London - Japanese materials supplier Asahi Kasei is continuing to assess plans to build a synthetic rubber plant in Europe, the company has informed ERJ.
The company is, however, “taking the time to carefully plan” the solution styrene-butadiene rubber (SSBR) project, according to an Asahi spokesman.
At present, there is “declining automotive production and decreased demand for tires and raw materials,” he pointed out in a written statement.
Asahi Kasei last year revealed that Europe was a “very strong candidate” for the location of its next SSBR plant.
Following strong growth in recent years, about 30% of Asahi’s SSBR sales are now in Europe, company officials told ERJ in early 2018.
“So, if we look at expansion Europe is a strong candidate, obviously because we have the market base,” said Takayuki Nomoto, then senior general manager of Asahi’s synthetic rubber division.
The competitiveness of butadiene, he went on to say, “is also an advantage we see when we look at Europe.”
Asahi’s current production footprint comprises two plants in Japan – Kanagawa and Oita prefectures – and one in Singapore.
Earlier this year, the company started up an expansion at its SSBR production site in Singapore: raising it total capacity there to 130 kilotonnes per annum (ktpa).
In 2016, Asahi Kasei unveiled ambitions plans to become “the world’s no 1 SSBR supplier” by 2020 through technological development and “proactive capacity expansion”.
The company currently produces a total of 270ktpa of SSBR, with 140ktpa manufactured in its facilities in Japan.