GERMANY-based Evonik Industries has started basic engineering for a precipitated silica production plant in Brazil.
The project, which is subject to the approval of the responsible bodies, is targeted for completion in 2015 to market precipitated silica in the South America region from local production.
The planned facility , with an investment level in the middle double-digit million-euro range, would be Evonik’s first silica production in South America. The silica marketed under the ULTRASIL brand name is particularly used in energy-saving tyres with low rolling resistance while the silica sold as SIPERNAT is applied in the feed and food industry as well as the paints and coatings industry.
In South America, and in Brazil in particular, demand for precipitated silica is rising strongly, driven by a significant growth of the local automotive industry and a rising demand in the area of life-science and in agriculture, for example as a dosing aid for animal feed.
“In our expansion course, we aim to accompany the growth of our global key customers, particularly in the tyre industry,” says Dr. Thomas Haeberle, member of the Evonik Executive Board and responsible for the company’s Resource Efficiency Segment. Evonik expects additional demand due to a planned labeling obligation for fuel-saving tyres in Brazil.
According to expert estimates, the market for tyres with low rolling resistance will grow globally by 18% annually in the next five years. Evonik therefore wants to significantly expand its global silica capacities: By 2014 alone, capacities are planned to increase by around 30% compared to 2010.
In line with this, at the end of 2012, the specialty chemicals company announced plans to expand its annual capacity for precipitated silica at the US-American Chester site by around 20,000 metric tonnes. The plant in the US, with an investment in the lower double-digit million-euro range, is planned to come on stream in 2014. The expansion planned in North and South America follows expansion projects in Asia and Europe.
The use of silicas in combination with silanes allows for the production of tyres with a significantly reduced rolling resistance that save up to 8% of fuel (compared to conventional passenger car tyres). Dr. Johannes Ohmer, Head of Evonik’s Inorganic Materials Business Unit, explains, “We’re the only provider offering both components and are therefore a competent partner for high-performance tyre compounds for our customers from the tyre and rubber industry.”