One of Arkema Inc.’s technology goals is to continuously search for solutions for sustainable development by producing materials for carbon fiber reinforced composites and 3D printing. Arkema joined forces with the Hargrove Engineers + Constructors team to start a new Kepstan® PEKK (Poly-Ether-Ketone-Ketone) plant in Axis, Alabama.
Arkema and Hargrove decided to renovate the existing structure rather than tearing it down to make room for the new PEKK line. While complicating the project, repurposing existing assets and infrastructure made it a more sustainable and eco-friendly project. “Arkema retrofitted a non-operating production unit at its site near Mobile to make PEKK,” said Rene Neron, Plant Manager, Arkema Mobile Site. “Using an existing but out of commission unit as the basis for the project was a more sustainable approach that reduced the materials and energy needed to bring it to fruition.”
The goal of the plant is to produce cutting-edge resin. They chose to use PEKK carbon fiber because it is made of lighter materials and has outstanding heat resistance qualities that make them top of the line in thermoplastics.
“Kepstan® PEKK tapes are considerably more efficient than epoxy thermoset resin tapes,” explains Philippe Bussi, PEKK development manager at Arkema. “In association with short or long carbon fibers, PEKK has become an alternative to a variety of metal parts, for roughly half the weight.”
For this project, Hargrove assumed the majority of project risk. They performed the engineering, procured the needed materials and constructed the project. “It’s always a pleasure to work beside global innovators like Arkema right here in our backyard,” said Fred Robertson, PE, Vice President, EPC Services, Hargrove Engineers + Constructors. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with the plant as they look toward future growth.”
Arkema aims to offer advanced materials in the most demanding markets such as aeronautics, oil and gas, electronics and automotive. They also have a deep commitment to lightweight materials because it is one of the six innovation platforms of sustainable development. “This project confirms Arkema’s commitment to the Mobile area and also demonstrates our sustainable development vision,” said Neron. “PEKK is a lightweight material that combines performance and sustainability benefits, opening the door to more fuel-efficient aircraft and vehicles, along with advances in consumer electronics, 3D printing and other markets.”
Hargrove’s willingness to innovate and Arkema’s commitment to improving the environment made this project successful and sustainable for both teams.