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March 4, 2013

Lanxess invests €80 million in S-SBR production in Brazil

Gerald Ondrey

Lanxess AG (Leverkusen, Germany; www.lanxess.com) is strengthening its standing as the world’s leading producer of high-performance rubber. Following a feasibility study, the company has decided to convert production of emulsion styrene butadiene rubber (E-SBR) used in standard tires, to solution styrene butadiene rubber (S-SBR) used in high-performance “green tires” at its site in Triunfo (Rio Grande do Sul) in southern Brazil. Lanxess is the first company to carry out such a conversion.

The future capacity for S-SBR in in Triunfo will be 110,000 metric tons (m.t.) per year, exactly the same as the current E-SBR capacity. The switch in production technology represents an investment of €80 million, which will be financed from the company’s cash-flow. Up to 500 temporary workers will be needed during the conversion phase. The plant will produce the latest grades of S-SBR at the end of 2014. A regular supply of E-SBR to customers will be maintained from the company’s plant in Duque de Caxias (Rio de Janeiro) in Brazil, which has enough production capacity to supply the entire Brazilian E-SBR demand. E-SBR is mainly used in the manufacturing and retreading of truck tires, which means tire carcasses can be reused several times, thus saving raw materials for tire production.

Lanxess is the world’s largest producer of high-performance rubbers, including S-SBR and neodymium-based performance butadiene rubber (Nd-PBR) sold under the Buna brand name. Global growth for both rubber types is estimated at roughly 10%/yr, up to 2017, as consumers shift to more fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly “green tires”.

Demand for “green tires” is being driven by the megatrend mobility, above all in the regions of Asia and Latin America, as the middle class there becomes more affluent. In addition, demand will accelerate as tire labeling continues to be introduced around the world.

November 2012 saw the launch of mandatory tire labeling in the E.U., similar to the consumer labels found on refrigerators and washing machines. Tires are graded from A (best) to G according to their fuel efficiency and from A to F according to their wet grip. Rolling noise is also measured. Therefore, the new legislation provides greater transparency for consumers by highlighting the added value of “green tires”.

Japan and South Korea were the first countries in the world to introduce a labeling system. After a voluntary tire label was introduced in Japan in January 2010, South Korea launched its voluntary labeling program in November 2011 and introduced a mandatory label in December 2012. The Brazilian government aims to implement tire labeling, modeled on the E.U. standards, as of October 2016, while the topic in China is taking shape as part of the country’s current five-year-plan.

Studies show that 20–30% of a vehicle’s fuel consumption and 24% of roadvehicle’s CO2 emissions are related to tires. “Green tires” can reduce fuel consumption by 5–7% and have a shorter cost amortization period in comparison to other fuel-saving technologies in cars such as automatic start-stop systems and hybrid drives.

 

 

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