ESSEN, Germany (May 26, 2015) — Silica producer Evonik Industries A.G. will build a “world-scale” plant in the U.S. for precipitated silica, in large part to satisfy growing demand for the material from the tire industry.
Essen-based Evonik said the plant will be built in the U.S. Southeast but did not identify the site at this time. The bulk of the U.S.'s tire production capacity is located in the Southeast, particularly South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.
Evonik said the project will involve an investment of several hundred million dollars, but the company did not disclose the expected capacity. Construction is expected to be comploeted by late 2017.
“We are going to continue expanding our precipitated silica capacities — a global program that we started five years ago. The resource efficiency megatrend fuels the demand for our products.
“Interest in energy-saving tires is continuously growing in North America,” said Johannes Ohmer, management member of Evonik's resource efficiency segment. “That's why we are planning to build the plant close to our customers — the large tire manufacturers.”
Using a silica-silane combination in place of carbon black, tire makers are able to produce reduced rolling-resistance tires that allow for fuel savings of up to 8 percent vs. conventional tires. Evonik is the only producer to offer both silica and silane.
This would be Evonik's second precipitated silica plant in the U.S. and 11th worldwide. The other, in Chester, Pa., was expanded last year with an additional 20,000 metric tons of capacity.
The project is part of a global expansion initiative for silica. Other projects include: adding a pilot-scale line for precipitated silica at its facility in Wesseling, Germany; builiding a research center for silanes at a plant in Rheinfelden, Germany; building a precipitated silica plant in Sao Paulo, Brazil; and expanding capacity for precipitated silica at Rayong, Thailand, by an undisclosed amount.
Evonik said it increased its capacities for precipitated silica by 30 percent from 2010-14, but it did not disclose the actual capacity figure.
It also produces silanes, an associated processing material, at Rheinfelden, Germany; Antwerp, Belgium; Rzhao, China; Mobile, Ala.; and Weston, Mich.
In the U.S., Evonik said it has started basic engineering for the new plant. The project still needs the approval of relevant bodies, Evonik said.