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Du Pont’s Titanium Dioxide Business Case Analysis

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Du Pont’s Titanium Dioxide Business Case Analysis

Industry and Company

In 1910s, American, Norwegian and French researchers’ discovered underlying commercial titanium compounds. Two of the American researchers set up a company to make titanium dioxide (Ti02) for use as a white pigment in 1916.

In 1931, Du Pont and CPC agreed to combine their pigments businesses into an entity. The combination sold Ti02 mixed with lithophone, partly because of NL’s patents, which restricted the sale of pure Ti02 as a pigment. In 1934, Du Pont bought out CPC and made investments to manufacture and sell pure Ti02. Its rivalry with NL continued to be restrained and was the subject of an unsuccessful challenge by antitrust laws.

Titanium dioxide production in the United States through the 1940s was entirely based on the process licensed from Norway, which reacted titaniferous feedstocks with sulfuric acid. This sulfate process had come to be regarded as relatively simple and mature.

In the late 1940s, Du Pont began work on commercializing a chloride process for manufacturing Ti02. The chloride process involved reacting either low-grade ilmenite ore or high-grade rutile ore with chlorine.

In 1951, Du Pont started up a 35,000 tpy ilmenite chloride plant at Edge Moor, Delaware. For the next three years, Edge Moor was run as a pilot plant in order to solve technical problems.

In 1958, Du Pont started up a second ilmenite chloride plant, at New Johnsonville, Tennessee. The New Johnsonville plant had an initial capacity of 45,000tpy but was expanded to 100,000 tpy by the end of the 1960s.

The chloride plant at New Johnsonville captured the industry’s imagination because the continuous-process chloride technology turned ort to be more scale-sensitive than the batch-process sulfate technology. According to Du Pont engineers, each doubling of plant scale could be expected to reduce manufacturing costs for the two chloride technologies by 14.3%, compared to a figure of 7.5% for the sulfate technology.

Although New Johnsonville was Du Pont’s second rather than first ilmenite chloride plant, its labor costs started very high and then declined steeply in the first few years of operation.

By the end of World War II, NL and Du Pont accounted for 56% and 35% of the US titanium dioxide production. In an effort to implement chloride technology, Du Pont’s market share dropped to 26% by 1957.

Demand was growing more rapidly overseas


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