China challenged to build own chloride-route TiO2 plant – Tronox CEO

21 February 2012 16:41  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Chinese competitors in the titanium dioxide (TiO2) industry are finding it hard to build a chloride-process TiO2 facility, as underlined by recent allegations of intellectual property theft, the CEO of US-based producer Tronox said on Tuesday.

Tronox CEO Tom Casey said that many attempts to build a chloride-process TiO2 plant in China in past years failed because of the sophisticated and demanding intellectual property necessary to build such a facility.

Recent reports about an alleged theft of DuPont TiO2 intellectual property involving a Chinese firm showed China's great interest in a chloride-process TiO2 plant, but it also underlined the degree to which Chinese firms lacked confidence in their ability to build such a plant on their own, Casey said.

“There have been a number of Chinese firms over the last years that have tried to build a chloride-process plant in China, and have failed,” Casey said, responding to an analyst’s question about the DuPont case during Tronox’s 2011 fourth-quarter results conference call.

“The fact that people haven’t build one means that they can’t, not that they don’t want to,” Casey said. The last new chloride-process TiO2 plant was built in 1994, he added.

Casey said the chloride-route to TiO2 was a clearly superior process compared with the alternative sulphate-based processes. China’s government was encouraging the country’s TiO2 producers to move away from the sulphate to the chloride process, he added.

ICIS reported last week that a former DuPont engineer would plead not guilty to allegations that he helped steal his former employer's chloride-route TiO2 technology.

The employee allegedly provided the technology to a businessman who then provided it to a Chinese state-controlled company to be used at a 100,000 tonne/year TiO2 plant in Chongqing, China.

Casey added that he could not comment on the specific merits of that case as he does not know the details.

Additional reporting by Al Greenwood

By: Stefan Baumgarten
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