SEOUL, Aug. 24 (Yonhap) — Malaysia’s Petronas Chemicals said Monday it has signed a deal with South Korean chemical giant LG Chem to build a latex plant in Malaysia in a move to meet growing demand for nitrile gloves amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The construction of a nitrile butadiene latex (NBL) manufacturing plant will begin at Pengerang Integrated Complex in Johor next year and production is set to start in 2023.

The plant will have an annual NBL production capacity of 200,000 tons, according to Petronas Chemicals.

LG Chem declined to provide any details, including the amount of the investment.

NBL is a synthetic rubber that uses butadiene as the main feedstock and is a core raw material for nitrile gloves, which are widely used in such industries as healthcare, medical and food.

The two sides will work together to offer various grades and new applications of NBL as well as develop high-value added products through continuous research and development and investments, according to Petronas Chemicals.

“We are excited about this partnership. It marks a strategic step in developing PCG’s specialty chemicals portfolio, underpinning PCG’s position as a leading integrated chemicals producer in Malaysia,” Petronas Chemicals CEO Sazali Hamzah said in comments posted on the company’s website.

Recently, the use of nitrile gloves has seen rapid growth in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infections. The rising demand for nitrile gloves is at an annual average of more than 10 percent and is expected to account for 70 percent of the entire latex gloves market in 2024, according to Petronas Chemicals.