MURILLO EL FRUTO, Spain — Recycled rubber powder producer Lehigh Technologies Inc. has commissioned production of "micronized" rubber powder at its first plant outside of the U.S., in Murillo el Fruto.
The plant — located on property adjacent to Indugarbi NFU, a Spanish tire recycler operated by Lehigh's Spanish partner, Barcelona-based HERA Holding — is designed with an annual production capacity of 10,000 metric tons of MRPs, according to Lehigh.
Located in a village in the northern Spanish province of Navarra, the plant produces MRP from scrap tires and post-industrial rubber, Lehigh said, using Lehigh's proprietary cryogenic turbo mill technology.
Lehigh began its association with HERA in 2012 and signed a full joint venture agreement with the company in 2016, according to Barton.
"Before the completion of the Navarra plant, HERA sold us granulate from end-of-life tires sourced in Spain, and shipped it to the U.S.," Lehigh CEO Alan Barton said. "We made the MRPs in Tucker and shipped them back to Spain, to meet the European Union's content regulations."
Jex Engineering, a United Kingdom-based engineering firm, executed construction of the Murillo el Fruto plant with support from the Dennis Group and Air Products & Chemicals Inc., according to Lehigh.
Group Michelin acquired Lehigh in October 2017 and is now part of the tire maker's High Technology Materials Business Unit. Lehigh, which has supplied MRPs to Michelin for the past 10 years, is an integral part of the tire maker's Sustainable Mobility Plan, which calls for the tire maker to have 80-percent recycled content in its tires and to recycle 100 percent of its tires by 2048.
As in the U.S., Lehigh has several tire manufacturing customers in Europe and the Middle East, as well as many customers in non-tire applications such as bitumen, coatings, construction materials and polyurethanes.
"It's the same mix as in the U.S.," Mr. Barton said.
While there is nothing definitive at this point, Lehigh plans at some point to have production facilities in other parts of the world, he said, with Asia and South America next on the company's list.
"But we were focused on Europe, because we had a significant amount of customers we had to supply," he said.