OKLAHOMA CITY - Kerr-McGee Chemical L.L.C. announced plans to shut down sulfate titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment production at the company's Savannah, GA, site in a move the company said would take effect by the end of September.

The company said the action is expected to improve the profitability of its TiO2 operations, adding that the sulfate plant currently accounts for only about 4% of its total worldwide pigment production.

Tom Adams, Kerr-McGee Chemical vice president and general manager of the Pigment Division, said chloride-process TiO2 production at the Savannah site "is an important part of our global operations, and will continue operation." He said demand and prices for sulfate anatase pigments, particularly in the paper market, have declined in North America during the past several years.

The company said decreasing volumes, along with unanticipated environmental and infrastructure issues discovered when Kerr-McGee acquired the facility in 2000, contributed to the decision to shut down the sulfate production.

Kerr-McGee said it would no longer supply sulfate-process pigment to the North American paper market after current inventories at Savannah are depleted. The company said it will continue to serve other global sulfate requirements from its Uerdingen, Germany, plant, which has an annual capacity of 107,000 metric tons.