LyondellBasell's Advanced Polymer Solutions Business to Focus on Diverse Market Applications

New business combines LyondellBasell's PP compounding assets with A. Schulman’s product portfolio. 

As reported last month, LyondellBasell completed the acquisition of A. Schulman, forming the Advanced Polymer Solutions compounding business segment, which essentially doubled the size of the company’s previous platform. This month, I had the chance to speak with Jim Guilfoyle who is now heading the new business regarding its direction and growth opportunities.

Guilfoyle’s career has been with LyondellBasell and its predecessor companies, starting as a chemical engineer prior to managerial and technical positions. Before his new appointment as executive VP Advanced Polymer Solutions and Global Supply Chain, he served as senior VP for the company’s global supply chain and intermediates and derivatives.

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Set up to operate as a stand-alone reporting segment, Advanced Polymer Solutions brings together LyondellBasell’s previous PP compounding assets and A. Schulman’s product portfolio including: engineered thermoplastic composites used in infrastructure, aerospace and automotive applications; powders used in coatings, rotational molding, toll compounding and other technical applications; and, color and additive masterbatches used in plastic, paper, and paint goods.

Also included are LyondellBasell’s recognized Catalloy TPOs used in the production of durable and flexible products for the automotive, packaging and construction industries as well as polybutene-1 resins, which are touted for temperature resistance and strength for use in water pipes, construction materials and re-closable packaging.

From the outset, Guilfoyle points out that they are now in the early stages of evaluating the value propositions of the combined business which will be followed by fueling their growth. “We have had a long-standing position in PP compounding with a big focus on both interior and exterior automotive applications. With the A. Schulman assets, growth opportunities include markets ranging from agricultural products, packaging and other consumer goods, electronics, automotive, and construction,” Guilfoyle says. “Our core PE and PP resins will be used by the new compounding business to develop unique compounds.”

As we reported during NPE2018, LyondellBasell was already well positioned to meet market demand for PE and PP, developing a company strategy focused on both organic and inorganic growth which has fueled new and innovative products and process technologies to market. The company’s Hyperzone PE technology, which represents a novel application of a technology originally developed for PP, is one example of such innovation. The technology produces HDPE that is said to deliver an optimal balance between ease of processing and high-performance end-product physical properties, including superior toughness, improved chemical resistance and ease of processing. The company’s new Hyperzone PE plant is currently scheduled to come online in mid-2019 and will be the first facility to deploy the new PE technology.

Both companies have had a strong presence in flame-retardant polyolefin compounds for industrial wire and cable applications, an area that will be significantly strengthened by their combined assets

Also as reported during NPE2018, A. Schulman has zeroed in on building and construction, seeing potential in domestic infrastructure and continued growth in commercial construction. The extreme weather hazards we continue to see have been a key driver toward further advancements in products that provide weatherability, UV protection, and strength compared to traditional building materials. 

With the color and additive masterbatches addition, a broad range of flexible and rigid PE and PP packaging will be targeted. This is a big plus both from a technology point of view as well as being able to market a full-product line geared to packaging, according to Guilfoyle.

The two combined compounding product portfolios are also very complementary in agricultural film and sheeting products for such applications as greenhouse containment and fertilization, as well as molding compounds for agricultural equipment, such as tractors. In addition, the two complement each other in the rotational molding arena.

Guilfoyle views the overall electrical/electronics arena as yet another growth area where A. Schulman has had a presence, as is the case with thermoplastic composites for infrastructure, construction and transportation. “We are very excited about the markets in which A. Schulman has participated,” says Guilfoyle.

As for automotive, the company’s presence will only be further strengthened. “Innovation and our connection with major OEMs and understanding their strategic direction is very important. We already have a strong presence in both exterior and interior applications with TPOs that offer impact, weatherability and/or soft touch. The addition of A. Schulman’s product formulations will further enhance LyondellBasell’s legacy line.”