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May 10, 2013

Evonik plans new silica plant in Brazil

Gerald Ondrey

Evonik Industries AG (Essen, Germany; www.evonik.com) has started basic engineering for a production plant for precipitated silica in Brazil. Subject to the approval of the responsible bodies, Evonik aims to complete the plant in the year 2015 to market precipitated silica in the South America region from local production. The planned facility in Americana, with an investment level in the middle double-digit million-euro range, would be Evonik’s first silica production in South America. The silica marketed under the Ultrasil brand name is particularly used in energy-saving tires with low rolling resistance while the silica sold as Sipernat is applied in the feed and food industry as well as the paints and coatings industry.

In South America, and in Brazil in particular, demand for precipitated silica is rising strongly. Two reasons for this are the significant growth of the local automotive industry, on the one hand, and a rising demand in the area of life-science and in agriculture, on the other, for example as a dosing aid for animal feed. “In our expansion course, we aim to accompany the growth of our global key customers, particularly in the tire industry,” says Thomas Haeberle, member of the Evonik Executive Board and responsible for the company’s Resource Efficiency Segment. Evonik expects additional demand due to a planned labeling obligation for fuel-saving tires in Brazil.

According to expert estimates, the market for tires with low rolling resistance will grow globally by a good 18%/yr in the next five years. Evonik therefore wants to significantly expand its global silica capacities: By 2014 alone, capacities are planned to increase by around 30% compared to 2010.

In line with this, at the end of 2012, the specialty chemicals company announced plans to expand its annual capacity for precipitated silica at the US-American Chester site by around 20,000 metric tons (m.t.). The plant in the U.S., with an investment in the lower double-digit million-euro range, is planned to come on stream in 2014. The expansion planned in North and South America follows expansion projects in Asia and Europe.

The use of silicas in combination with silanes allows for the production of tires with a significantly reduced rolling resistance that save up to eight percent of fuel (compared to conventional passenger car tires). Johannes Ohmer, head of Evonik’s Inorganic Materials Business Unit, explains: “We’re the only provider offering both components and are therefore a competent partner for high-performance tire compounds for our customers from the tire and rubber industry.”

Evonik is one of the leading manufacturers of silica. Apart from precipitated silica, the Group also produces Aerosil fumed silica and silica-based matting agents under the Acematt brand. They are not only used in tires with low rolling resistance but also in the paints and coatings industry, as flow additives and carriers in food, cosmetics and drug production, or in manufacturing silicon applications, among others. Overall, Evonik has a global capacity of around 500,000 m.t./yr for precipitated and fumed silica as well as matting agents.


 

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