By Liz White, editor
Shanghai, China -- Huntsman Corp. opened its new $10-million Asia-Pacific Technology Centre 2 Sept, in the Minhang Industrial Development Zone on the outskirts of Shanghai -- just across the road from its 12-year-old systems house -- and pledged that it would also substantially expand the current facilities at the site for developing polyurethane products in the immediate future.
Welcoming a large group of customers and guests, Tony Hankins, president of Huntsman Polyurethanes, pointed out the importance of China to Huntsman as a major manufacturer of MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate. China's growth in demand for MDI is at double digit level, and has been for the past five years, compared to 7 percent average growth in the rest of the world, he said.
According to Hankins, Huntsman was the first international polyurethanes producer to invest in China and he said it has "played an active role in developing the market for more than 25 years."
"Today the opening of the world class Technical Centre represents the latest step in our investment and growth programme," following the group's commissioning, with partners BASF AG and local investors, of a 240 kilotonnes-per-annum MDI plant in Caojing, near Shanghai, two years ago, the Huntsman executive continued.
"Innovation is the lifeblood of our business, it underpins everything that we do," said Hankins, adding that an important thrust in the centre's work and of Huntsman globally is products which help the environment, including its range of insulation products, which contribute widely to energy conservation.
Pointing out Huntsman's contribution to the recent highly successful Beijing Olympics, in terms of MDI-based insulation in the Bird's Nest stadium, as well as thermoplastic polyurethanes and elastomers used in athlete's footwear and performance clothing, Hankins said such developments are inspirational in motivating staff to "push the boundaries of polyurethanes technology to new limits."
Currently the ATC's facilities include a line for making discontinuous insulation panels, which Dr Enshan Sheng, Huntsman's country manager for China, said is the only laboratory equipment of its kind in Apac (Asia Pacific) presently. Equipment for manufacturing moulded rigid and flexible foam parts and spray polyurea coatings will be added to with extruders and injection-moulding machines for TPUs, and a low-pressure elastomer moulding unit, said the new technical centre's Wee Ling Ng, one of 25 staff currently employed at the 8460 sq.m facility.
Within two years, Huntsman expects to spend an unspecified amount on top of its initial $10-million investment to add this new development equipment and double the staff, said Umesh Sharma, business development director for Huntsman in the APAC region. Sharma closed the inauguration ceremony, held a day before the UTECH ASIA/PU China 2008 event kicks off at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre.
In addition to the product development equipment in the machinery hall, the ATC's 14000-sq.m site houses 16 laboratories for formulation development, analysis, and testing: government approval for start up was gained only the week before the inauguration, Sheng said, stressing that in the wake of the Olympics China has become very strong in setting and enforcing environmental regulations."