DuPont to invest $500 million to expand Kevlar production

Published 20 September 2007

Growing demand for personal and vehicle protection conveniences company to increase Kevlar production capacity by 25 perent

We wrote a couple of days ago about the growing personal protection equipment (PPE) segment — we did so in the context of highlighting Norwegian firm Kode Design’s new demining and explosives defuson protective gear. Here is another indication of this segment’s growth: Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont has just announced production expansion plans for its high performance Kevlar para-aramid brand fiber. DuPont plans to invest more than $500 million in a multi-phase production expansion starting with a Kevlar polymer expansion in Richmond, Virginia, later this year. For DuPont, this expansion would increase Kevlar capacity by more than 25 percent when complete in 2010 and represents the largest Kevlar expansion since the product was introduced in 1965. Details about additional expansion phases will be announced at a later date.

Thomas Powell, vice president and general manager of DuPont Advanced Fiber Systems, said that “Global demand for DuPont Kevlar has soared with the growing need for safety and security worldwide…. In addition, high energy prices have increased demand for the lightweight strength of Kevlar in the aerospace, oil, and gas and automotive industries.” Mark Vergnano, group vice president of DuPont Safety & Protection, echoed Powell’s words: “This is a significant investment for DuPont and underscores our commitment to sustainability and providing products that improve the safety and protection of people and critical processes around the world…. We are focusing our investment on products like Kevlar that meet the needs of these multi-billion-dollar growth industries for high-performance, innovative materials.”

DuPont has made several recent investments in both Kevlar and Nomex brand aramid fibers. Between 2000 and 2006 DuPont completed four Kevlar fiber expansion projects at its Richmond, Virginia, and Maydown, Northern Ireland, facilities. The latest expansions incorporated a proprietary New Fiber Technology (NFT) developed and patented by DuPont. The new technology enables innovative fiber and production capabilities for DuPont and the company sees this as essential to help meet future market needs. In August 2006 DuPont announced it expected to invest more than $100 million in a three-phase capacity expansion which would raise Nomex fiber and paper capability by approximately 10 percent. Kevlar, a forty-year old man-made fiber, has been used in ballistic and stab-resistant body armor. The company believes that the increasing need for protection against new and emerging threats continues to spur demand for Kevlar in vehicle armoring, firefighter turnout gear, and blast- and storm-resistant construction applications. Note that demand for Kevlar also is increasing in the oil and gas and aerospace industries.