(EnergyAsia, September 12 2011, Monday) — Japan’s Zeon Corporation is looking to add a S$1 billion project in Singapore after breaking ground on its S$240 million synthetic rubber plant on Jurong Island early this month. (US$1=S$1.22).

Naozumi Furukawa, Zeon’s President and CEO, said it is weighing a decision by next March on whether to build a high-value C5 specialty chemicals complex on the island.

At the groundbreaking ceremony early this month, Mr Furukawa said the plant will produce ‘solution polymerised styrene-butadiene’ rubber (SSBR) to meet Asia’s growing demand for environmentally-friendly fuel-efficient tyres, in line with Zeon’s goal of increasing its output for tire-grade SSBR to more than 20% of product composition from 10% currently.

The plant will start up at between 30,000 metric tonnes and 40,000 mt from mid-July 2013, and add another 30,000-40,000 mt of capacity in the first half of 2016.

It will use a unique technology combining solution polymerisation and batch process suitable for the Silica compound that gives tires low rolling resistance and good wet grip at the same time. The technology is expected to be widely adopted as regulators around the world impose more environmental-friendly requirements on automative companies.

Zeon Corporation, a publicly listed company that manufactures and sells synthetic rubber, synthetic latex, petroleum resins and thermoplastic elastomer, said subsidiary Zeon Chemicals Singapore Pte Ltd started work on the project last December.

Mr Furukawa said: “The investment will take Zeon one step nearer to our goal of more than tripling our SSBR sales to US$422 million annually by 2020. We are also pleased to be located on Jurong Island which provides us not only with easy access to feedstock supplies but also to our markets in the region.

“Jurong Island’s vibrant and unique ecosystem of companies in the petrochemical industry also supports Zeon’s pioneering pursuit of high performance SSBR products.”

Due to the easy availability of butadiene and styrene feedstock from nearby petrochemical plants, Zeon Corp has joined Japan’s Sumitomo Chemicals and Asahi Kasei Chemicals, and Germany’s Lanxess in building synthetic rubber plants on Jurong Island.

The event was attended by Economic Development Board (EDB) director of chemicals, Liang Ting Wee, JTC director, Mr Heah Soon Poh, and other government and company representatives.