Will Your Future Shipments of PE Come From North Dakota?

By: Tony Deligio 15. October 2014

On October 13, the state which trailed only Texas in oil production in 2013 with a record output of 313 million barrels, announced its plans to work with Badlands NGL LLC and build an estimated $4 billion processing facility that will convert ethane gas into PE.


The next day, speaking at the Great Plains & Empower ND Energy Conference, North Dakota’s Governor Jack Dalrymple (pictured below with microphone), explained his rational.


We are making great advances in our energy industry by adding value to our resources right here in North Dakota. North Dakota is a national powerhouse in energy production and we have taken important steps to convert our energy resources into products of greater value. Still there is much more opportunity ahead for us to take value-added energy to a whole new level.


North Dakota, as well as other states participating in the fracking revolution, have struggled at times to find an outlet for the so-called “associated gas” that comes up through the shale formation fissures whose primary target is oil. Some fields have turned to flaring, burning off natural gas liquids (NGLs) like ethane, propane and methane. This has been particularly true of North Dakota, according to this LA Times article, which reported that the amount of gas flared in the Bakken oil field has almost tripled since 2011, “sending gas worth more than $1 billion a year into the sky.”


NGLs that aren’t flared and remain in the crude oil extracted from the Bakken pose more of a threat than wasting a fossil fuel, however, with several high-profile explosions of crude-hauling rail cars leading to calls for regulation. Illustrating the growing size of the threat, the number of tank carloads of Bakken crude has risen from less than 10,000 in 2009 to more than 400,000 in 2013, according to NPR.


In a statement released by Governor Dalrymple announcing the huge, new project, the issue of flaring was addressed:


This project is fully aligned with our goals to reduce flaring, add value to our energy resources right here in North Dakota and create diverse job opportunities across the state. By advancing the responsible development of our energy resources and by adding value to all of our resources, the opportunities in North Dakota are boundless.


Given that the plant will have the capacity to produce enough PE for every citizen of North Dakota to take home more than 4500 pounds annually, Dalrymple acknowledged that Badlands will have to target customers beyond the state’s borders, and perhaps look even further abroad:


Badlands intends to market the majority of the polyethylene products domestically, but product will also find its way to markets in Asia, South America and Europe.


Badlands is working with Spanish contractor Tecnicas Reunidas and Texas based petrochemical development consultant Vinmar Projects on the proposed plant, with a preliminary engineering analysis to be completed this year, including technology evaluations, engineering and planning, and final site selection.


This project joins four proposed shale-gas-fueled crackers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, involving Braskem, Shell, Appalachian Resins, and a Thai/Japanese partnership of PTT and Marubeni.


Such projects involve big price tags and bigger lead times, but even if only half come to fruition, the impact on global plastics production and trade balances can’t be understated. Similarly, if a similar tact is taken in other shale-oil producing states regarding flaring and associated gas, the potential for a massive new supply of plastics and petrochemical feedstocks is massive. 

Will NPE2015 Challenge NPE2000 In Size?

By: Tony Deligio 14. October 2014

Brad Williams, director of trade show marketing and sales at NPE organizer SPI, told Plastics Technology during a early October interview that the SPI’s internal numbers clocked NPE2000 at 1,041,000 net square feet of exhibits, while NPE2015 has currently booked 995,000 net square feet of exhibit space. That leaves approximately 50,000 net square feet of space left on the exhibit floor, with “plenty of sales activity still happening,” Williams said.


“We are wall bound,” Williams added, noting that the Orange County Convention Center isn’t suited for temporary, exterior exhibits, “but we do feel good about the prospect of a show the same size as NPE2000.”


From that high-water mark in 2000, NPE experienced contraction for three straight show cycles, albeit the 2009 event’s decline came along with the global economy’s fall in the midst of the Great Recession. The swine flu pandemic didn’t help, either.


In 2012, SPI inaugurated a new locale with renewed growth for its triennial event, and NPE2015 looks to maintain that momentum, and in some ways, recalibrate the global plastics industry’s focus.


As part of an NPE feature in our upcoming November issue, which kicks off Plastics Technology’s NPE coverage, I spoke with Peter Smith, CEO of additives supplier Addivant. Fully independent of its former owner, Chemtura, as of 2013, Smith noted that Addivant sees NPE2015 as being important for his company and the global plastics processing industry.


