Dow/Union Carbide Merger Completed
Last month, Union Carbide Corp. of Danbury, Conn., became a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich. Approval by the Federal Trade Commission was the last step, following prior approvals by the European Commission, Canadian Competition Bureau, and other agencies. The merger enhances Dow’s polyethylene, polypropylene, and copolymers capacity with plants in Seadrift, Texas; Taft, La.; and Prentiss, Alberta; as well as joint ventures in Montreal, Brazil, Kuwait, and Japan. Also, Union Carbide owns a half interest in a 700-million-lb/yr PP plant due to open in Linden, N.J., in July. (The other half interest is owned by oil refiner Tosco Corp., which is being acquired by Phillips Petroleum Co.) In addition, Dow becomes co-owner with ExxonMobil Chemical of Univation Technologies LLC, which licenses the Unipol gas-phase PE process and Exxpol metallocene technology for LLDPE.
As a condition of regulatory approval, Dow agreed to divest to BP Chemicals Ltd. of the U.K. its metallocene catalyst technology for gas-phase PE processes, an area in which Dow and BP formerly had a joint-development effort. BP has agreed to license to Univation the rights to practice and sublicense all the divested Dow technologies.
Medical Applications Beckon For New Cyclo-Olefin
The first major commercial application for new Topas cyclo-olefin copolymer (COC) from Ticona of Summit, N.J., was thermoformed blister packs for aspirin in Indonesia. The high-clarity engineering resin has also found optical and medical applications in Europe. Now there is a commercial medical use in the U.S.—injection blow molded diagnostic tubes for tuberculosis testing. Wheaton Plastics in Millville, N.J., molds the tubes for Becton Dickinson and Co., Franklin Lakes, N.J. To replace glass in these bacterial incubation tubes, BD chose COC over polycarbonate for its high moisture barrier, so the nutrient media in the 16 x 100 mm tube has a shelf life of at least 12 months without the need for costly barrier packaging. In addition, the COC has almost no extractables and withstands autoclave steam sterilization.
Wheaton project manager Earl Skinner says, “The COC processes much like PP. It blow molds easily and has a broad processing range. It also flows well, is dimensionally stable, and affords good repeatability.” The tube has a uniform wall with minimum thickness of 0.03 in. The sealing surface is controlled to within 0.005 in., as opposed to 0.01 in. with glass.
Eastman Chemical to Split in Two
Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, Tenn., intends to break itself into two companies by the end of the year. A “Specialty Chemicals & Plastics” company will take specialty polymers, coatings, adhesives, inks, performance chemicals, and intermediates. The remaining “PET Plastics & Acetate Fibers” company will also include Eastman’s polyethylene business.
Training & Testing For Free in Florida
The Society of the Plastics Industry, Washington, D.C., has joined forces with the State of Florida to provide free SPI certification training and testing for injection molding and extrusion workers in the state. The training will be provided through SPI’s Plastics Learning Network, which televises live, interactive training via satellite to a community college or plastics facility. Testing will be conducted through the SPI National Certification in Plastics program.
The Florida initiative is being launched by SPI in cooperation with Enterprise Florida, Inc., a public-private economic-development partnership, and Workforce Florida, Inc., which funds workforce development. Two 28-hr PLN courses will be held from March through May. The courses will be held for 2 hr each day, two days a week, over seven weeks. The first course prepares workers for certification in injection molding, the second for extrusion. Qualified firms will be eligible for reimbursement of training and testing fees, about $700 per person.
Companies wishing to apply for the grants should contact Richard Sturgis, director of SPI Southern Regional Operations at (864) 239-2939.
DuPont Forms Fuel-Cell Business
DuPont Co., Wilmington, Del., has formed DuPont Fuel Cells to pursue opportunities in the emerging worldwide fuel-cell market, which DuPont expects to reach $10 billion by 2010. DuPont intends to utilize the resources of its Fluoroproducts, Engineering Polymers, DuPont Canada, and other organizations. A multimillion-dollar fuel-cell center, opened last summer in Wilmington, will work on materials technology and applications development.
DuPont is focusing on proton-exchange membrane fuel cells for portable, stationary, and transportation applications. Initially, DuPont will supply engineering polymers and Nafion perfluorosulfonated membranes, which have been used in fuel cells for space travel for more than 35 years. DuPont is also active in development of direct methanol fuel cells. DuPont sees one potential opportunity in conductive plates, currently made of machined graphite, which could be molded of Xenite LCP or melt-processable fluoropolymers.
