Issue Date: March 12, 2018
Kevlar jobs not bulletproof at 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.
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