Canadian Titanium Pigments Ltd. was founded in 1936 by parent company NL Industries, one of America’s most venerable businesses. The National Lead Company, as it was first known, was established in 1772 in Philadelphia,
Pa. — four years before the United States became a nation.
One of NL Industries leading products was titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment, which was in high demand worldwide, leading to the construction of numerous production facilities and sales offices throughout Europe and North America. TiO2, a naturally occurring oxide of titanium, is one of the whitest materials on earth, with a higher refractive index than diamonds. When ground into a fine powder, it transforms into a pigment with maximum whiteness and opacity. Paints, plastics, paper, building materials, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and food all use TiO2 pigments.
In 1957 a plant was inaugurated in Varennes in southwestern Quebec, complementing the network of European plants and sales offices. Within a few years, the Varennes plant nearly tripled its initial production, manufacturing 30,000 tonnes a year of sulfate pigments to meet market demand.
In 1980, Canadian Titanium Pigments changed its name to NL CHEM Canada. Seven years later, it launched a chloride process unit, producing 40,000 tonnes annually. The company was also the first to commercially adopt a choloride process technology, which it developed internally. The chloride as well as the sulphate processes are used to refine pure forms of TiO2, such as rutile from beach sand, thus making it useable. Today, more than 70 percent of the company’s TiO2 capacity is produced through the chloride process. This technology is touted as having environmental advantages due to reduced effluent waste treatment requirements and more efficient utilization of energy.
In 1989, the company moniker was changed once again to KRONOS Canada Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of KRONOS Worldwide. Today, more than 40 TiO2 pigment products are sold under the Kronos brand name, imparting whiteness, brightness and opacity. It continues to innovate, building a CO2 recovery unit at the waste acid neutralization plant in 1998, a titanium oxychloride (TiOCl2) unit in 2005 and, in 2010, a titanyl sulfate (TiO(SO4)2) unit. Today, the plant remains in Varennes, with its head office located in Montreal.