On January 9, Bridgestone Americas announced plans to invest an additional $180 million at its passenger tire plant in Wilson, North Carolina, bringing its total investment at the site to $344 million over the next 10 years. The investment includes a new rubber mixer as well as funding for innovative manufacturing processes and technology. The project will add 16 jobs at the plant.
Groundbreaking for the 50,000 square foot building to house the new mixer will begin in the spring, with startup scheduled for the fall of 2018. The Wilson plant currently spans 2.5 million square feet and was last expanded in 1999, adding 85,000 square feet to the facility.
The multi-phase expansion will allow the plant to meet global demand for higher rim diameter tires, as well as improve quality and productivity while reducing costs. Combined, the project is adding manufacturing space to accommodate new tire assembly machines, materials handling systems, curing presses and associated equipment to increase plant capacity by 3,000 tires per day, bringing daily production to 35,000 tires by 2018.
On January 6, the Yokohama Rubber Co., Ltd., announced that it had reached agreement with the shareholders of Aichi Tire Industry Co., Ltd., to purchase all of that company’s shares. Aichi Tire, headquartered in Komaki, Aichi, manufactures tires for industrial machinery, including forklifts. Yokohama’s plans call for completing the acquisition by March, 2017.
Aichi Tire’s products include solid tires and press-on tires. The company supplies those tires to an extensive clientele of industrial machinery manufacturers, mainly in Japan.
Pyrolyx AG (Munich, Germany) and Reklaim, Inc. (Seattle, WA) have formed a joint venture to produce recovered carbon black from end-of-life tires. The new venture, Pyrolyx USA, Inc., is owned 81% by Pyrolyx and will implement Pyrolyx’s proprietary manufacturing process at new facilities across North America. Reklaim’s top management will run Pyrolyx USA. No further details were released at the time of the announcement in December.
Last week, Evonik Industries announced the location of its new precipitated silica plant in the United States. The $120M factory will be located in the Bushy Park industrial area near Charleston, South Carolina. Construction on the plant is expected to begin this month with completion by mid-2018. The company has not released the new plant’s capacity, but output will focus on highly dispersible grades of silica for use in passenger car tires, which can reduce rolling resistance and improve fuel economy. Here is the press release announcing the plant location. The company held a ground-breaking ceremony at the site last week.
On December 9, 2016, Evonik Industries AG announced the acquisition of the silica business of J.M. Huber (Edison, NJ) for $630 million. The business operated as part of Huber Engineered Materials (Atlanta, GA) and had been part of Huber’s business line since the 1950s. The silica businesses of the two companies are complementary, as Evonik focuses on industrial applications, particularly tires and coatings, while Huber is a leader in dentifrice and consumer goods. For the 2016 financial year, Huber Silica is expected to achieve sales of close to $300 million, with an EBITDA of $60 million. The transaction is expected to be completed in the second half of 2017.
Kiran Global Chems Limited, a chemical company based in Chennai, India), started up a new precipitated silica plant in SIPCOT Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, India in August 2016. The silica plant operates as Allied Silica and plans to produce more than 40 grades under the AlliedSil tradename for a range of applications including tires, dental, MRG, pesticides, paints, inks, cosmetics, pharma, plastic, and animal feed. Allied Silica plans to add a second phase in 2017 that will more than double its capacity. Here is the company’s contact info.
India currently ranks as the third largest market for precipitated silica in Asia, and the sixth largest overall. India’s silica market is growing 8%-9% per year.
More detail on this expansion as well as other recent and proposed expansion projects is available in the Silica Market Update, which is published twice per year by Notch Consulting. The most recent edition of the report was published in September 2016 and includes details on 21 recent and proposed capacity expansion projects for precipitated silica, as well as global and regional supply and demand (historical and forecast), market trends, and current pricing. Here is an overview of the current report.
On October 20, Cabot Corporation announced plans to increase capacity for plastic formulations for conductive compounds and masterbatches for engineering thermoplastic applications at its facility in Pepinster, Belgium. The investment will occur within Cabot’s Specialty Compounds business and the new capacity will focus on products used in automotive, electronics, and industrial safety applications. The company did not announce how much capacity would be added or a timeline for the investment.
Late last week, Orion Engineered Carbons announced two actions regarding their business in Korea. In the first, Orion will convert a tire grade carbon black line at its plant in Yeosu to produce specialty and technical grades instead of tire grades. The action will impact 20,000 tons of carbon black. The conversion project will being in 4Q 2016 and is expected to be completed by July 2017.
“This line conversion in Yeosu is among the next steps in Orion Engineered Carbons’ ongoing transition to higher value added products for specialty and technically demanding rubber applications,” said Jack Clem, Orion’s Chief Executive Officer. “This project, along with our previously announced plans to expand the specialty and technical grade mix at our Qingdao, China plant, will continue our penetration of the rapidly growing North and Southeast Asian markets, as well as providing support for demand from the rest of the world.”
Secondly, Orion announced that it will implement a base price increase of up to 9% on all Rubber Black grades produced in South Korea and sold in the Asia/Pacific market. The increase will begin on December 1, 2016. Orion cites tightening environmental laws and regulations, which the company says are adding substantial amounts to its operating cost base, as are annual increases in labor costs. These conditions are being exacerbated by unfavorable developments in the feedstock market; over the last months Orion reports that it has had to pay significantly more for high quality carbon black oil due to a very tight Korean fuel oil market. The price increases have occurred independently from the underlying movements of the Singapore fuel oil index, which is used as the reference for price adjustments related to oil price changes that Orion negotiates with its Korean customers on a regular basis.
This discrepancy mirrors similar recent issues in both Europe and the United States wherein actual feedstock costs have differed significantly from the index grades used to calculate feedstock costs for pass-through.
Here are the press releases:
This week Cancarb Limited announced the appointment of Kangshin Industrial Co., Ltd. as Cancarb’s authorized distributor for Thermax thermal black in South Korea as of January 1, 2017. Cancarb is the world’s leading producer of thermal black and is a subsidiary of Tokai Carbon.
Here is the press release.