BASF is to build an engineering plastics compounding plant and a thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) plant at a proposed integrated chemical production site in Zhanjiang, China. The plants will be the first to begin production at the site, which is to become BASF’s third-largest site worldwide.
Compounding is a process in which plastics are melted and blended with additives to change the physical, thermal, electrical, or aesthetic characteristics. The engineering plastics compounding plant will supply BASF with additional capacity of 60,000 t/y, increasing the company’s capacity for the products in the Asia Pacific to 290,000 t/y. Operations are expected to begin by 2022.
TPU plastics are any class of polyurethane plastic with many properties, including elasticity, transparency, and resistance to oil, grease, and abrasion. The market for TPU is growing, and BASF supports this growth through supply of safety-enhanced cables and wires for automation and automotive, and lightweight materials for consumer goods.
BASF declined to disclose the capacity of the proposed TPU plant, as well as when operations are expected to begin.
Both new plants will employ automated packaging, high-tech control systems, and automated vehicles. This is part of BASF’s plan to “ implement a comprehensive smart manufacturing concept at the Verbund site based on cutting-edge technologies”. BASF uses the term Verbund to describe highly integrated chemicals sites, in which is production plants, energy and material flows, logistics, and site infrastructure are all integrated.
Tobias Schlichtmann, Vice President of Technology and Performance Materials at BASF said: “For the first plants at our Verbund site in Zhanjiang, smart manufacturing is about digitalisation and automation which will help us further improve our product quality, manufacturing efficiency, supply reliability and safety. Smart manufacturing also refers to the use of unmanned vehicles, robots, paperless operations and other technologies to reduce human errors and optimise production. We will expand this concept to better manage energy and waste and increase the use of renewable energy.”
Operations at the proposed Verbund site will be overseen by BASF Integrated Site (Guangdong), or BIG, BASF’s newly founded and wholly owned subsidiary. The first memorandum of understanding for the site was signed with the Guangdong Provincial Government in July 2018. According to Schlichtmann, the site is expected to be completed around 2030. It is expected to cost US$10bn.
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