Ineos Acrylics Inc. is expanding North American capacity for acrylic sheet and the key monomer used to make acrylics. Meanwhile, its parent company is building a pilot plant to test a more cost-effective production method to make the monomer, methylmethacrylate.
Ineos Acrylics will spend $11 million to boost capacity for Lucite extruded sheet and for acrylic sheet made directly from MMA monomer. The firm said the project will increase sheet capacity by 45 million pounds a year to 120 million pounds.
Spokesman Bill Faulhaber said the project at its Olive Branch, Miss., plant will be completed in the next couple of years.
Ineos also makes Lucite continuous cast sheet in Memphis, Tenn., where capacity is 55 million pounds annually.
In Beaumont, Texas, Ineos is investing $13 million to $15 million to add another 50 million pounds per year of MMA to the plant's current capacity of 290 million pounds. Combined with production at its Memphis facility, Ineos will have 680 million pounds of MMA capacity. Globally, Ineos will have 1.3 billion pounds of MMA available.
Ineos Acrylics Ltd. of Southhampton, England, said it has developed a patented, ethylene-based process to make MMA. It will test the process, called Alpha, in a pilot plant in Wilton, England, starting up next spring or summer. Faulhaber estimated cost of the pilot facility will be 7 million ($10.5 million).
Traditional MMA production is based on acetone, hydrogen cyanide and isobutylene and requires expensive acid recovery systems and other costly equipment. Faulhaber said the Alpha process promises reductions in capital and variable costs of 20-30 percent.
Ineos Acrylics was formed when parent Ineos Group Ltd. bought the acrylics business from Imperial Chemical Industries plc in 1999.