SABIC Aims to Develop Next-Generation PP
22. November 2016
New pilot plant to start up production by the end of first quarter 2017.
In the last couple of years, we have been witnessing an evolution of SABIC’s polyolefins business, which started with major production of vanilla-type PE and PP in Saudi Arabia as well as at three European locations.
But the company has had its sights on developing specialty polyolefins and that has included the recent launch of metallocene-based polyolefin elastomer and plastomer (POE/POP) copolymers, the result of the formation of its 2015 joint venture with Korea’s SK Global Chemical.
The latest investment is toward the development of next-generation PP. It should be noted that while SABIC does not produce polyolefins in the U.S., it did open a specialty PP compounding operation at its Bay St. Louis, Miss., facility in 2012.
The plant produces SABIC PP compounds and Stamax long-glass PP pellets, both primarily for automotive applications. And, as we reported last month during K 2016, SABIC officials confirmed they are evaluating in conjunction with an ExxonMobil affiliate, the building of a petrochemical and derivatives complex, including polyolefins, either in Texas of Louisiana.
Back to the latest move: the new pilot plant for the development of next-generation PP, will be brought on stream in Sittard-Geleen, the Netherlands, by the end of March, 2017. Using gas-phase polymerization technology, this plant will support the production of “superior materials that meet the needs of the different industries like automotive, pipe, appliances and advanced packaging,” according to SABIC officials.
In particular, the company is aiming to develop grades with improved stiffness/impact and flow properties. A key focus will be impact grades of PP, as well as random copolymers and homopolymers. SABIC also plans to experiment on advanced catalysts at this plant, which will complement pilot plants used by the company at other strategic locations.
This pilot plant is the latest in a series of SABIC investments at the Brightlands Chemelot R&D manufacturing campus in Sittard-Geleen. The company opened a new R&D facility there this past May.
Lina Prada, global PP technology director, says the pilot plant is a further demonstration of SABIC’s commitment to invest in innovation. “When it starts up next year, we will have considerably more capacity to develop new PP materials for commercialization in our current European assets in Geleen and Gelsenkirchen, Germany.”
SABIC is taking a fast-track approach to construction and installation of the pilot plant. It has contracted the work to Zeton, a designer and builder of pilot and demonstration-scale plants with facilities in Enschede, the Netherlands and Burlington, Ont.
Zeton has developed a skid-mounted system that accelerates implementation times and allows full design flexibility. Installation will begin next month after Zeton has built and tested the plant in Enschede before partially disassembling it into around 15 modules for delivery to Geleen.