BASF Neopor Plant, Ludwigshafen, Germany

The Neopor plant in Ludwigshafen, Germany, opened for operations in March 2009 and is operated by the German chemical company BASF. The new plant was built to enable BASF to quickly respond to customers' requirements and adapt to shifting market demands.

The company's portfolio ranges from chemicals, plastics and performance products to agricultural products. It has 97,000 employees worldwide and in 2008 achieved sales of above US$82bn.

The plant was constructed specifically to meet the increasing global demand for Neopor – BASF's expandable polystyrene (EPS) used for insulating purposes. Insulating materials manufactured using Neopor save at least 30% of the energy required to cool houses in warm climates. Various applications of Neopor are flat roof, insulation, impact-sound insulation, and the insulation of attics and basement roofs.

Production and capacity

BASF's Neopor plant has a yearly production capacity of 90,000mt and will operate with a specially designed extrusion process.

The process is aimed at yielding more uniformly sized granules and will permit a targeted setting of the panel properties, such as compression resistance. Neopor is produced in the form of black beads, which can be transformed into silver-gray foamed panels or moulded parts. The raw material used to produce Neopor consists of unique graphite particles, which reflect heat like a mirror. This in turn helps to reduce thermal losses and improve insulation. Neopor's insulating capacity is further improved in low densities.

"The plant was constructed to meet the increasing global demand for Neopor – expandable polystyrene."

The company has kept the precise details of the new extrusion process confidential, but the method is a sharp contrast to the suspension method implemented by BASF in its other plants. Chemically, Neopor is an advanced form of the popular EPS Styropor.

A small amount of Neopor is sufficient to gain the same insulating effect as that of Styropor. To produce 16cm-thick insulation for a building, just 540kg of Neopor is required. In comparison, to produce the same insulation, about 970kg of Styropor is required. Using Neopor therefore results in a 40% saving in raw material cost.

The company has a range of Neopor plants around the world and the new plant in Ludwigshafen is designed to enable BASF to be more flexible when responding to market needs.

Construction of the BASF Neopor Plant

BASF first announced plans for a new plant in Ludwigshafen in March 2007 and its construction began shortly after. BASF did not wish to disclose the name of the contractors involved during the construction period.

As with the construction of all its plants, the company observed the environmental regulations given by legal authorities.

The plant's production of customer samples began in March 2009 and the facility is planned to start normal operations within the next few months. Its production rate is dictated by market demand.

"The plant's production of customer samples began in March 2009 and the facility is planned to start normal operations within the next few months."

The Neopor plant is estimated to employ a workforce of about 20 people and due to the current economic climate, will consider internal job applicants first.

Plant targets

The plant's focus on Neopor marks the increasing importance of the product to BASF. The insulating capacity of Neopor is up to 20% better than that of Styropor. The product is therefore more energy efficient and capable of reducing CO2 emissions. The product also has a range of advantages such as high durability and cost efficiency.

Neopor's durability is evident from its resistance to ageing and rotting. It is easy to handle for contractors as it can be quickly installed. Neopor is also environmentally friendly as it does not contain any chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).

BASF believes the global market for EPS-based insulating materials will grow by about 5% each year - driven onwards by rising energy prices and statutory regulations.

The material is already being used widely across Germany. About 30% of all EPS-based insulating materials are used in new buildings and 70% are used in renovation projects. This is forecast to rise to 75% by 2012.