Evonik has started up on schedule its new plant complex in Antwerp for production of fumed silica. With this, the specialty chemicals company can now serve the high demand for fumed silicas marketed under the AEROSIL® brand. Typical applications include paints and coatings, advanced adhesive systems, transparent silicones, and nonflammable high-performance insulation materials. Evonik has invested a sum in the upper double-digit million euro range in the new plant complex.
“We’re pursuing a clear growth strategy for our silica business. With the additional capacities, we’re ensuring supply for our customers over the long term,” said Harald Schwager, deputy chairman of Evonik’s executive board. As part of Smart Materials, silica belongs to one of Evonik’s four strategic growth engines with above-average market growth. The growth of the global market for fumed silicas is expected to exceed 4 percent annually, outpacing the global economy as a whole.
Along with the market for hydrophilic fumed silica, demand is also growing for specialty hydrophobic silicas. The existing plant in Antwerp has accordingly been upgraded such that hydrophilic fumed silica can be given hydrophobic properties by special post-treatment. Evonik therefore now produces hydrophobic AEROSIL® at a second European site in addition to Rheinfelden, thus servicing continued high demand.
Andreas Fischer, member of the management board of Evonik Resource Efficiency GmbH, said: “We’re happy we’re now in a position to meet customer’s requests for higher quantities, in particular for hydrophobic AEROSIL®. The capacity to supply our own raw materials at the site, and its central location in Europe, were also especially important to us for this project. The site’s proximity to the international export port in Antwerp is an important factor in supplying our customers worldwide.”
With the simultaneous modernization of the silane production plants as part of the investment, raw-material supply for AEROSIL® production as well as tire silanes is assured. AEROSIL® is produced as fumed silica by high-temperature hydrolysis of silanes in a hydrogen flame.