Ascend Performance Materials plans to build a plant making nylon feedstock hexamethylene diamine in China.
The plant will be in the Xuwei New Area Park in Lianyungang and will be Ascend's first chemical production facility outside of the U.S., as well as the firm's largest non-U.S. investment.
The plant will make HMD and other specialty chemicals to supply Ascend's global nylon production and to serve its regional customers.
"As we looked to the future, our next key pillar was in HMD," President and CEO Phil McDivitt said in an interview with Plastics News. "We need this volume to support growth in our nylon and HMD business and to grow in Asia."
Houston-based Ascend ranks as a global leader in nylon 6/6 resins and compounds. Previously, the firm had supplied its global production sites with HMD from plants in Decatur, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla.
"The key thing we looked at is moving from being a North American supplier to becoming a global company," McDivitt said. He added that adding HMD production in China "will free up" capacity for that material in the U.S.
Construction on the new plant will begin this year, with completion expected in the second half of 2023. Ascend officials declined to provide investment, production or job totals for the new plant.
Global nylon supplies have been tight in recent years, partly because of tight supplies of HMD. Ascend also has expanded and debottlenecked its HMD site in Decatur.
Ascend saw "substantial sales growth" in 2020 and now has annual sales of more than $3 billion, McDivitt said. Although semiconductor shortages have affected automotive production, the firm "continues to see good opportunities throughout our business," he added.
Ascend is a unit of investment firm SK Capital Partners of New York. In recent years, Ascend has made several acquisitions, most recently buying a compounding plant in Mexico from DM Color Mexicana SA de CV in December. McDivitt said the firm "continues to be active in looking for opportunities on a global basis."
"We look at it and ask what kind of company we want to be in 2025 and 2026," he added. "One of the benefits of being part of SK and being a private firm is looking at opportunities and making investments to transform the company."