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Libra invests in low-salt betaines

Libra Speciality Chemicals has broken ground on a multi-million-pound capital investment programme at its site in Irlam, UK. This will see new technology installed to produce novel low-salt betaines, while expanding the existing plant’s capacity from 32,000 to 50,000 tonnes/year.

The investment includes a 40,000-litre reactor to make the intermediate cocamidopropylamine and a 60,000-litre reactor to make finished betaine products. In addition, there is a new high-capacity tank farm, with 865,000 litres of storage capacity and a dedicated weighbridge complex, plus a complex system to desalt the betaines.

Betaines are increasingly used in place of sulphates like sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) in personal care products, thanks both to their detergency and foam boosting properties and the issues associated with SLES: skin sensitisation, causing dry skin and hair, and residual levels of 1,4 dioxane, ethylene oxide and sulphate.

However, the typical 6% salt levels in betaines can cause viscosity control issues in formulations, meaning that they can usually only be used at levels of 2%. Libra claims that its technology can produce betaines with 0.5% - or even as low as 0.05% - salt, giving formulators the chance to include them at 10-12% and thus design a wider range of final products.

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