Munich-based Wacker Group has opened a plant for manufacturing pyrogenic silica at its US site in Charleston, Tennessee. The facility has a production capacity of 13,000 tonnes/year and Wacker says it will use this output both for sales purposes and for its own silicone production. Highly dispersible pyrogenic silica is an important formulation component for manufacturing silicone rubber. Investments for the new facility total around US$150 million and have led to 50 new jobs at the Charleston site.
Up to now, Wacker has produced pyrogenic silica at its German sites in Burghausen and Nünchritz and at its Zhangjiagang site in China. Launching the new plant in Charleston now puts the company in a position to offer customers in the Americas a direct supply of HDK pyrogenic silica.
“The additional capacity will strengthen our market position as one of the world’s leading pyrogenic silica manufacturers and will help us meet our customers’ growing demand,” Wacker CEO Rudolf Staudigl explained.
The new plant also closes material loops and improves the supply chain at the site. Wacker has been producing polysilicon in Charleston since 2016. The most important by-product of polysilicon manufacturing is tetrachlorosilane. This material can be either converted and fed back into the production loop or can be processed into pyrogenic silica, thus creating additional value for the company and for customers.
The facility is another milestone for Charleston, as the site is now able to run an integrated production based on the closed loop system Wacker says it successfully operates at its Burghausen and Nünchritz sites.
The network maximises the site’s flexibility for processing tetrachlorosilane and obviates the disposal of waste products, thus enhancing the viability of the integrated production network as a whole.
“The pyrogenic silica facility is the next logical step in making Charleston a fully integrated silicon site in the world’s second largest chemical market,” says Staudigl, emphasising the strategy behind the investment.
In addition to dispensing and packaging systems, the new plant will also include test and development labs as well as training rooms for the company’s Wacker Academy. Here, customers can participate in seminars, training sessions and hands-on exercises for an in-depth look at the wide array of applications when using pyrogenic silica.