Solutia Inc. and Honeywell Specialty Materials are betting on a nylon resin rebound, as each has increased capacity for the material so far this year.
St. Louis-based Solutia has added almost 160 million pounds of annual capacity for nylon 6/6 in Pensacola, Fla., by converting capacity originally used to make nylon staple fiber, according to spokesman Dan Jenkins. The expansion covers Solutia's Vydyne- and Ascend-brand products, Jenkins said.
``Automotive is a key application for the new capacity, but it also will go into electrical and electronic areas in domestic and export markets,'' he said. The Chinese auto market in particular is showing high growth and will be an export target for the new Solutia material, he noted.
The expanded capacity was up and running in early April. The firm did not disclose the project's cost.
Solutia also is adding a third line for Saflex-brand polyvinyl butyral interlayers at its plant in Ghent, Belgium. The interlayers are used as protective layers in glass windows. That expansion - which will create 30 jobs - is expected to be complete in 2008.
Solutia posted 2006 sales of $2.9 billion, an increase of more than 5 percent over 2005. The firm has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since late 2003, largely as a result of environmental liabilities inherited from its predecessor firm, Monsanto Co.
At Morristown, N.J.-based Honeywell, the firm added about 35 million pounds of annual capacity for Aegis-brand specialty nylon at its plant in Chesterfield, Va.
Officials said that expansion in January was accomplished through ``productivity improvement efforts'' and did not require major capital investment. It was motivated, in part, by the pending conclusion of a deal under which BASF Corp. marketed and sold Honeywell nylon resins in exchange for caprolactam feedstock - an arrangement that is set to expire May 1.
``We want to be a bigger player in the merchant business,'' Honeywell's Qamar Bhatia said in a recent phone interview. ``The expansion will allow us to be more active in the food-packaging film market, which is increasing globally.''
Some of the new material will be sold into export markets. Global nylon resin demand is expected to grow about 3 percent annually, but Bhatia said that in China, annual growth could reach 8-10 percent.
Caprolactam feedstock for the new capacity will be supplied from Honeywell's massive site in Hopewell, Va. Bhatia said the site's low-cost economics offer an advantage to the resin business.
Honeywell Specialty Materials posted sales of $4.7 billion in 2006. The firm is a unit of technology and manufacturing conglomerate Honeywell International Inc.
The North American nylon market is looking to bounce back from 2006, when sales were flat at about 1.3 billion pounds.
That total included a 25 percent jump in export sales and a 5 percent drop in domestic sales, mostly because of a downturn in the automotive sector, where nylon sales fell 13 percent. The auto sector accounted for about 40 percent of domestic nylon use in 2006.