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Solvay Specialty Polymers expands range in China

By: Frank Esposito

July 30, 2013

Solvay Specialty Polymers has expanded the range of compounds made at its Chinese plant and also has opened six new global warehouses since the start of the year.

Solvay SP – an Alpharetta, Ga.-based unit of global chemicals maker Solvay Group of Brussels – in January began making compounds based on its KetaSpire, AvaSpire and Torlin high-performance resins in Changshu, China. KetaSpire is a polyetheretherketone (PEEK), AvaSpire is a polyaryletherketone (PAEK) and Torlon is a polyamide-imide (PAI).

The Changshu plant opened last year and had been compounding other Solvay resins. But the time was right to add the “ultrapolymer” lineup of PEEK, PAEK and PAI, Solvay executive Chris Wilson said in a recent phone interview.

“We had been supplying (China) by export from India, the U.S. or Europe,” said Wilson, who serves as senior vice president of the firm’s ultra-performance materials business. “But our sales (in China) had reached critical mass, so now was the right time to expand. Sales for high-performance materials are expanding in that part of the world.”

Markets using these high-end materials include transportation, healthcare, electronics, oil and gas and semiconductors. Solvay’s total investment in the Changshu plant now stands at more than $27 million.

Solvay also has expanded its supply chain for these products by adding two U.S. warehouse locations – one in the Houston area and another in the Minneapolis area — and four in Asia, including sites in China, Singapore, Japan and South Korea.

In a news release, officials said that the warehouse expansions “place these ultrapolymers in close proximity to the markets in key geographies around the world.” They added that in the U.S., consumption of these resins is concentrated because of the strong presence of companies involved in oil and gas exploration and production.

Wilson said PEEK, PAEK and PAI are being used in equipment used to explore and produce shale gas in the region, especially with discovery efforts going deeper into the ground and experiencing hotter temperatures.

Although growth in the U.S. is “quite strong,” Wilson said Solvay has no current plans to expand its compounding assets in the region. The firm operates U.S. compounding sites in Alpharetta and Augusta, Ga.; Greenville, S.C.; West Depford, N.J.; and Marietta, Ohio.