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Despite gloomy European economic scenario, investment continues in chemical triangle of Central Germany

Despite gloomy European economic scenario, investment continues in chemical triangle of Central Germany

Despite the gloomy European economic picture, investment continues to be brisk in of Central Germany- region covering Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Brandenburg , thanks to the efficiencies offered by extensive networking of the major production sites there, as per ICB in ICIS. Central Germany houses several large chemical sites which have seen more than €17 bln (US$22.2 bln) of investment in restructuring and modernisation since the early 1990s, for both infrastructure and production. And the investment continues, even in today's hard-pressed economic climate in Europe. The five major chemical sites - Dow ValuePark Schkopau, BASF Schwarzheide, ChemiePark Bitterfeld Wolfen, Chemical Site Leuna, and Chemical and Industrial Park Zeitz - are all seeing some form of investment, either in new production or innovation capabilities. Most of the activity is centred around the so-called chemical triangle and offers a complex network of feedstock integration infrastructure.

There have also been some closures in these straightened times. BASF has taken the decision to decommission its toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) unit in Schwarzheide as of 2015, as part of a programme to add new TDI capacity in Ludwigshafen, and the Irish company Quinn Chemicals will decommission its newly built methyl methacrylate (MMA) facility in Leuna, due to financial difficulties at group level. The 100,000 tpa plant would have been the first in Europe based on tertiary butyl alcohol (TBA) technology. Construction of the plant began in 2006. But construction work was suspended in 2009 as a result of the global financial crisis in 2008 -2009, as well as the financial difficulties of the group at that time, the statement said. Following the financial restructuring of the Quinn Group in December 2011, a decision was made in 2012 to proceed with the construction, provided a suitable alliance partner could be found. The company added that a thorough and exhaustive global tender process failed to identify a suitable partner to form an alliance for the completion of the project. It is estimated that over €191 mln had been spent on the project.

Positive news includes: Global styrenics producer Styron has opened its new 50,000 tpa solution styrene butadiene rubber (S-SBR) production line in Schkopau. The expansion, first announced in December 2010, takes into account the growing demand for high-performance tyres, which are produced with S-SBR. The unit, which was built alongside existing lines, has the capability to produce all existing clear and oil extended Styron grades, the company says. Also at Schkopau, Altana's BYK Kometra additives business has recently opened a €7 mln plastics modifier facility, expanding its capacities for plastics modifiers by about 50. Dow Chemical’s ENLIGHT polyolefin encapsulant film plant for the photovoltaic industry came on stream in March 2013. Just north of Schkopau, at Bitterfeld, a joint venture between Bayer MaterialScience and Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co is building a facility to produce specialty bisphenols. The new capacity will double production at the Bitterfeld site. With an estimated cost of €50 mln, the work involves construction of a second plant specialising in the production of materials for use in APEC, a highly heat-resistant plastic produced by Bayer MaterialScience for use in the automotive, lighting and electronics industries. Construction started on 1 October and the plant is expected to come on stream in mid-2014. Hi-Bis GmbH, the joint venture company, is 55%-owned by Mitsui subsidiary Honshu Chemical Industry, 35% owned by Mitsui, and 10% owned by Bayer MaterialScience. The existing Bitterfeld bisphenols plant owned by the joint venture began production in November 2004 and cost €38 mln to construct. Zeitz is also seeing new investment. US-based recycler Puralube plans to build a third base oil plant at its site in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, with government support for the €54 mln investment. The plant is scheduled for start up in 2014. Puralube's existing two plants in Saxony-Anhalt have a combined capacity to process some 150,000 tpa of used lubricating oils into 90,000 tpa of group II base oils. The units started up in 2004 and 2008, respectively. (Source Courtsey : ICIS)

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