Butyl Rubber Plant Lanxess opens Asia’s most advanced butyl rubber plant
The new Lanxess butyl rubber plant, which recently commenced operations on Jurong Island in Singapore, represents the largest investment in the history of this relatively young company. Lanxess has invested around € 400 million in the plant which will have an annual production capacity of 100,000 tonnes.
With the addition of the new plant, Lanxess now has a worldwide production capacity of 400,000 tonnes at three sites, further solidifying its position as the world’s second largest producer just behind Exxon. As Axel Heitmann, CEO of Lanxess, and Werner Breuers, Member of the Board of Management, stated towards PROCESS, the plant is currently the most modern in Asia and has the capability to produce both premium halobutyl rubber and standard butyl rubber, mainly for the Asian tire market which is growing at an annual rate of 6 %.
Singapur as best choice
The management team explained why Singapore was chosen as the plant location rather than China where the booming market accounts for half of demand capacity in Asia. They cited the excellent infrastructure and ideal raw material supply situation on Jurong Island as the main factors which influenced the decision. Jurong Island, which is located off the coast of the main island, meets the specific needs of the chemical industry, and the infrastructure on the island offers ideal conditions for Lanxess. For example, a 20 km pipeline to a Shell refinery ensures the long-term supply of isobutene, a key feedstock used in the production of butyl rubber. Last year in close proximity, Lanxess also began construction of a new production plant for neodymium-based performance butadiene rubber (Nd-PBR). Production at the facility is scheduled to start in 2015, creating useful synergies such as shared infrastructure and logistics.
The special chemicals producer now has BTR production operations on three continents, namely at the new plant in Singapore, the butyl rubber plant in Sarnia, Canada which has been in operation since 1983 and the state-of-the-art plant in Zwijndrecht, Belgium. Following phased ramp-up, commercial-scale production at the Singapore plant is scheduled to begin in the 3rd Quarter of this year. The plant should reach full capacity by 2015. The list of factors which could influence the course of events includes the future state of the economy and ongoing plant construction projects by Exxon in Saudi Arabia and Reliance in India.
Highly-Complex Production Process
Production of butyl rubber is a highly complex process, involving a number of steps at temperatures between –100 and 200 °C. The previous butyl rubber production process has been completely re-engineered and the new process will be used in Singapore. The plant was engineered and built by Foster Wheeler Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd. on a 150,000 m2 site on Jurong Island. 500 tonnes of steel, 350 km of cable and 80 km of pipe were used during construction. Around 10 % of total expenditure was allocated to technology which reduces the environmental impact of the new butyl rubber plant. Steam offers significant savings potential. Energy consumption is lower because less steam is needed during the production process than at comparable plants. A state-of-the-art thermal off-gas system ensures that chemical compounds from the production process do not have a negative impact on the environment. Tests are already underway at a 3rd generation Lanxess pilot facility in Zwijndrecht/ Belgium.