Pilot plants at Lanxess butyl rubber site to test new technology
Although expansion work at Lanxess’ butyl rubber facility in Zwijndrecht, Belgium has been complete for some time now, today the company officially opened the upgraded plant. Reporting on the improvements at Zwijndrecht, Lanxess shares that capacity is now up ten per cent to 150,000 tonnes of butyl rubber per annum. The expansion, carried out at a cost of 20 million euros, was completed several months ahead of schedule at the end of 2011. Work involved expanding the existing plant’s production capacity and building two new pilot plants for developing butyl rubber production technology.
“This investment underpins the major role that our butyl rubber production here in Zwijndrecht plays in our global strategy,” said Axel C. Heitmann, chairman of the Lanxess Board of Management, during the official opening ceremony. “Our plans for continued growth are founded on innovation and technology that serves the global megatrends – with the primary focus on solutions for sustainable mobility.”
Lanxess is one of the world’s largest producers of butyl rubber, a substance that is – you guessed it – mainly used in the production of tyres. A common tyre application for butyl rubber is in the inner liner, however it can also be employed in the tread. The greatest share of butyl rubber produced in Zwijndrecht is premium halobutyl rubber.
The new pilot plants at Zwijndrecht have been built in order to test an innovative production technology. Although Lanxess hasn’t yet explained the new technology in much detail, it notes that the butyl rubber production process is highly complex and requires process steps at temperatures that range between minus 95 and up to plus 200 degrees Celsius. “As the technology leader in the global market for synthetic rubber we are constantly driving innovation. These pilot plants represent our large-scale implementation of the new process we are developing. The aim of the new technology is to use fewer resources and thus be more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly,” Heitmann explained.
Capacity expansion to meet global demand
In addition to the expansion project in Zwijndrecht, Lanxess is building a new butyl rubber facility on Jurong Island, Singapore, which will have a total annual capacity of 100,000 tonnes. The plant, which Lanxess says will be the most modern of its kind and represents the company’s single-largest investment ever, is expected to start up in the first quarter of 2013. The company also operates a butyl rubber plant in Sarnia, Canada, which has a capacity of 150,000 tonnes per year.
“In the coming decade, we expect demand to grow further so that the new capacities here in Zwijndrecht and from our upcoming plant in Singapore will be fully absorbed by the market,” commented Ron Commander, head of Lanxess’ Butyl Rubber business unit.