By Patrick Raleigh UT On-line/news editorDusseldorf, Germany-Goldschmidt AG, part of Degussa AG, has started up a 14-kilotonnes-per-annum polyether plant at its Hopewell, Virginia site. The polyethers facility will supply feedstock for the silicone foam surfactants production at the site of its US subsidiary Goldschmidt Chemical Corp. The plant makes polyethers by polymerising ethylene oxide and/or propylene oxide with low molecular weight alcohols. These products are then reacted with siloxanes to yield silicone additives used in a wide variety of end products, including PU surfactants.Goldschmidt's US unit has relied on polyether raw materials brought in from Europe since it started production in the early 1990s. The new plant is part of Goldschmidt plan to operate stand-alone foam surfactants businesses in the three main regions, Asia, Europe and North America."Degussa now possesses the full vertical range of manufacturing capabilities for specialty siloxanes in the NAFTA region and in Europe. Previously we could offer this only at our Essen, Germany site," said Hans-Joachim Kollmeier, division head of Degussa's performance materials unit.Goldschmidt has last year opened a urethane additives technical centre at Hopewell. The company employs 210 people at the site, which also supplies feedstock for industrial specialties, coating and ink additives, and personal care products.Since 2002, Goldschmidt has also operated a polyurethane additives plant in Shanghai, China, which is backed by a technical and customer service centre. The company is also planning to expand its main polyurethane additives operation in Essen. "