Big pharma is undergoing many changes. One fine chemicals company is expanding its expertise to guarantee its place in the market well into the future.

Like most fine chemical manufacturers, FMC Lithium’s fine chemicals group is continuing the search for long-term sustainable growth. Given world market conditions, the state of affairs in big pharma and tremendous outsourcing into India and China of intermediates and APIs, this is no easy task, regardless of company size or industry reputation. Technological differentiation, responsive and knowledgeable technical service, alliance creation, offshore capabilities, flexibility, stability and reliability are all part of what it takes to be one of the survivors.

Differentiated technology

FMC Lithium is transforming its fine chemicals business from organolithium manufacturing by naturally extending its expertise. For decades, FMC has been recognised for its development and production of alkyllithiums, aryllithiums, lithium amides, lithium alkoxides and lithium metal hydrides, which are functionally used as strong hindered bases, nucleophiles and reducing agents in the production of pharmaceutical and agricultural intermediates.

Beginning with an organometallic backbone now allows FMC to create, develop and manufacture customised speciality organophosphines, organomagnesiums, organosilanes, substituted pyridines, boronic acids and custom organolithiums.

Benefits are gained by allowing for more direct production by reducing the number of steps required to produce the target molecule and displaying higher yields and higher selectivities than classical organic chemistry routes.

Two new, exciting organophosphines are being developed by FMC’s R&D group and should be available by the time of publication. The molecules will be offered without patent protection in order to reduce resistance to employing them in commercial projects.

Technical service

Lithiation chemistry, while dangerous due to its pyrophoric nature, can be very economical to the overall organic synthesis of an intermediate and can be safely handled. FMC Lithium has just completed a 20-month project of revising and creating two safe handling guides for customers:

  • The Butyllithium Safe Handling Guide
  • The Organometallics Reactive Specialty Organics Safe Handling Guide

The butyllithium guide comprehensively details applications, properties, specifications, laboratory methods, commercial manufacturing safety, facility design, shipping, unloading and sampling of pyrophoric materials. The organometallics guide covers the same types of information as the butyllithium guide, but applies it to all other organolithiums, metal hydrides, organophosphines, organomagnesiums, organosilanes, pyridine intermediates and boronic acids.

FMC aids in the design of production and storage configurations for customers that are reluctant to handle this class of chemicals. It specialises in providing global technical services on-site to help customers gain confidence in the safe use of organolithiums, other organometallics and reactive organics. FMC also provides assistance in the design of unique transportation, storage, connection and reactor systems to customers in need.

Alliances and offshore capabilities

FMC is pursuing internal growth initiatives and continuing to invest heavily in R&D to aggressively develop targeted technological adjacencies beyond its building blocks of lithium metal and butyllithium. Simultaneously, FMC is identifying and progressing relationships and alliances with key technology partners and customers.

It has increasingly become important for customers to have production capabilities in India and China. By sharing resources with sister division the Agricultural Products Group, FMC is able to capitalise on existing research and development facilities, manufacturing facilities and in-country professional expertise in these regions. In addition, key local alliance partners help the transition into China and India. Leveraging these in-country positions allows a more phased approach when assessing any serious capital commitment.

Playing to a speciality niche has been part of FMC Lithium’s strategy for some time. The Fine Chemicals Group continues to differentiate itself through innovative technologies, attentive technical service, alliance creation, offshore capabilities, flexibility, reliability and stability. Bringing total solutions to customers where, when and how they need them continues to be FMC’s focus.

Company profile

With over 60 years of expertise, FMC Lithium is committed to finding complete solutions to eight identifiable markets: air treatment, construction, energy, fine chemicals, glass and ceramics, greases and lubricants, polymers and pool water treatment.