Wacker Chemie's Dispersions Plant Expansion, Ulsan, South Korea


Wacker Chemie commissioned its newly expanded production plant for vinyl acetate-ethylene copolymer (VAE) dispersions at its Ulsan site, in South Korea, in February 2013. The expansion involved an investment of $10m.

Construction works on the expansion commenced in September 2012. The works involved the installation of a new reactor with a production capacity of 40,000t per annum. The installation of the new reactor has now increased the production capacity at the Ulsan site to 90,000t per annum. The expansion activities also involved the construction of a tank and filling warehouse.

The project was carried out owing to the increasing demand for VAE dispersions in the south-east Asian market and to keep the potential future demand in focus. The new reactor has been installed to meet the huge market demand for VAE dispersions from industries such as non-wovens, paints and coatings, construction, paper and carpet.

Wacker Chemie's Ulsan site history

Operations at the Ulsan site were started in 1993 with a VAE factory operated by Tae Young Chemical Corporation. The operations were handed over to Air Products of Korea in 1998 and the site was finally acquired by Wacker Chemie in 2008. The facility, prior to the expansion, had a production capacity of 50,000t per year. It is located in Seongam-dong Nam-gu, Ulsan, which is a major industrial city in the south-east of South Korea.

Feedstock and processing technology

"The project was carried out owing to the increasing demand for VAE dispersions in the south-east Asian market."

VAE dispersions are copolymers which apply ethylene and vinyl acetate as feedstock for production. The main components for both vinyl and ethylene include monomers, water and surfactants. Certain additives, such as defoamers and biocides, also play specific roles and are used in small quantities.

The process technology of VAE dispersion follows the emulsion polymerisation process where soft hydrophobic monomer ethylene and hard polar monomer vinyl acetate are polymerised under high pressure, resulting in the dispersion where VAE copolymer comes out as the final product.

The production process also involves the removal of the residual monomers and other volatile substances by means of various chemical and physical measures. Equipment used for processing depend on the type of monomers. Open vessels are not compatible in the production process for VAE dispersions and thus the process normally implements autoclave.

The production processes are supervised from a control room at the site.

Market for Wacker Chemie's VAE dispersions

Wacker Chemie markets its polymer powders and dispersions under the brand name of VINNAPAS. VAE copolymer dispersions are primarily used as binders in the construction and coating industries.

"VAE dispersions are copolymers which apply ethylene and vinyl acetate as feedstock for production."

Their utility is witnessed in the adhesive and automotive industries too.

They are normally used for paints and coating industries, as they emanate less odour, have good durability, provide high water resistance and are environmentally-friendly, with no content of alkylphenol ethoxylate (APEO). They are also recognised for being resistant to acids and alkalies to certain extent.

The popularity of VAE dispersions in the construction industry is mainly boosted by their lightweight and energy efficient characteristics. They are also used as binders in nonwovens and technical textiles and as additives for composites.

Marketing commentary for the chemical company

Founded in 1914 and headquartered in Munich, Wacker Chemie owns more than 50% of the world's VAE technology production capacity. It has about 20 production sites worldwide and employs about 15,618 people.

In addition to the Ulsan site expansion Wacker Chemie is also expanding its VAE capacity at Nanjing site in China by installing a new reactor with a production capacity of 60,000t per year. The expansion activities in Nanjing are scheduled for completion in the summer of 2013.

NRI Energy Technology

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