVID-19 grip the world.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Cancarb decided to continue with construction. "It made the project much more complicated overall, but in the end we were very happy with the outcome," Donnelly said.
The project was under way for about four months when COVID-19 hit in early 2020 and caused the implementation of additional safety measures such as temperature checks, personal protective equipment and hand washing enforcement.
Precautions paid off, as no one who was working on the project came down with COVID-19.
Construction workers also were kept completely separate from plant staff.
"It was a very difficult decision in March 2020 to continue with the construction of the additional unit because of all the unknown elements at the onset of the pandemic. Shortly after that, our sales declined significantly in the second quarter of 2020. However, we are now very glad to have completed the expansion as sales have recovered, and we are seeing very high shipment volumes," Donnelly said.
The new unit provides flexibility to perform maintenance on the location's older five units, he added.
Aside from rubber, thermal carbon black is used in plastics, ceramics, refractories, graphite, metals, pigments and coatings, Donnelly said.
"The market is very small volume-wise compared to the standard furnace carbon black grades, but we sell in over 40 countries on a regular basis, and we are always working to find new applications for our products," he said.