Shanghai — Additives specialist Baerlocher GmbH is boosting capacity of its plant in Changzhou, which produces calcium stabilizers for PVC.
When the $5 million expansion is finished by the end of the year, the plant will be capable of producing 40,000 metric tons, up from 30,000 tons per year, said Andy Jones, global head of PVC additives at privately held Baerlocher. The plant has about 90 workers.
The Munich-based company gained experience in calcium stabilizers when European and South American countries phased out lead in PVC pipes.
“We're positioned very nicely to benefit from this environmentally driven change,” said Jones, speaking at Baerlocher's booth at Chinaplas in Shanghai. Baerlocher also ships calcium stabilizers to China from its Malaysian plant.
Because PVC is extruded or molded at temperatures above 100° C, stabilizers are necessary to prevent decomposition, especially the emission of hydrogen chloride gas.
“The China Plastics Piping Association (CPPA) has made a commitment to eliminate lead from stabilizers in plastics by the end of next year. That's a pretty dramatic statement. If it happens, it would dwarf any other lead replacement from PVC on the planet,” said Jones.
“Baerlocher is by far the largest company from outside China to significantly invest in supporting the Chinese plastics industry during its transition to calcium-based stabilization,” said Wilson Wang, general manager of Baerlocher Plastic Additives (Jiangsu) Co. Ltd.
Two years ago, CPPA voluntarily committed to eliminating lead stabilizers from all PVC pipes. But the group's goal of replacing lead with more expensive calcium stabilizers by the end of 2015 has already been pushed back, as pipe makers in the hypercompetitive industry try to keep costs low.
Further expansion is possible on a plot of land Baerlocher purchased next to the existing Changzhou plant.
“If we continue the trend we're on, we're going to need 90,000 tons [of capacity] in three years,” Jones said.
Baerlocher derives about 70 percent of its sales from PVC additives, with the remaining sales for nylon 6/6, ABS and other polymer additives.