ESSEN, Germany (July 29, 2016) — Specialty chemicals producer Evonik Industries A.G. is getting closer to establishing a second precipitated silica plant in the U.S.
The firm recently received approval for a $500,000 Economic Development Grant from South Carolina to assist with site preparation and building construction of Evonik's project, which, according to a South Carolina Department of Commerce document, represents a $129.4 million investment and 55 new jobs.
An Evonik spokesman said the firm would not comment beyond what it released on the project in May 2015, saying that the company is investigating sites in the Southeast U.S. No timetable for an official announcement was disclosed.
In May 2015, Evonik revealed plans for a double-digit million Euro investment in the U.S. — its largest in North America during the past five years — for a new precipitated silica production plant, but it did not provide specifics. It said at the time that completion is scheduled for late 2017 and that basic engineering on the facility already had begun.
The Southeast U.S. is home to a wealth of tire manufacturing capacity as Bridgestone Corp., Continental A.G., Goodyear, Michelin Group, Pirelli Tyre S.p.A., Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd., Trelleborg A.B. and Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. have plants in the region, including Bridgestone, Continental, Michelin and Trelleborg plants in South Carolina.
Singapore-headquartered-Giti Tire Group is building a plant in the Palmetto state as well.
Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. has a Tennessee plant nearing completion, and Continental disclosed plans to construct a new factory in Mississippi.
Hans-Detlef Luginsland, vice president for Evonik's rubber silica product line, said last year that the U.S. market is a growing economy for the firm's core industries, specifically citing the automotive and tire markets.
He added that Evonik's new facility will produce its Ultrasil-brand of rubber silica products, which are reinforcing fillers for the rubber industry. In addition to the tire industry, the product line is used in hoses, belts and rollers.
Manufacturers using a silica-silane combination can, according to the company, produce tires that allow for fuel savings of up to 8 percent because of significantly reduced rolling resistance compared with conventional passenger car tires.
Evonik said it had increased its global capacity for precipitated silica by about 30 percent between 2010-14 — expanding its precipitated silica production plant in Chester, Pa., by about 20,000 metric tons in September 2014.
The company operates a colloidal silica plant in Portland, Ore., and it produces fumed silica in Waterford, N.J., and Mobile, Ala. It also put its precipitated silica production plant in Sao Paulo, Brazil, into operation on July 20. The firm said the product will be used mainly for high-quality low rolling resistance tires while serving South America's food, animal feed and agricultural industries.
Based in Essen, Evonik has operations in more than 100 countries with 33,500 employees. The specialty chemicals producer generated sales of about $14.9 billion in 2015.
This report appeared in Rubber & Plastics News, an Akron-based sibling publication of Tire Business.