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Lanxess claims butyl process breakthrough

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COLOGNE, Germany (April 18, 2014) — Lanxess A.G. claims to have developed a more energy- and cost-efficient process for making butyl rubber, the air-impervious material used in most tire innerliners, but the Cologne-based specialty chemicals company is not saying when, where or how it might employ the breakthrough or comment on its potential impact on pricing.

Lanxess, one of only four major producers of butyl rubber globally, operates butyl rubber plants in Zwijndrecht, Belgium; Sarnia, Ontario; and Singapore, but it declined to say where or when it would implement the technology, how much in invested in developing the process or how much it might have to invest to implement it.

“The new technology is fundamentally different to what we use now,” a Lanxess spokesman said. “So, whenever we will build future plants, we will implement this new technology.”

Lanxess did say, though, it will mothball two pilot production plants in Zwijndrecht, where research and development on the new process took place over the past seven years. Lanxess has begun consulting with personnel at the plants “to align potential impacts on staff with unions and employees.”

Lanxess describes the production process for butyl rubber as highly complex and requiring process steps at very low temperatures and “significant usage” of steam.

The company declined to elaborate on the details of the process or to say how much it invested in developing the new process or how its use might affect the cost of butyl.

Lanxess invested $523 million over six years to build the plant in Singapore, which opened last summer. The firm expects the facility to achieve full capacity of 100,000 metric tons a year by 2015.

The Butyl Rubber business unit is part of Lanxess’ Performance Polymers segment, which recorded sales of nearly $6 billion in fiscal 2013.

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