Eurenco betting on hexogen

Another important step has been taken to resurrect Eurenco, a subsidiary of the SNPE group specialising in energy materials: a €100m investment has been made to provide the plant in Sorgues by the end of 2020 with a state-of-the-art Hexogen Manufacturing Unit (UFH) to replace equipment, some of which is more than 60 years old.

An artist’s view of Eurenco’s projected Hexogen Manufacturing Unit at its Sorgues plant (Credit: Eurenco)

If, like us, you might be wondering “what is hexogen?” you might like to know that it is also known as cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine and is the main explosive used in the defence sector. Its many applications range from missile heads to ammunition of all calibers, via plastic explosives such as Hexomax. Eurenco can also be proud of being the main European producer of hexogen Type 1, an essential compound in the design of insensitive munitions (IM) designed so that the risk of unintentional triggering is minimal and, in the event of an accidental explosion, collateral damage is limited.

This new production line, central to the Phénix project to renovate the Sorgues site, will “strengthen the safety and security of installations and guarantee a high level of quality throughout the process,” Eurenco said in a statement. Very stable and considered as one of the most powerful military explosives, hexogen is produced after five successive phases, which are synthesis, crystallization, coating, drying and conditioning, according to Eurenco. In addition to meeting the latest environmental standards, the new automated production line will combine the above five steps into a single ​​4,000 m² hall.

The Phénix project, which was launched in October 2013 and then put on hold for two years, was launched again in 2016 with the inauguration of a new ONTA insensitive munition production plant.

In poor condition before it was acquired by Nexter in 2013, Eurenco has since returned to growth and had an order backlog worth more than €200m in 2016. And the Sorgues site is not the only one to benefit from the financial buoyancy of the company. It also invested €15m in 2016 in a new production line for modular charges at its Bergerac site, ultimately creating about a dozen jobs.

This renewed ambition is also reflected in research and development. For the first time in its history Eurenco unveiled its principal innovations last December during an “R&D Day” attended by major players in the sector. On the menu: miniaturisation of propellant charges and better lethality, “green” powders to replace toxic components with non-harmful elements and the explosive TATB, as powerful as it is stable.