NL Industries, Inc. was organized as a New Jersey corporation in 1891 and predecessor companies of its majority-owned subsidiary, Kronos Worldwide, Inc., have been producing titanium dioxide pigments (TiO2) since 1916.
1916 was the year in which the Titanium Pigment Corporation of Niagara Falls, New York, and the Titan Co. AS, of Norway simultaneously began commercial production of this new white pigment that was principally used in paints.
NL acquired both the Titanium Pigment Corporation and Titan Co. AS in the 1920's and played a leading role in the development of the worldwide TiO2 market by providing the necessary capital and corporate support. Today, TiO2 is the world's primary pigment for providing whiteness, brightness and opacity.
The original process pioneered by these operations was the sulfate process, utilizing sulfuric acid, and producing anatase pigments. In 1939, the company began marketing the first rutile pigment and, over time, rutile pigments have completely replaced anatase in paints, coatings and plastics. The company also provided ilmenite ore, an important feedstock for certain of the company's sulfate plants, from its two mines. One of these mines is still in operation in Norway and sells ore to third parties in addition to supplying the company's internal needs.
As demand for TiO2 spread throughout Europe, the company built manufacturing facilities in Germany and established sales organizations in France and Belgium. Further growth in worldwide demand led to the construction of additional production facilities in Belgium and Canada during the late 1950's.
One of the most significant milestones in the history of the company was the development and commercialization of its proprietary chloride process technology. Its first chloride process plant was commissioned in the late 1970's, and it was the first commercial TiO2 plant in Continental Europe to utilize the chloride process technology. Today close to 70% of the company's TiO2 capacity is produced through the chloride process.
This technology has become the cornerstone of the company's continued growth as it provides significant economic and environmental advantages from reduced effluent waste treatment requirements and more efficient utilization of energy and manpower resources. The chloride process has become the process of choice for TiO2 manufacturers, although only five producers have their own chloride process technology. Approximately two-thirds of total global capacity is now chloride-based.
In 1989, NL organized its TiO2 operations under its majority-owned subsidiary, Kronos Worldwide, Inc. and adopted the Kronos brand name exclusively. The company still maintains rights to the Titanox brand name which it had used in certain parts of the world up until that time.
In 1992, the company brought its only U.S. plant, based in Lake Charles, Louisiana, into full production. At the time it was an 80,000 metric ton, state-of-the-art chloride process plant that brought the company's TiO2 production capacity to 370,000 metric tons per annum]. Through debottlingnecking, the capacity of this joint-venture plant has been increased to its current capacity of [130,000 metric tons per annum].
The company has continued to grow and invest in its worldwide TiO2 business and currently operates six production plants and one mine at locations in five countries on two continents. Productive capacity now stands at approximately 450,000 metric tons per annum.