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Economy

DyStar to close 125-year-old indigo plant in Germany

The facility was built in the first days of the chemical industry

by Alex Scott
April 27, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 14

This is a photo of a stack of blue jeans.
Credit: Shutterstock

DyStar, a producer of dyestuffs with a history going back to the start of the modern chemical industry, says it will close a plant in Ludwigshafen, Germany, that has been producing the blue dye indigo for at least 125 years.

DyStar, which is based in Singapore, says it is closing the plant because of high energy costs, inflation, and the need to focus on emerging markets. The plant’s 80 or so employees will be made redundant. The company says supply will not be disrupted, as it has production capacity in China, where most indigo is produced today. DyStar intends to hand the site back to BASF, its former owner, by the end of 2024.

Located on the bank of the Rhine River, the plant mostly produces indigo, a dye that is still in demand today to color denim for blue jeans. Initially, BASF made indigo from coal tar; today the process is petroleum-based.

BASF, an acronym for Badische Anilin und Sodafabrik, was founded in 1865 to produce the necessary chemicals—including soda ash and acids—required for dye production. Alizarin, a red dye, became BASF’s “first global sales hit,” the company states on its website.

Ludwigshafen, Germany, in the 19th century.
Credit: BASF
The closure of the dyestuffs plant in Ludwigshafen, Germany, marks the end of an era.

DyStar was created in 1995 when the German chemical companies Bayer and Hoechst pooled their textiles dye businesses. BASF sold its dye business—including the Ludwigshafen plant—to DyStar in 2000.

Today, DyStar produces dyes for a range of applications including paints, coatings, paper, and packaging. The firm is owned by China’s Zhejiang Longsheng Group.

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