Volume 96 Issue 11 | p. 17 | News of The Week
Issue Date: March 12, 2018

Kevlar jobs not bulletproof at DuPont

Move comes as part of an effort to outsource feedstock for bulletproof and fire-resistant fibers
Department: Business
Keywords: Polymers, DuPont, Kevlar, Nomex, aramid fibers, job cuts
Kevlar p-aramid fiber bobbins.
Credit: DuPont
Photo of a technician inspecting bobbins of Kevlar p-aramid fiber.
Kevlar p-aramid fiber bobbins.
Credit: DuPont

DuPont will eliminate about 100 jobs and close a plant in Deepwater, N.J., as part of an effort to lower costs for intermediates used to make the bulletproof aramid fiber Kevlar and its fire-resistant cousin Nomex.

Instead, the Indian chemical maker Transpek Industry will supply the intermediates to DuPont’s fiber plant in Richmond, Va.

An insider says DuPont chose Transpek to supply the monomers, isophthaloyl chloride and terephthaloyl chloride, because “there are no other suppliers of these materials in the U.S.” The firm adds that Transpek’s technology is newer and more productive than its own.

Kevlar is made by reacting p-phenylenediamine and terephthaloyl chloride. Nomex is made by reacting m-phenylenediamine and isophthaloyl chloride.

The Deepwater site, known as the Chambers Works, is now owned by DuPont spin-off Chemours. The decision to stop making the intermediates there will allow DuPont to focus on “new products innovations and the modernization” of the firm’s aramid fiber plants, the firm says. The company source adds that DuPont is investing more than $50 million in its Richmond fiber-making operations.

The investment follows DuPont’s 2017 shutdown of its Cooper River Kevlar facility near Charleston, S.C. The firm opened the plant in 2011 at a cost of $500 million to meet rising demand for the fibers in armored vehicles, bulletproof vests, and firefighters’ turnout coats.

By 2016 DuPont was reporting declining fiber sales in oil, military, and industrial markets. Demand improved in 2017, but the firm closed the Cooper River unit in a cost-saving move.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society
Elizabeth Cates (Mon Mar 12 12:48:14 EDT 2018)
What does this mean for Kevlar-containing products that require Berry amendment compliance?
Alasdair Carmichael (Wed Mar 14 08:26:27 EDT 2018)
I believe the requirement is that the yarn is produced in the USA, not the raw materials, so it would still be berry compliant if the Kevlar/Nomex is made in Richmond
Tim Hix (Mon Mar 19 00:29:46 EDT 2018)
So, great job by GOP and Trump to save jobs!

Was it poor management (or greed?) by DuPont over the years to let this happen or just the inevitable march of progress?

Such a long supply chain will be an increased challenge.
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