LUDWIGSHAFEN, Germany — November 11, 2011 — BASF has been producing caprolactam using a large-scale
continuous process at Ludwigshafen for half a century now. During this time around 6.5 million tons
of the polyamide 6 intermediate have left the site. “We have constantly improved the production
process and expanded the capacity during continuous operation over the past 50 years without major
total plant shutdowns. This demonstrates the strong competence of the production team and the
advantage of operating a highly complex technology within an integrated structure (Verbund)”,
comments Hermann Althoff, Senior Vice President of the global business unit Polyamide and
Intermediates. With two more plants at Antwerp, Belgium, and Freeport Texas, USA, and a total
production capacity of 800,000tons per year, BASF today is the world’s largest manufacturer of
A piece of BASF history
The history of caprolactam and the history of BASF are closely intertwined because
caprolactam is the starting material for polyamide 6 (PA 6), also known by the trade name
Ultramid®. The industrial production of caprolactam paved the way for BASF to become one of the
leading manufacturers of polyamides today and is the backbone of the polyamide 6 value chain within
the BASF Verbund.
As far back as 1939 when BASF first produced polyamide 6, it was clear what potential this
plastic had: it was firmer, tougher and more resistant than any of the previous thermoplastics.
That same year, the first caprolactam pilot plant was therefore built at the Ludwigshafen site.
With the beginning of the plastics age in the fifties, demand for the raw material took off. As a
result, the plant at Ludwigshafen, today celebrating its anniversary, came on line in November
1961. This was followed only one year later by another plant at Freeport; 1967 saw the start of
industrial production at Antwerp.
Caprolactam for engineering plastics, extrusion and fibers
Today it is impossible to imagine the world of engineering plastics,extrusion and fiber
polymers without caprolactam and its downstream products. Applications range from transparent and
flexible food packaging, fishing lines and nets, cable sheathings, textile fibers for outdoor
sportswear and carpets through to lightweight components for cars.
Posted on November 29, 2011
Source: BASF SE