Projects: Rhodia considers bio-based solvents plants in Brazil, Asia

28 May 2012 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Producer expects to build new capacity for bio-based solvents in Paulinia, as well as in Asia

Rhodia plans to build a bio-based solvents plant at its Paulinia site in Sao Paulo, southeast Brazil, and is also studying a project in Asia.

The company, part of Belgium-based Solvay, currently produces the solvents, branded Augeo, at its Santo Andre site, also in Sao Paulo. "The next facility will probably be built in Paulinia," said Vincent Kamel, president of Rhodia's Coatis oxygenated solvents and phenol-based products business.

The solvents are based on glycerin, a by-product of biodiesel production, and can be used as an alternative to petrochemical-based solvents such as glycol ethers and acetates.


Kamel leads expansion

An investment decision on the Paulinia project is expected in the second half of this year and the plant could become operational at the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014, he said.

Details of capacity and investment cost were not disclosed, although Kamel said the project would be larger than the existing Augeo plant in Santo Andre.

Rhodia intends to build its third Augeo plant in Asia. The company is looking at potential locations in China, South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia, Kamel said. The location should be close to biodiesel production, to source the glycerine feedstock, or close to a large customer base, he noted.

Rhodia is also debottlenecking its production of oxygenated solvents in line with market demand, said Kamel.

Latin American demand for ­oxygenated solvents is growing at about 3%/year, while global demand, driven by China, is growing at about 4%/year, Rhodia says.

The company has the capacity to produce a total of more than 300,000 tonnes/year of solvents from plants in Paulinia and Santo Andre, and some marginal capacity in Europe and Asia, said Kamel.

Rhodia will also market output from Saudi International Petrochemical's (Sipchem) ethyl acetate (etac) plant in Al-Jubail, Saudi Arabia, which is on schedule to begin production at the end of the first quarter next year, he added.

Rhodia provided the technology and will market most of the output from the 100,000 tonne/year Sipchem plant.

The company has also expanded its phenol production in Paulinia, raising the capacity to more than 250,000 tonnes/year from 227,000 tonnes/year in mid-April. "We are running at full rates," Kamel said, noting that output is slightly exceeding the 250,000 tonne/year design capacity.

Acetone capacity was raised to 150,000 tonnes/year from 135,000 tonnes/year, he said.

The expansion will mainly meet rising demand for phenol in Latin America. The phenol market there is estimated at about 200,000 tonnes, and is growing at about 4% per year, according to Rhodia. That means that about 8,000 tonnes of new phenol capacity will be needed each year, said Kamel. "So probably in the next two to three years we will be adding capacity again."

Phenol's main uses are in the production of bisphenol A (BPA) and phenolic resins.

By: Anna Jagger
+44 20 8652 3214

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