Kureha to invest over US$100 mln high performance polymer plant

Kureha Corporation plans to invest over US$100 mln in a new, wholly-owned subsidiary to build a high performance polymer plant. Kureha plans to build a plant for the production and sale of the high performance polymer - polyglycolic acid (PGA), to be located at the DuPont site in Belle, W.Va. Early 2008 will see the commencement of plant construction, followed by production scheduled to begin in early 2010. PGA is a polyester resin which offers high gas barrier to both CO2 and O2, controllable hydrolysis and excellent mechanical strength. This unique combination of properties makes PGA ideally suited for high performance packaging and industrial applications. Today, the targeted application for PGA is multilayer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles for carbonated soft drinks and beer. Since PGA offers a gas barrier 100 times higher than that of PET, it is possible to reduce the amount of PET used in these bottles by more than 20%, while maintaining the equivalent barrier against CO2 loss. This bottle redesign has the potential of yielding cost reduction as well as source reduction opportunities in the marketplace. PGA's unique hydrolytic properties make it highly compatible with widely practiced industrial PET recycling processes, ensuring the material does not interfere with the purity and quality of recycled PET. In another packaging application, PGA multi-layer designs have been shown to enhance the gas and moisture barrier of bio-based polymers such as polylactic acid (PLA). Through expanded use in biodegradable applications, PGA will further contribute to environmental conservation. In addition, Kureha is working with several development partners to commercialize industrial applications that utilize the easily controllable hydrolysis rate and excellent mechanical strength of PGA. Kureha Corporation is a leading global supplier of specialty chemicals and plastics to a range of sectors such as consumer packaging, household products, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and other industrial applications. The new plant is yet another milestone in Kureha's vision of becoming a specialty products company, radically redefining its approach to markets and customers. For many years there has been no high volume, cost effective manufacturing process available for PGA, and therefore its production has been limited to relatively small-scale operations for the manufacture of surgical sutures. Kureha is the first and only company which succeeded in developing technology to produce large volumes of PGA, supporting this development with significant intellectual property. In 2002, a 100-ton pilot plant was built at Kureha's Iwaki Factory in Japan, and from then on Kureha has been vigorously developing applications suitable for PGA.
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