How and why did DuPont decide to split off its chemical businesses into Chemours?
DuPont had always been recognized and was born out of developing chemical applications and chemical products for several industries. That has been the story for just over 200 years; however, as the world continues to evolve, the CEO and management of DuPont decided that the future of the company was more in nutrition, food, and bio-technology, but at the same time the chemical segment still represented a major part of the company turnover and growth. That was and remains strong today, so the strategic decision was to separate the company into two. Chemours was created as a spin-off of all the chemical businesses. The separation took place over 2014, and we became officially separate on July 1, 2015. DuPont does not have any shares or own any stock in the Chemours Company, and vice versa. They are totally separate and independent companies.
What business areas does Chemours now have?
We have 8,000 employees and a $6.5 billion annual turnover. Chemours' businesses were organized into three business units. One is the Titanium Technologies business unit, through which we manufacture mainly a white pigment called titanium dioxide, used mostly in the coatings industry. It grows as the middle class and GDP grows, because infrastructure needs to grow and that means more roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and houses, and all of that drives the consumption of TiO2. We are the global leader in the TiO2 industry with the largest producer and the highest market share. We have the largest manufacturing plant worldwide of TiO2 located in Altamira, Tamaulipas, Mexico, where we are finalizing an investment of over $600 million. The second business unit is the Fluoroproducts business, where we have a number of applications. We are also a number-one global maker of Fluoroproducts and in Mexico the leader as a quality provider in refrigerants and propellants. One important usage of these products are refrigerants, which are used for air-conditioning systems for home, offices, and industrial use, food storage in supermarkets, and so on. Recently we announced an invest of $230 million over three years to construct the new facility at the Chemours Corpus Christi site in Ingleside, Texas, with start-up expected in third quarter of 2018. This investment will triple capacity of Opteon™ products, a refrigerant with very low Global Warming Potential (GWP), enabling Chemours to capitalize on a cornerstone growth opportunity. The new site will use an innovative, patented process to manufacture Opteon™ YF (HFO-1234yf), which is used in automotive air conditioning and in Opteon™ refrigerant blends for a range of applications. Another application of fluoropolymers applications is Teflon™, which has developed non-stick surfaces in pans. We own the well-known Teflon™ brand name, and we continue to invest in improving our capacity and supply to customers. The third area of business is the chemical solutions business, where we have six smaller business units. One of the points of our transformation plan is to review our portfolio of chemical solutions businesses, where there were a few businesses that were not performing well over the last few years. The market for these products was not growing, so we are reviewing our strategic approach in this business and we will probably divest some of these operations and concentrate our investments in areas where we see growth and technology leadership, such as the mining industry, in which we are the global leaders as a manufacturer of a chemical solution that is essential for this industry and the leader supplying this product in Mexico, as well.
Where did the name Chemours come from?
It is a nice and well thought out name. The form of the logo represents a chemical molecule. The logo has three Cs, which stands for Chemours, chemistry, and customer centered. Our name, Chemours, means the Chemistry of Ours and refers to how we develop our chemistry together with our employees and customers. We also wanted to make a connection to the heritage of how the company was born, since this was a spin-off from DuPont, whose founder was born in de Nemours City in France. We have been in the chemical industry for 200 years, and I have almost 30 years of experience in the chemical sector. We maintain a nice blend of young talent and older experienced employees. We have five key behaviors that we want instill in the company culture, the first of which is refreshing simplicity. We are now a smaller company and we have the opportunity to keep the best systems and processes that we used to have at DuPont, but simplify the processes that are not required for a company the size of Chemours. The second behavior is safety obsession. We work with hazardous materials, and we do it better than anyone in the industry. Environment, safety, and the health of people are our number-one priority. The third behavior is collective entrepreneurship. As a smaller company we want to make everyone feel like they are at home and have the creativity and the possibility to innovate; that is something that everyone should feel empowered to do. The fourth value is unshakable integrity. We are a global company with 35 manufacturing sites, serving more than 5,000 customers in 130 countries of North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe and will not risk deviating from ethical behavior, which applies to how we treat people, how we respect the environment, and how we conduct our business. The fifth targeted behavior is customer centered and has to do with ensuring that we are well connected to our customers and that we listen and collaborate hand in hand with them.
What is the significance of Mexico for Chemours globally?
Mexico is a key country for Chemours, right now. We are finishing a $600 million investment at a Titanium Dioxide plant in Mexico. This project began three years ago and construction was completed in December 2015. We are targeting commercial production by April 2016, making this plant the largest TiO2 producer globally, and we now export from Mexico to Europe, South America, the US, and the rest of the world. We are producing around 150,000 tons of titanium oxide, and the new line that we are due to start in April will more than double our capacity. This plant started back in 1959 when the first investment in the plant began. It had an initial annual capacity of just 4,000 tons. Over the last 15 years the capabilities of our plant and the people within it have increased significantly. From being one of the lower performing manufacturing sites within our segment, we grew to be one of the best-performing plants around safety, quality, consistency, and costs. The first foreign investment that DuPont made outside of the US was in Mexico back in 1925, so we have in a way been doing business in the country for 90 years. It is also interesting that the first investment that Chemours is doing outside US is also in Mexico. With all of the integration that is growing every year between North America and Mexico, it makes this plant a strategic location for us. This investment will also give us growth; therefore, the focus of our attention and resources for the next couple of years is the plant and utilizing the capacity as much and as quickly as we can.
Given that you work with many potentially hazardous chemicals, how are environmental concerns integrated into your operations?
Safety obsession and unshakable integrity are two of our core values. If we step back a little bit, chemistry touches our lives in many ways and in many aspects, and it will not go away. It would be difficult to maintain the quality of life that we have without chemistry and chemical products. What is important here and what we have identified and recognized for many years now is that chemistry serves society, chemistry serves quality of life, and it can be well used if we do it safely in a responsible way. This is at the core of our DNA.