Specialty chemicals maker Arkema has announced a three-year, $110 million investment in acrylics production at two Houston-area facilities, targeting applications in water treatment, super absorbent polymers, and enhanced oil and gas recovery.
The program, which will focus on acrylic acid and its esters, “reinforces Arkema’s commitment to the Acrylics chain and its ambition as the No. 3 global supplier of Acrylics to grow this core strategic business while boosting its competitiveness,” the company said in a statement.
Expansion, New Plant Planned
The first project will focus on improving the reliability and competitiveness of the company’s Acrylic Acid facility in Clear Lake, TX, moving the plant toward a best-in-class facility with a new rated nameplate capacity of 270KT. That project will proceed with an aggressive development schedule; start-up is expected to begin in early 2013.
Acrylic acid is a chemical intermediate used to produce polymers, textiles and numerous other industrial and consumer products. Applications for water-based acrylics include masonry and industrial coatings, adhesives, and paper and leather coatings.
Also in Clear Lake, Arkema plans to build a new 45KT unit for the production of Methyl Acrylate, to be used in water treatment, elastomers and technical polymers. This unit is planned for startup in Q2 2013.
Methyl acrylate is in the chemical family of acrylate esters, which are used primarily for surface coatings, but also for leather, textiles, plastics, construction adhesives and chemical intermediates. Acrylate esters are also used to produce DMAEA, used to make flocculants for water treatment.
In Bayport, TX, Arkema will convert its Butyl Acrylate plant to a 40KT 2-Ethyl Hexyl Acrylate (2EHA) plant. The new operation is expected to begin operation in early 2012, when all Butyl Acrylate production will be relocated to the Clear Lake facility.
In all, the new capacities offered by the three facilities “will help Arkema meet demand in a number of fast-growing market segments, including super absorbents, as well as polymers for water treatment and enhanced oil and gas recovery,” the company said.
Philadelphia-based Arkema currently operates three acrylic acid production facilities: one in France (Carling), and two in Texas, at Bayport (JV with Nippon Shokubai) and Clear Lake (acquired from Dow in January 2010 as part of the acquisition of certain Dow acrylics assets).
The expansion plans mark a milestone for Arkema’s acrylics business, said Marie-Pierre Chevallier, Global President of Acrylics at Arkema.
“With two key strategic and balanced production platforms in Europe (Carling, France) and the Americas (Clear Lake and Bayport, TX), we can truly deliver our Acrylic offering in the United States, and generally for all our customers around the world,” she added.
Arkema has been aggressively ratcheting up capacity worldwide in recent years. In October, the company announced the acquisition of French company PIEZOTECH, which designs and manufactures electroactive fluorinated polymers, expanding its portfolio with a new range of ultra-high-performance materials for aerospace, textile, automotive and other sectors.
In September, Arkema announced that it would invest $30 million to build a latex plant in China to produce a range of emulsion polymers, primarily for use in the coatings and adhesives markets. Start-up of the new plant, to be located in the company’s Changshu platform, is expected in late 2012.
“This investment represents our first step toward establishing Arkema Emulsion Systems as a multi-national latex supplier,” said Richard Jenkins, Managing Director of Arkema Emulsion Systems Business Unit.
An acrylic polymer plant for Arkema subsidiary Coatex is expected to start up at the Changshu site in mid-2011. The new facility, announced in July 2009, will target several growing markets, including paints and coatings.
In May, Arkema and joint venture partner Daikin announced the successful startup of an HFC-125 production plant at Changshu. HFC-125 is an essential component in new-generation refrigerant blends.
Arkema, formerly known as Atofina, consists of three businesses: Vinyl Products, Industrial Chemicals, and Performance Products. The company reported sales of 4.4 billion euros (about $5.9 billion US) in 2009. Arkema has 13,800 employees in over 40 countries and seven research centers in France, the United States and Japan.