BASF adding plant to Freeport campus

BASF on Monday announced it is building a new production plant at its sprawling Freeport, Texas campus, putting it in line with other chemical companies that are taking advantage of low-cost natural gas in expanding U.S. facilities.

The new production facility will join 24 other plants at BASF’s Freeport site and is expected to begin operations in mid-2014. It will churn out acrylic emulsion polymers that are used for architectural coatings, adhesives and in construction chemicals.

Although the primary raw materials used to make the emulsion polymers is oil-based, site senior vice president Chris Witte said low-cost energy brought about by a surge in a domestic natural gas drilling is a benefit.

“Lower energy costs always helps with your cost structure in the production process,” he noted. “From an energy perspective, the shale gas finds have helped to lower production costs.”

With its new plant, the Ludwigshafen, Germany-headquartered BASF also will be able to take advantage of other raw materials and expertise already on site. For instance, the acrylic acid that is used in manufacturing acrylates is already available at the facility.

BASF refers to its integrated approach as the “Verbund” model, using the German word for “linked.”

According to BASF, about 25 jobs will be connected to the new plant, joining about 700 employees and another 780 contractors who already work at the Freeport site.

The new plant will be built within BASF’s existing 500-acre campus.

The company has three other emulsion plants in North America — including facilities in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Mexico. The new production plant in Freeport allows the manufacturer to better meet the needs of nearby customers in the central-southern United States.

Chuck Schmidt, BASF’s senior vice president for paper chemicals in North America, said in a statement that the investment shows the company’s commitment to meeting the demand for the materials by paper and board manufacturers in the region.

Founded in 1958, BASF’s Freeport campus is the company’s oldest manufacturing site outside of Europe. It produces 23 different products, including cyclohexanone used as a solvent in producing magnetic recording media, alcohols used in wood finishes and polymer resins used in carpet and clothing.