Karbochem Pty (Ltd), an international producer of synthetic rubbers, started manufacturing emulsion styrene-butadiene rubber in 1964 at Sasolburg, an industrial complex 100km south of Johannesburg, South Africa.
The company was set up by a consortium which included the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa and four major tyre companies, with technology being provided by a leading international synthetic rubber producer.
To date, the Sasolburg plant still produces grades of emulsion styrene-butadiene rubbers, marketed as the Afpol range.
A milestone in the development of the company came in 1982 when a new plant was commissioned at Newcastle in Natal, 250km north-west of the port of Durban, to produce polyisoprene rubber, a range of solution polymerised styrene-butadiene rubber and low cis butadiene rubber. The production of 1,4-polyisoprene was discontinued in 1989. However, solution styrene-butadiene rubber is still marketed as the Afsol range, and low cis butadiene rubber as the Afdene range.
With its on-going research and development programme, Karbochem developed a new technology, based on neodymium as a catalyst, for the production of polybutadiene with >97% cis-1,4 content, which is marketed worldwide as Neodene.
Karbochem was also involved with a German company in the development research leading to the manufacture of the speciality polymer 3,4-polyisoprene at Newcastle, now marketed as Isogrip.
The company continues to play its part in the research and development of new polymers, as well as improving existing rubber technologies with its international partners.