“Chinaplas, over the last decade, has grown to be so large that it was where all the action was,” Smith said. “I think what we’re going to see now is a balance. I don’t think China is going to disappear, by any means, but I think North America will come back in such a major way that it will be the go-to location for the next generation of equipment. It will be the go-to location for the next generation of polymers, and therefore, if you’re in the business of processing polymers, there won’t be a better location than NPE.”


New Spaces Pique Exhibitor Interest
Addivant isn’t alone in that assessment, with Williams running through various programs, which were new to the show in 2012 or will be come March, that are drawing major interest from exhibitors.


Back in 2012, SPI kicked off its Customer Service Centers program for major additives and materials suppliers, with six signing up for conference space off the OCCC show floor to conduct one-on-one’s with key accounts.


For NPE2015, Williams said 12 companies have already signed up, with a total of 15 projected to be offered by the time the show rolls around. That dozen contains some of the most recognizable names in plastics production, including:   


  • Dow Chemical
  • DSM
  • DuPont
  • Eastman Chemical
  • ExxonMobil Chemical
  • LyondellBasell


Williams also added that many other material and additive suppliers, including more household names like BASF, SABIC and 3M, will be at show as well, opting for a traditional booth space.


New to the Orlando showfloor in 2015 will be the IDSA-sponsored Design Center and NPE3D, both of which have already been expanded due to demand. When I spoke with Williams, 11 of the 15 spaces in the Design Center were occupied, while NPE3D has already signed up 18 exhibitors, with around eight spaces left.


The Super Bowl of Plastics
I began work in plastics publishing in 2000, just a few months after the massive NPE2000 was held at McCormick Place in Chicago. My veteran colleagues at the time described the triennial event as the Super Bowl of Plastics, a fitting moniker given the size/U.S. influence. I—no kidding—mistook the show edition of that publication for a phone book.


Intervening shows contracted along with the domestic plastics industry, but both are suddenly resurgent, and I for one think NPE2015 could kick off something big for the show and the sector. 

Taiwan’s Plastics Machinery Sector Dials Into iPhone’s Success

By: Tony Deligio 8. October 2014

Consumer electronics and the Taiwanese economy have a very symbiotic relationship, owing to the island nation’s numerous electronics OEMs and contract manufacturers, including increasingly household names like HTC, Asus, Acer, Quanta, and Foxconn.


That shared prosperity was on display in Taipei as the 14th edition of Taipei Plas got underway in mid-September at the Nangang International Exhibition Center. The biennial show set a record for booths (2670) and drew 530 total exhibitors, with the number of exhibitors and booths up 12 and 16%, respectively, according to co-organizer, TAITRA (Taiwan External Trade Development Council).


David Wu, who in addition to being the general manager of vertical injection molding machine specialist Multiplas also serves on the board of the Taiwan Association of Machinery Industry’ (TAMI) Rubber and Plastic Machinery group, referenced the latest iPhone in his comments during the Taipei Plas opening ceremony.


Noting that from January to August, the plastics and rubber machinery sector experienced 2% growth, despite global economic struggles, Wu said the industry’s expansion was in part derived from the success of Apple’s latest phone, which sold more than 10 million units in its opening weekend. Wu noted that some of the machinery used in the phone’s production hails 100% from Taiwan, and the phone’s mega launch had directly impacted the local economy, actually nudging the country’s industrial index higher, pushing it to a smart phone/tablet fueled record in August.


In further comments, Wu gave a shout out to a Foxconn executive in attendance, with that gentleman half rising from his chair and acknowledging the gathered dignitaries and media. Foxconn and Apple are also linked, and not always in a positive light, but the Taiwanese company has undoubtedly benefited from Apple’s rise.


“I think we can expect eve more growth in the coming months.” Wu said, noting other impending technology launches, including from Apple’s Korean rival, Samsung. “The fact that Taiwanese suppliers have been chosen by companies like Apple and Samsung means we are very capable.”


Reflecting the importance of the sector and the show, Taiwan’s vice president, Den-Yih Wu (pictured at top), spoke at the opening ceremony, garnering a laugh from the crowd when instead of Apple called out a local brand.


“What about HTC?” Wu asked rhetorically, brushing aside talk about Apple and Samsung. “Are we getting local orders?”


