Spain (15%) is the second largest producer of leather in Europe, after Italy (57%). It is also home to BASF Leather Chemicals’ European headquarters on the edge of Barcelona. BASF Curtex, as it is locally known, includes their worldwide technical centre for beamhouse chemicals and the worldwide technical competence centre for wool and hair-on leathers. In recent years BASF have invested heavily in the plant and accompanying facilities.

Europe represents 29% of BASF’s leather chemical sales and is the second most important region in terms of sales for the leather business unit. While Asia represents 41% of tanning chemical sales (see BASF BACC article, Leather International, September 2002, page 22), Europe is still regarded as leading the leather industry in terms of fashion and innovation by many in the industry.

BASF are one of the three largest suppliers of leather chemicals in Europe and an outline of their European operations can be seen in figure 1. Both European and worldwide leather chemical activities are coordinated from the BASF Group headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

Core activity

‘Leather is still a core activity for BASF’, says Eckart Stein, director, performance chemicals for leather Europe and managing director, BASF Curtex. ‘We have just upgraded our laboratories and application areas for leather chemicals as well as production facilities for pigment preparations. BASF Curtex lies at the very heart of our leather chemical activities’, he added.

The upgraded research and application facilities have more than doubled in size and BASF have invested in new laboratory and tannery equipment to improve research and development or mimic tannery conditions. The building has been expanded from 500 sq m to 1,200 sq m.

Thirty-two scientists and technicians at Curtex are able to develop new products or research new techniques on raw hides and skins through to finished leather applications. Most of the application plant equipment is on a full tannery scale and is supplied by well-known manufacturers in Italy, Germany and Spain.

Uniquely, BASF Curtex houses a high number of beamhouse drums and equipment specifically designed for manufacturing woolskins. Spain has a history of high quality woolskin leather producers and BASF’s decision to base their wool and hair-on worldwide technical competence centre in Spain makes sense.


‘The investments that we have made in our production facilities at BASF Curtex will allow us to increase capacity and improve production consistency of chemical products’, says Eckart Stein.

As well as the pigment preparation plant upgrade they also installed a new thermal oxidation unit to control waste gas emissions and last year capacity was increased for the production of polyurethane dispersions. A high percentage of BASF’s global range of leather is manufactured at BASF Curtex and the site produces more then 500 products with exports to 60 countries.

BASF Curtex

Curtex Industrias Sintéticas was founded in 1947 on the present site on the outskirts of Barcelona, producing and selling tanning chemicals. In 1970, BASF Española acquired a majority shareholding in the factory and in 1994 became a 100% owner of the business. The name was changed to BASF Curtex in 1997 and in 2001 it became the headquarters of BASF’s regional Business Unit Leather Chemicals Europe.

In 2002 BASF Curtex employed 300 people and annual net sales were worth €84 million. Sales were up 8% compared with 2001.

The main production and application on the site is for leather chemicals although R&D, sales, storage and production for textiles is also carried out on site.

A number of journalists were invited to visit BASF Curtex on March 7. Following a press conference, members of BASF provided a tour of the production, laboratory, pilot plant, warehouse and office facilities which are located in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat south of the city.

Leather chemicals are part of the performance products division of BASF and performance products represented 25% BASF sales in 2001. BASF have invested more than three million Euro worldwide between 2000-2002 on their technical facilities for leather chemicals.

In Europe this has also meant an upgrade and expansion of the application site in Arzignano, Italy, in 2001 followed by a new competence centre for upholstery leather at the same location in the following year. (see Leather International, December 2001, page 4).

BASF Group are located in 170 countries worldwide with 142 subsidiaries, 11 joint ventures, and 28 affiliated and associated companies. The company employ 90,000 people in 2001 when the group turnover was €32.5 billion. BASF sell more then 8,000 products worldwide.