Evonik partners with GCL on silicon compound plants in China

Germany’s Evonik Industries and Jiangsu Zhongneng Polysilicon Technology Development Co. Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-based GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Limited, have signed a letter of intent to establish a joint venture for the production of fumed silica and ultra-pure silicon tetrachloride in China.

Evonik will hold a 60% share in the business, which will have an annual capacity of over 20,000 metric tons. The plants will be built in the city of Xuzhou in Jiangsu Province and are set to begin operation in 2016.

The project remains subject to the approval of the companies’ supervisory boards as well as governmental authorities in China.

GCL-Poly, which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, specializes in green and conventional energy generation. The company’s Jiangsu Zhongneng subsidiary is a leading manufacturer of polycrystalline silicon (PCS). Silicon tetrachloride is a byproduct of PCS production and the joint venture will purchase this to produce Aerosil fumed silica and Siridion STC HP ultra-pure silicon tetrachloride.

"By making the planned investment we are aiming to further strengthen our market position for fumed silica and ultra-pure silicon tetrachloride and to promote growth, particularly in the attractive Chinese market," said Evonik CEO Klaus Engel. "In GCL we have found a strong partner for this."

Underscoring GCL-Poly’s dedication "to promoting the application of solar energy worldwide" and its position as "the largest global supplier of photovoltaic materials," GCL-Poly Chairman Zhu Gongshan said the collaboration "can combine Evonik’s advanced technologies of producing silica and ultra-pure silicon tetrachloride with Jiangsu Zhongneng’s leading technologies of silicon material production. The partnership will enhance GCL-Poly’s overall competitiveness by diversifying the silicon products, better serving its main business, and meeting market demand."

Zhu described Evonik as "a perfect partner for long term cooperation."

Johannes Ohmer, head of Evonik’s Inorganic Materials Business Unit, said the partnership between the leading manufacturers of PCS and fumed silica was an ideal combination. "Together we will establish an efficient, competitive production for Aerosil and Siridion in China, which will enable us to supply our customers locally with high-quality products and solutions for growing markets."

Among the main drivers in China’s fumed silica market are the silicone industry for adhesives and sealants in buildings and vehicles as well as gel batteries, such as the kind used in e-bikes. Ultra-pure silicon tetrachloride is used in the fiber optics needed to expand China’s communications and IT infrastructure.

The growth rate for ultra-pure silicon tetrachloride in China is well above the growth rate for the global market, Evonik stressed, adding that half of the demand for fiber optics worldwide now comes from China.