The Taiwanese government is banking on more orders, domestically and from abroad, with construction underway on an expansion to the Nangang Exhibition Center. Behind the stage the vice president spoke from, a row of windows overlooked the construction site, with the expansion set to be completed by the end of 2016, and the new space, connected under Nangang Road and the Metro train line via tunnel, available for Taipei Plas 2018. 

What Are the Most Important Issues Facing Processors?

By: Tony Deligio 8. October 2014

In advance of NPE2015, Plastics Technology surveyed its readers regarding their operations, the show, and what the most important issues facing them are, garnering some interesting responses.


Nearly 230 individuals responded to the survey, and in terms of the processes performed in house, injection molding lead the way, at 60%, followed by extrusion and machining/fabricating (both at 29%); compounding and thermoforming (both at 14%), with blow molding (13%) close behind. Compression molding (7%) and rotational molding (2%) rounded out the respondent pool.


Quality, quality, quality
Just like the old Ford slogan, “Quality is Job One” for our survey participants, with 83% calling increasing manufacturing quality “very important.” Up next was increasing productivity/output (76%), followed by reducing scrap/material waste (63%). The skills gap, which Plastics Technology has covered extensively, is also top of mind for our readers. Just over 57% said finding/retaining skilled workers was very important, with 55% calling increasing their workers’ skills a top priority.


Rounding out the list were reducing energy consumption (46%), competing with low-cost manufacturers in other countries (41%), and increasing sustainability or operations/products (35%).


What About Safety?
Perhaps as interesting as what our readers checked off, were the topics respondents added in via comments. Leading the way? Safety. Four commenters noted that plant safety was a top concern for them, with additional write-ins including freight rates, developing new/better products, and preventative maintenance.


Making NPE better
The crux of the survey dealt with SPI’s triennial plastics event, NPE, and will be highlighted in a feature article that will run in Plastics Technology’s November issue. From those questions two things were clear: lots of folks have been to the show (83% said that they or others at their company had attended), and a lot more people will be headed to Orlando come March (nearly 61% said that they, or someone from their company, would go to NPE2015).


We also asked survey participants how they would improve the show, and a theme emerged. In so many words: Make NPE more like K. At least, make it like K in how the show is organized, with like technologies in the same hall (guessing folks wouldn’t want to recreate Düsseldorf weather in October or jam-packed U-bahn cars).


Here’s a sampling:


Set up floor so that all like manufacturers are in the same location.


Put like machinery/processes together instead of having it spread around. Do it like the K show.


Arrange the show by category, machines, secondary equipment, quality equipment, robotics, material handling.”


Group the technology providers closely together; they compete directly in the market place so there should be no problem with their booth areas all being together.


For the upcoming article, Plastics Technology spoke with SPI Trade Show Sales and Marketing Director Brad Williams, who acknowledged that show floor product categories will be a “big discussion” with NPE2015’s exhibit committee following the 2015 event. Whether that leads to a change in layout remains to be seen.


It should also be noted, that more than a few respondents were perfectly happy with the show as is:


No changes. I already find NPE to be the most useful trade show in the U.S. for my needs.

Last Call for Papers for Molding 2015 Conference

By: Matthew H. Naitove 7. October 2014

Don’t be bashful! Share your concerns, triumphs, and challenges with your peers at this annual conference aimed at injection molders only. You’ll hear technical presentations from suppliers of machinery, molds, materials, etc., but some of the most intriguing talks each year come from molders themselves. They have discussed their progress in sustainability, challenges in finding qualified workers, issues about competing domestically and internationally, and their assessment of what it takes to succeed in markets like medical, electronics, and so on.


Molding 2015 will be held next June 16-18 in Rosemont, Ill., co-located with the Amerimold show and conference, also an event sponsored by Gardner Business Media.


At Molding 2015, there will be sessions on these topics:

 •  Emerging technologies.

 •  Sustainable manufacturing.

 •  Medical molding.

 •  Molding integrated electronic components.

 •  Adding value: Automation, Assembly, Packaging, LSR Molding.


If you have a story to tell or an issue to raise with other molders, send in a brief abstract before the deadline – Oct. 17. For more information on the conference, and instructions on submitting an abstract, visit this site and click on “Online Call for Papers.”

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