Antwerp/Leverkusen - Specialty chemicals company LANXESS is investing EUR 75 million in the construction of a new plant for high-tech plastics in Antwerp. The world-scale facility for polyamide plastics is designed for an annual capacity of 90,000 metric tons and scheduled to begin operation in the first quarter of 2014.
“This investment is yet another milestone on our way towards profitable growth, and a clear commitment to our Antwerp site. High-tech plastics play a critical role in our global strategy. Our plans for growth depend on innovations and technologies that support the global megatrends. Activities therefore are focused on solutions for sustainable mobility,” said Axel C. Heitmann, Chairman of the Board of Management of LANXESS AG, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new polyamide facility. Global demand for high-tech plastics is expected to rise by five to six percent each year through 2020. The automotive industry is one of the main growth drivers for LANXESS plastics.
Antwerp is the heart of LANXESS plastics production
The new plant for the polymerization of high-tech plastics is being built in the direct vicinity of the caprolactam facility operated by LANXESS in Antwerp. Caprolactam is the key precursor for plastics manufacturing at LANXESS. “With this new combination of facilities, we can supply our global network of compounding plants with polyamide plastics right from Antwerp in the future. That will make Antwerp the heart of our global business more than ever,” said Michael Zobel, head of the LANXESS High Performance Materials (HPM) business unit. All plastics manufactured at LANXESS in Antwerp will be processed within the LANXESS global network of compounding facilities into the final Durethan-brand products. The plastics are reinforced in some cases with glass fibers to further improve their properties and adapt them to customer needs. The glass fibers required for this purpose are likewise produced at a LANXESS facility in Antwerp.
LANXESS supports the trend towards lightweight construction in the automotive industry
The automotive industry is a key customer of the HPM business unit. Highly innovative materials from LANXESS help to build much lighter plastic parts that can replace metal ones in motor vehicles and thus contribute to reducing fuel consumption and emissions. A lightweight design can reduce weight by ten to 50 percent, depending on the component. LANXESS plastics are used, for instance, in engine applications, door structures, pedals, front ends and cockpit crossmembers. Furthermore, the materials enable automobile manufacturers and suppliers to achieve considerable savings both in production and through simpler assembly. Another field of application for high-tech plastics from LANXESS is the electrical/electronics industry.
Expansion of the global production network
LANXESS is greatly expanding its global production network for high-tech plastics. New plants are currently also under construction in Gastonia, U.S.A., and Porto Feliz, Brazil. The company previously opened a new production plant in Jhagadia, India, in January 2012, and recently doubled the capacity of its existing plant in Hamm-Uentrop, Germany. LANXESS completed the expansion of caprolactam production in Antwerp in 2011, increasing its former annual capacity of 200,000 metric tons by ten percent. Likewise LANXESS invests in its glass fiber facility in Antwerp’s harbor district. A first glass oven is being renewed completely this spring, the second one follows in the spring of 2013. The annual production capacity for glass fibers of 60,000 metric tons is being increased by ten percent.
In the last 24 months, LANXESS has invested EUR 185 million in its global production network for high-tech plastics, EUR 125 million of that in its plants in Antwerp alone, including the new plastics facility.
The High Performance Materials business unit is part of the Performance Polymers segment, which generated EUR 5.1 billion in total sales in fiscal year 2011. HPM has roughly 1,500 employees worldwide and operates production facilities in Belgium (Antwerp), Germany (Krefeld-Uerdingen and Hamm-Uentrop (JV)), China (Wuxi) and India (Jhagadia).