Hobson Mould Works Is Up for Sale
Hobson Mould Works, Inc., Shell Rock, Iowa, is looking for a buyer as a solution to its cash-flow crisis. This maker of blow molds and 3D blow molded parts has scaled down its operations and laid off most of its employees until a purchaser is identified. Hobson’s sales were more than $11 million in 2000.
GE/Bayer Venture Nears Commercialization of Plastic Car Windows
Exatec LLC in Wixom, Mich., the automotive-glazing joint venture of GE Plastics and Bayer Corp., plans to put in place this year the last major investment needed for commercialization of its polycarbonate window technology. Exatec will install a multimillion-dollar, production-scale plasma-deposition line at Wixom in the third quarter. The company’s ExatecPlus technology is based on coating polycarbonate window substrates with a weather-resistant layer that is then overcoated with an abrasion-resistant silicate top layer. The new equipment will apply the glass-like top layer by a proprietary plasma-deposition process that is said to be distinguished by its high rate of deposition at relatively low temperatures.
“From a practical standpoint, this engineering investment signals the evolution from a demonstration technology to an industrializable technology,” said Exatec president Cynthia A. Arnold. “After the installation and process optimization are completed, Exatec will have all the equipment in place to go into the market.”
Eastman Adds LCP Capacity
Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, Tenn., will start up next month 6.5 million lb/yr of capacity for its liquid-crystal polymers, which have a new trade name, Titan. Previously called Thermx, they were produced by an unnamed outside supplier.
“We are experiencing unprecedented worldwide demand, and supply has become very tight in recent months,” says Buddy Bounds, director of Engineering and Specialty Polymers. This expansion enables Eastman to meet global demand for LCPs in electronics, which is said to be growing around 20%/yr. •78•
Dow Acquires EniChem’s Polyurethane Business
Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich., has reached an agreement to purchase the polyurethanes business of EniChem S.p.A. of Milan, Italy. Dow will gain another 352 million lb/yr of polyether polyols (of which it is already the world’s largest producer), 176 million lb/yr of MDI, and 260 million lb/yr of TDI (Dow’s first TDI capacity in Europe). EniChem makes these products at four plants in Italy and Belgium. EniChem also produces PUR systems for rigid, flexible, and semi-rigid foams and elastomers at operations in Italy, France, and Germany.
PolyOne to Close Four U.S. Compounding Plants
PolyOne Corp., Cleveland, will close four domestic compounding plants by the end of the second quarter. The four sites are part of PolyOne’s Plastic Compounds and Colors Group. They are in Conroe, Texas; Denver; Glen Rock, Pa.; and San Fernando, Calif. This consolidation is the first step in restructuring the assets of the former M.A. Hanna and Geon companies.
Basell to Shut PP Capacity
Basell NV of the Netherlands temporarily will shut down three polypropylene production lines in the U.S. and Europe, owing to global oversupply of the resin. Their total capacity is about 1.1 billion lb/yr. The U.S. capacity to be shut is a Spheripol homopolymer line at Bayport, Texas, that can make 420 million lb/yr.
Equistar Shuts Down Port Arthur PE Plant
Houston-based Equistar Chemicals, LP discontinued production at its Port Arthur, Texas, polyethylene plant last month. Equistar closed a 240-million-lb/yr HDPE reactor and an LDPE reactor with capacity of 160 million lb/yr. These units, along with a 300-million-lb HDPE reactor mothballed in 1999, will be closed permanently. “Our analysis of Port Arthur concludes that the site does not have sufficient scale and operational efficiency to compete in today’s environment,” says Eugene R. Allspach, Equistar president and CEO. The Port Arthur plant made HDPE for HIC bottles and LDPE film resins for trash-can liners and packaging. The same resins are produced at other Equistar sites.
DSM Expands Nylon 46 Production Capacity
DSM Engineering Plastics of the Netherlands (U.S. office in Evansville, Ind.) has started up a new plant that expands its capacity for Stanyl nylon 46 by 30%. Global demand for high-heat nylons is reportedly growing by more than 20% per year, and DSM is already considering another expansion for 2002.
DSM Sells Its Stock Shapes Business
DSM of the Netherlands has sold its DSM Engineering Plastic Products business to Quadrant Holding of Zurich, Switzerland. DSM EPP produces engineering plastic stock shapes such as sheets, rods, and tubes. Its U.S. operation is in Sheffield, Mass. The group also includes Creative Moulding & Systems, a European custom injection molder.
