A very special synthetic rubber
Buna is a synthetic rubber, which is available in a wide range of products today. It was originally used exclusively in the tire industry. The trade name "Buna" stands for the starting materials butadiene and sodium (Natrium). The first commercial production plant for synthetic rubber started operation in 1937 at I.G. Farbenindustrie's Schkopau facility. In the same year I.G. Farben won a "Grand Prix" for development of synthetic rubber at the World Exhibition in Paris.
The present Evonik site - Marl Chemical Park - was built specifically for Buna production, which started there in 1940. On May 9, 1938 Chemische Werke Hüls GmbH was founded for this purpose. The majority shareholder, I.G. Farbenindustrie, which had begun developing the process in 1928, supplied the patents for production of synthetic rubber using the arcing process free of charge. In return Chemische Werke Hüls GmbH had to agree to give I.G. Farben access to all further developments in the process technology and sale of Buna products. The raw material acetylene, needed for Buna production, was first obtained from the arcing process in Marl. Acetylene is required in order to obtain butadiene, which is the main starting material for synthetic rubber.
Buna manufactured in Marl was initially a war product, the historical background being the National Socialist policy of self-sufficiency and the 1936 Four-Year Plan. This was intended to prepare the German economy for wartime production and make it more or less independent of foreign supplies. The Wehrmacht's supply, transport and combat vehicles in particular relied on Buna production, which supplied the necessary raw material for tires and track cushioning.
After the end of the Second World War in May 1945, the British administration prohibited Buna production in Marl in 1948. It was not until the early 1950s that production was fully authorized once more as a result of the Korean War, when supplies of natural rubber were jeopardized by the military conflict in the Far East. In 1955, together with Bayer AG, Hoechst AG and BASF AG, Hüls established a subsidiary for the production of Buna, the Bunawerke Hüls GmbH. Subsequently a wider product range developed out of the original Buna production for the tire industry. In the 1990s, Hüls AG finally divested itself of its activities with synthetic rubber.