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Lanxess Butyl Rubber Facility, Singapore

Key Data

On 18 January 2010, Germany-based speciality chemicals group LANXESS announced plans of constructing a butyl rubber plant on Jurong Island, Singapore. The plant will have a capacity of 100,000t per year and will produce regular butyl and halobutyl rubbers.

Construction of the plant is scheduled to start in June 2010 with production to begin in the first quarter of 2013. The project is expected to cost €400m ($575m).

Halobutyl rubber provides comfortable and fuel-efficient automotive transportation. Its applications include tyre inner liners and inner tubes of trucks, buses, cars and aeroplane tyres. The regular butyl is used for inner tubes of tyres and sports balls.

The rubber is also used for special applications such as protective clothing, curing bladders, body mounts and sound damping, adhesives and sealants, and pharmaceutical stoppers. In addition, butyl rubber has a niche market in the chewing gum industry.

Butyl rubber plant design and construction

The LANXESS butyl rubber plant will be built on a 200,000m² area of land, which will be leased from the JTC Corporation, an authorised agent of the Singapore Ministry for Trade and Industry.

"Halobutyl rubber provides fuel-efficient automotive transportation."

The Jurong Island is a hub of petrochemical and chemical companies. It has an ultramodern infrastructure, which will support the LANXESS facility.

The plant will have around 5,000 control circuits and a 40km pipeline will be laid for operations. Its construction is expected to require around 200 engineers and will create jobs for nearly 1,500 workers during peak times.

LANXESS will spend approximately 10-15% of the total project costs on environmental protection technology of the facility. The plant will have energy-efficient solutions such as waste heat recovery to save CO2, a treatment plant for the reduction of wastewater by 50% through internal recycling streams and other complex chemical infrastructure.

LANXESS butyl rubber plant process technology

LANXESS butyl rubber is a copolymer of isobutylene and has a small component of isoprene. The butyl rubber is produced by the polymerisation of 92% isobutylene and 8% isoprene at –100°C. The rubber reacts with hexane to produce halobutyl rubber through the process of halogenation.

"LANXESS will spend 10-15% of project costs on environmental protection technology."

The isoprene in the halobutyl rubber creates double bonds and allows the vulcanisation process with sulphur and other agents. This process makes it suitable for different rubber products.

The butyl rubber has a good resistance against ozone, weathering and hot air. It is also resistant towards basic and acidic chemicals, and has very low permeability to liquids and gases, as well as good rheological properties.

Butyl rubber plant feedstock

The key raw material for the rubber plant is isobutylene. The feedstock for the butyl rubber will be supplied by the neighbouring Shell Eastern Petrochemicals Complex under a long-term agreement made with LANXESS. The Shell petrochemical refinery in Pulau Bukom has an 800,000t per annum ethylene cracker.

Butyl plant contractors / companies

In June 2008 LANXESS awarded a contract to Jacobs Engineering for providing pre-project planning, the plant's design and front-end loading services to the butyl rubber manufacturing facility. The front-end loading phase is now complete.

The project team is preparing a bid package for the tender process for project execution. The contracts will be awarded after the evaluation of the market and considering several engineering companies, including Jacobs Engineering Singapore.

In 2009 LANXESS collaborated with the University of Bonn, the Technical University of Dortmund, Bayer Technology Services and special technology equipment manufacturer Buss-SMS-Canzler to develop an advanced technology for synthetic rubber production.

"The butyl rubber market is expected to grow by about 3% annually across the world."

The technology will be developed in three years and implemented in the rubber manufacturing process at the butyl rubber facility in Singapore. The investment for the development of the technology is about €10m, 50% of which will be funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The technology is expected to be environmentally friendly and more energy-efficient than traditional processes. It will also be used for the production of other synthetic rubbers, including polybutadiene products.

LANXESS butyl rubber plant construction

In 2009, LANXESS delayed the plant's construction until 2014 due to unpredictable customer ordering in the economic downturn. The demand, however, has stabilised and the butyl rubber market is expected to grow by about 3% annually across the world due to an increase in vehicle production and growth in the pharmaceutical industry. LANXESS has therefore decided to go ahead and start the plant construction in 2010.

Halobutyl and butyl rubbers have a good market in south-east Asian regions where around 50% of the company's production is supplied to China, India and South Korea. The main office of the butyl rubber business unit of LANXESS will be moved to Singapore from Fribourg, Switzerland, in order to meet the demand in Asia.

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