GFS Chemicals Expands Rare Earth Manufacturing Facility: Completes fully domestic U.S. supply chain for cerium products
COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 7, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — GFS Chemicals, Inc., a privately held specialty chemical manufacturer, today announced plans to expand its Columbus facility to manufacture Cerium intermediates to further back integrate its domestic production operations. Cerium has been in short supply due to China’s restrictive policy on rare earth mineral exports.
GFS Chemicals, which has been making specialty rare earth salts and solutions for 70 years, was impacted by China’s decision in 2010 to raise their export license fees to restrict the supply and export of rare earth materials. China controls more than 97 percent of the global rare earth business, and the market hemorrhage was felt far and wide, including in America’s heartland.
“Supply chain security is very important to our customers; we have a great ‘insourcing’ story to tell the markets and the consistent, high-quality products to back it up. We’re looking forward to gaining back market share that has been lost to the Chinese producers over the last decade. We are excited to expand our rare earth fluoride facility to now also manufacture Cerium intermediates, this will support our specialty chemical production activities in our main plant in Columbus,” said J. Steel Hutchinson, the third-generation owner and president of GFS Chemicals.
The company had been purchasing rare earth feed stocks from China’s Inner Mongolian province since the late 1990s. GFS takes carbonates, oxides and hydroxides of various rare earth materials and converts them into the high-quality, often-customized rare earth salts and solutions that major companies use to enhance the performance of their proprietary products. One of the company’s core product areas has been Cerium based materials, including Ceric Ammonium Nitrate (Diammonium cerium(IV) nitrate), Cerium IV nitrate solution and Anhydrous Cerium Chloride. These products have numerous applications including use in wet chemical etchants, catalysts, paints & coatings and other specialty applications.
“Prices in China didn’t just creep up, they skyrocketed like nothing we had seen before,” Hutchinson said. “Fortunately, we began working with Molycorp in California to evaluate them as a potential vendor when the 2010 market event took place. We knew that they were planning to reopen their mine and ramp up production, and we wanted to fully explore them as a domestic source option.”
Working with various feed stocks and samples from Molycorp, it has taken more than a year to develop a process for GFS to use Molycorp’s raw material to manufacture the cerium feedstock materials that were previously purchased from China.
Hutchinson says Molycorp has been very supportive and that both companies want a strong domestic supply chain for these products in the U.S.
“Our company provides a complementary support role for certain rare earth products as they relate to Molycorp’s high volume product mix,” Hutchinson said.
GFS Chemicals was established in 1928 and is a 3rd generation, privately held business with facilities in Columbus and Powell Ohio, USA. GFS has three strategic business units: Inorganic Specialty Chemicals Manufacturing (high purity & anhydrous salts and acids), Organic Specialty Chemicals Manufacturing (Acetylenes, Olefins and Specialty Grignards) and Research and Analytical Reagents (Branded reagent catalog sales operation). GFS employs around 100 people.
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SOURCE GFS Chemicals, Inc.