LEVERKUSEN, Germany (March 15, 2010) — Synthetic rubber producer Lanxess A.G. is expanding capacity worldwide for a type of polybutadiene rubber used in low rolling-resistance tires.
Lanxess plans to invest about $27.5 million over the coming two years at production sites in Germany, Brazil and the U.S. to add 50,000 metric tons of annual capacity for neodymium polybutadiene, which it describes as a high-performance elastomer that it claims can help reduce energy consumption more efficiently than other tire rubbers while also reducing abrasion.
Lanxess projects demand for the material growing about 10 percent a year over the next several years based on the global trend toward greater mobility and motorists' demands for higher environmental and safety standards in performance tires.
In addition, Lanxess pointed out that the European Union approved in November 2009 a regulation stipulating that by November 2012 new tires sold in Europe have to be labeled for fuel efficiency, wet grip and external rolling noise.
The aim of the legislation is to reduce CO2 and noise emissions by promoting green tires that do not compromise on safety. In addition, the labels will provide more transparency to consumers and aid them in their purchase decisions. Tire makers in Japan are voluntarily introducing tire labels from the beginning of 2010, and similar labeling regulations are being evaluated in the U.S.
“Lanxess welcomes the new tire labeling regulations, which are positive examples of how environmental policies can benefit consumers and spur economic success,” said Lanxess Chairman Axel Heitmann. “The initiative will also ultimately lead to more innovation within the chemical and tire industries.”
Without these capacity expansions, Lanxess estimates there would be a worldwide product shortage for this type of material by 2014. The capacity expansions will be achieved through standard debottlenecking procedures, Lanxess said, and will lead indirectly to capacity increases for solution styrene butadiene rubber at plants in Port Jerome, France, and Orange, Texas.
Additionally, Lanxess plans to break ground in May on a $575 million, 100,000-metric-ton-per-year butyl rubber plant in Singapore that should start production in early 2013.