Expanding its capacity for production of hexamethylene diisocyanate, or HDI, in China, a key ingredient in textile and footwear coatings, Covestro has opened a plant in Shanghai able to produce up to 50,000 metric tons of the additive annually.

HDI is an additive that makes materials such as polyurethane, polyester and leather softer and abrasion resistant.

Covestro noted the production technology is environmentally friendly, efficient and safe. In the last process step, for example, the use of solvents has been cut by up to 80 percent and up to 60 percent less energy is used compared with the conventional technology, the company, the former Bayer Material Science, said, adding that, overall, the carbon footprint of HDI production has been reduced up to 70 percent.

Covestro said the plant represents another milestone in an expiring major investment program for the site.

“Particularly in China and the Asia-Pacific region, there is strong demand for coatings and adhesives in such key sectors as the automotive, construction and furniture, footwear and textiles industries,” said Daniel Meyer, head of the Coatings, Adhesives, Specialties segment at Covestro. “We believe there is considerable potential for growth through product and application innovations, and we are responding to that with the expansion of our HDI production capacity.”

Klaus Schäfer, the Covestro management board member responsible for production and technology, said the addition of the new plant makes Shanghai one of the largest HDI production centers in the world.

The new plant is part of an investment program for the site with a volume of more than three billion euros, or $3.31 billion at current exchange, launched more than 10 years ago.

With 2015 sales of 12.1 billion euros, or $13.4 million, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of solutions for consumer products including the sports and leisure industries, automotive, electrical and electronics, and construction. Covestro has 30 production sites around the world and as of the end of the first quarter employed about 15,700 people.