At the beginning of the 1970s, the companies then known as Hoechst AG, Frankfurt, Gelsenberg AG, Essen and Süddeutsche Kalkstickstoff-Werke AG, Trostberg jointly set up a petrochemical plant in Münchsmünster. Crucial for the choice of location in this area of Bavaria around the Danube were the proximity to the refineries in Ingolstadt as a source of raw materials, the availability of affordable industrial land and a large local labor force. From the outset, the companies intended to pool facilities to cut infrastructure costs. All in all, there were 42 installations integrated in this pool, including the energy supply, workshops and social facilities. Despite being linked into a product exchange network, all three companies operated as separate legal entities.
The installation of a pool operation of this kind was unique in Germany at that time and has, in the meantime, been imitated by various combinations of companies. Today, the Münchsmünster industrial estate covers an area of 125 ha and employs a staff of 750. Despite many changes to its name and trading identity, the product range has remained more or less the same. Gelsenberg AG, manufacturer of basic chemicals (ethylene and propylene) became Veba Oel AG in 1978 and Ruhr Oel GmbH in 1986. Today it belongs to the BP group. Hoechst AG hived off the manufacture of plastics (polyethylene) to its subsidiary Hostalen Polyethylen GmbH, which in 2000 was merged with Basell Polyolefine GmbH (a BASF/Shell joint venture).
Evonik Degussa Münchsmünster
In 1972, an acrylonitrile (ACN) plant was put into operation in Münchsmünster. With the construction of this plant, Hoechst AG acquired 50 percent of the shares of Süddeutsche Kalkstickstoff-Werke AG. ACN was used to manufacture the acrylic fiber Dolan®, which was produced in the Hoechst AG’s Kelheim factory situated close by. In 1976, SKW started production of cyanuric chloride, which was followed by other derivatives from chlorcyan.
The location of the site on the northern edge of the Hallertau, the largest hops growing area in the world, led to the development of a technologically innovative extraction process for hops. The goal was to be able to offer a high-quality hop extract that could be stored. In 1982, a carbon dioxide extraction plant (extraction with supercritical carbon dioxide) was built for the production of hop extract from fresh hops, mainly from the local area. As this extraction process is seasonal due to the availability of the raw materials, the plant was also used to decaffeinate tea, mainly for the American market; this allowed the plant to be utilized all year round. This business proved so successful that in 1988, another high-pressure carbon dioxide plant only for tea decaffeination was put into operation.
Tea decaffeination facility
In 1983, the ACN plant became the property of Hoechst AG. VIAG AG took over its 50 percent shares in SKW and became the 100 percent shareholder of SKW, which at this time had around 50 employees. In 1998, Hoechst announced its withdrawal from the Münchsmünster site. SKW then took over the ACN plant and converted it, in a record four months time, to a hydrocyanic acid (HCN) plant guaranteeing supplies to the factories dependent on HCN from the end of 1999.
Münchsmünster’s focus today
After Hoechst opted out, a new operator was found for the pool facilities. The property, the fittings and the real estate were introduced into the Industriepark Münchsmünster GmbH & Co. KG, a new company founded in 2001. The current operators are limited partners (Basell 21 percent, Evonik Degussa 30 percent and Ruhr Oel 49 percent) in this company. Industriepark Münchsmünster VerwaltungsGmbH functions as a general partner; Ruhr Oel holds 62 percent and Evonik Degussa 38 percent. This has secured the location infrastructure for the future.
The HCN plant and the cyanuric chloride plant were mothballed late in 2009. The two carbon dioxide high pressure extraction systems for tea decaffeination and for the extraction of hops and other natural substances followed in 2016.