BP to Divest Fibers, Fabrics & Fabrications
BP of the U.K. (parent of BP Amoco in Chicago) intends to divest several plastic-products businesses based on polyethylene and polypropylene. Among them are fabrics and fibers. BP is reportedly the world’s leading producer of PP carpet backings and is a leading producer of nonwoven PP fabrics for furniture and bedding. It also makes nonwoven geotextiles and woven fabrics for packaging.
BP will also sell off its European plastic fabrications business, which is a leading producer of specialty packaging; agricultural films and netting; films and nonwovens for hygiene and medical applications; and blow molded automotive and appliance components. The business also includes a 51% share in Arjobex, a world leader in polyethylene synthetic papers.
The sale involves 19 sites around the world, including seven in the U.S., plus interests in four joint-venture sites in the the U.S., Europe, and China.
New Compounder Expands
Omni Plastics L.L.C. in Evansville, Ind., which began compounding engineering thermoplastics in 1999, has doubled its capacity by adding a second 81-mm Berstorff Ultra Torque twin-screw extruder. Each line is capable of 10 million lb/yr.
Tomato Soup in PET Bottles in Australia
According to the Singapore-based magazine Asian Plastics News, Australia’s Southcorp Packaging is producing 1-kg size PET bottles for Campbell’s Tomato Soup. It offers a resealable alternative to traditional metal cans. Once opened, the soup can be stored for up to a week.
Magnum Buys Venus Products
Venus Products of Kent, Wash., one of the oldest names in FRP composites equipment, was recently acquired by a competitor, Magnum Industries of Clearwater, Fla. In recent years, Venus had been Venus-Gusmer, Inc., part of Gusmer Machinery Group. Magnum has established two new entities: Magnum Venus Products–Magnum in Clearwater and Magnum Venus Products–Venus in Kent.
Chiller Maker Purchased
AWS, Inc. of Elgin, Ill., a maker of process-cooling and temperature-control systems for plastics processors, has been acquired by GNA, Inc., Burr Ridge, Ill., which supplies auxiliary equipment for graphic arts. AWS is now a division of GNA and remains in Elgin. It supplies portable and central chillers, cooling-tower systems, pump-tank stations, and both single- and multi-zone mold-temperature controllers. It also offers heat exchangers, water-filtration products, and tower water-treatment systems. For the printing market, it offers ink-handling systems and pollution-control equipment.
Mold Repair Operations
Following its move into a new 100,000-sq-ft building, Tradesco Mold Ltd. in Toronto has expanded its mold-repair service with a new dedicated engineering group, new testing capacity, additional personnel, and enhanced machining capability. Mold Repair will now be an independent operation within the company. It will service molds made by Tradesco and others. Hot-runner conversions and upgrades are also offered.
Polymer-Wood Composites Volume to Double by 2005
The next five years will more than double last year’s 700 million lb of polymer-wood composites produced in North America, according to a new market report from Principia Partners, Exton, Pa. Decking applications, including docks and boardwalks, constitute over 60% of the market. Still, these composites represent only a tiny share of more than 2 billion board ft of all materials used annually in decks and railings. The study, “Wood Composites in Decking Structures—2001: Building of Outdoor Living Areas,” costs $9000. For more information, e-mail jmorton@principiaconsulting. com or visit www.principiaconsulting.com.
Dow Launches E-Commerce Site for Epoxies
A new website for on-line sales of epoxy resins and related products has been launched by Dow Plastics, Midland, Mich. The site, www.e-epoxy.com, went live last month. It is intended to serve customers in the continental U.S. and Western Europe. The site currently offers six of Dow’s highest-volume epoxy resins plus glycerine. Specification sheets are also available. The site maintains a complete order history. Dow says it will later expand the site to offer products from other manufacturers.
Xaloy Builds Screw Plant And Technology Center
Xaloy Inc., Pulaski, Va., is building a $3.5-million plant in Seabrook, N.H., to house its growing screw-manufacturing operations and a new Plastification Technology Center (PTC). When it opens in July, the plant will have an area of 38,000 sq ft, about 70% larger than Xaloy’s existing screw facility in Newburyport, Mass. The latter will close after the new facility starts up.
The PTC will contain injection molding, extrusion, and other processing equipment. “It will greatly strengthen our capabilities to test and demonstrate new screw materials and designs, nozzles, and other new products under actual process conditions,” says CEO Walter Cox. “It will also allow us to train customers.”