A $20 million manufacturing project taking shape in Berkeley County is expected to start producing a compound that's vital to South Carolina's fast-growing tire industry.
The Upstate-based owner of the Charleston International Manufacturing Center announced Wednesday that the liquid sodium silicate plant will be finished this summer, creating 11 jobs and helping to support hundreds more.
The chemical maker Evonik, which supplies tire manufacturers with a silicate derivative that makes their products more fuel efficient, will be among the first companies to benefit from the investment. The German firm is nearing completion of a $120 million plant at the industrial park that will help support the Palmetto State's booming tire industry — the nation's largest, with daily production of more than 100,000 tires.
Sodium silicate — an acid salt that combines sodium, oxygen and silicon — is also used in a range of other industries, including food, health care, pulp and paper, paint and coatings, and textiles.
That's why the owner of the industrial park thinks it will have an opportunity to grow beyond Evonik — and why it's adding extra capacity, said Nathan Wingate, who will oversee the new facility.
Some of the other companies that use sodium silicate include BASF, W.R. Grace and PPG Industries. A report released this month by Global Market Insights predicts demand will increase 30 percent and surpass $10 billion by 2024, with the North American market accounting for more than 10 percent of the total.
"While liquid sodium silicate may not be a familiar product, it is used in many of the items that are part of our daily lives," said Marc Fetten, CEO of Charleston International Manufacturing Center. "Our production of it will open the door to attracting new world-class companies to the region."
Berkeley County supervisor Bill Peagler said the new industrial amenity "will draw in additional investment" to the area. Will Helmly, chairman of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, called the facility "another tool in the toolbox the Charleston metro offers businesses to succeed."
The process that will take place at the new facility involves dissolving sodium silicate with high pressure and removing impurities. The site will house tanks where the finished liquid product will be stored for future use.
Berkeley County economic development director Barry Jurs said the facility would churn through 60,000 tons of sodium silicate a year that will be brought up the Cooper River by barge.
The Charleston International Manufacturing Center is owned by Greenville-based real estate developer and investor Pacolet Milliken. The property is home to eight other global manufacturers that have invested more than $1.2 billion in facilities that have created hundreds of jobs. Located in the Bushy Park area of Goose Creek, the industrial park includes utilities such as steam, nitrogen, compressed air, processed water and wastewater treatment. It also has access to rail and a deep-water barge terminal.