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Lanxess boosts Antwerp caprolactam capacity to satisfy nylon demand; BASF cuts PS production on the continent

 Lanxess AG (Leverkusen, Germany) will invest euro 35 million to raise caprolactam capacity 10% in the port of Antwerp by 2010, boosting the key polyamide (PA) feedstock in response to growing demand for PA 6. The plant’s current capacity is roughly 200,000 tonnes/yr, with half of that caprolactam monomer used in the production of the company’s Durethan PA line.

 Lanxess AG (Leverkusen, Germany) will invest euro 35 million to raise caprolactam capacity 10% in the port of Antwerp by 2010, boosting the key polyamide (PA) feedstock in response to growing demand for PA 6. The plant’s current capacity is roughly 200,000 tonnes/yr, with half of that caprolactam monomer used in the production of the company’s Durethan PA line. Lanxess is in the midst of investment measures to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of the Antwerp site, and it says the upstream investment in caprolactam will help shield the downstream Durethan product from some volatility. Lanxess also manufactures glass fibers in Antwerp, with those also seeing use in PA products. The company’s caprolactam operation includes five facilities in Antwerp, and the increase in monomer production will also require a boost in the manufacture of precursor materials like KA-oil (a mixture of cyclohexanone and cyclohexanol processed into caprolactam) to see their production lifted 25% to 150,000 tonnes/yr by 2010.

During the company’s third International Media Day in Cologne, Germany, Chairman of the Board Axel C. Heitmann said Lanxess has adopted a three-pronged strategy to survive what is a difficult market: supplementing organic growth by investing in existing business units; pursuing acquisitions to broaden and strengthen the group’s portfolio; and researching and developing innovative products. Lanxess says that by 2009, it will have invested euro 1 billion worldwide, with more than half of this amount plowed into German sites.

Also important is an expansion of business in emerging markets, particularly the so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) regions, targeting Russia in 2009 with the launch of its own company based in Moscow. Lanxess reports that the Russian chemicals market is growing in excess of 5% annually, while it believes annual sales growth of up to 20% is “a realistic prospect.”

Elsewhere in Europe, starting Oct. 1, BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany) will cut polystyrene (PS) production on the continent by 25%, citing diminished demand it links to an overall sluggish economy. Jaroslaw Michniuk, head of BASF’s business unit Styrenics Europe, said PS’s markets have shrunk in “almost all customer sectors” in 2008, leading to the move which will directly affect its Ludwigshafen and Antwerp sites.

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