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Dow plastics business features clear polyethylene

By: Frank Esposito

April 3, 2012

ORLANDO, FLA. (April 3, 7:45 a.m. ET) — Dow Chemical Company (Booths 24048, 415 B,C,D) has its plastics businesses all in one boat as it sails into NPE2012.

Midland, Mich.-based Dow – one of the world’s largest plastics and chemicals makers – is at the show with its reorganized Performance Plastic unit for the first time. That’s allowing the firm to take a multilevel approach to customers with products like polyethylene-based Sealution-brand peel polymers for the performance packaging market.

In an interview at NPE2012, senior group marketing manager Greg Bunker said that Dow earlier this year commercialized solution grades with higher clarity that can be used in fresh-cut produce bags and similar products. The firm had commercialized Sealution with lower clarity for applications such as cereal bags in 2010.

“Our customers wanted more clarity and more formulated grades,” Bunker said. The clear grade “has good tear strength and opening strength that will stay strong for a year.”

Dow’s also spotlighting Elite AT-brand enhanced PE resins for food and specialty packaging, as well as industrial and consumer packaging. Bunker described the grades as “post-metallocene” and said they’ve drawn interest from customers even in challenging economic times.

“Customers always want improvement over their competition,” he said. “When times get tough, they need to offer more to their own customers.”

Elite AT resins can be used in multilayer structures for standup pouches or meat and cheese packaging. They can be used as stand-alone resins or in combination with low density PE or other materials.

In an interview at NPE2012, Dow executive Mauro Gregorio addressed the larger topic of the North American PE market. North American PE demand was up about 2-3 percent in the first two moths of 2012, said Gregorio, who serves as commercial vice president of Dow’s Performance Plastics unit in North America.

“We’re seeing the belief that North America is getting to be a better place,” he said. “There’s been month after month of job creation, and more jobs mean more disposable income.”

“We’re not at the full potential that we saw in 2007, but there’s still upside potential. We think (PE) market growth can move ahead at 1.5 times GDP.”

Gregorio also commented on the flood of shale-based natural gas that’s allowing ethylene and PE expansions to be announced throughout North America. Dow already plans to build a new ethylene cracker in The U.S. Gulf Coast by 2018, as well as restart an idle cracker and add on-purpose propylene production.

“The discovery of shale gas is one of the most important events in the U.S. in a long time,” he said. “It’s like the Gold Rush – everyone wants to do it. It will be a winner for North America as a region.”

At NPE 2012, Dow is the exclusive corporate underwriter of the Antec 2012 technical conference, as well as of NPE2012’s Technical Education Program and Technology Central, a program that includes co-located education programs, an international plastics design competition and technology pavilions. Dow also is hosting its “Customer Innovation Center,” located on level four of West Hall. The center is designed to allow Dow to meet with customers and discuss new products in a relaxed setting. Dow’s Performance Plastics unit also will present 16 technical papers during Antec.

Eight exhibitors also are running Dow resins on their equipment for the show, being held April 1-5 in Orlando. That list includes Davis-Standard LLC (Booth 5945) — which will run Continuum-brand bimodal high density polyethylene resins for extruded pipe — and Nordmeccanica SpA (Booth 24048) processing Sealution materials and Mor-Free-brand solventless adhesive.