Ascend targets nylon for auto applications, opening propylene monomer unit in Texas

By Frank Esposito
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: April 18, 2014 10:57 am ET
Updated: April 18, 2014 11:03 am ET

Image By: Caroline Seidel/Plastics News Scott Rook, vice president of nylon for Ascend Performance Materials Inc., during K2013.

Related to this story

Topics Automotive, Materials, Materials Suppliers, United States, Electrical/electronics

HOUSTON — Materials firm Ascend Performance Materials Inc. is in full operation at its new nylon 6/6 compounding line in Florida and will break ground by the end of the year on a propylene monomer production unit in Texas.

The strategy for Houston-based Ascend is to have large, high-output compounds made by the new line in Pensacola, Fla., and specialty compounds made on its existing line in Foley, Ala., nylon vice president Scott Rook said in a recent interview in Houston.

Rook added that Ascend has been at full production on the 66 million-pound line in Pensacola — where it also makes nylon fibers — since August. The firm operates 110 million pounds of compounding capacity in Foley, and also works with toll compounders in Europe and Asia.

The Pensacola line “makes a cleaner [nylon] compound than any place in the world,” he said. “It’s more consistent on a viscosity standpoint, and the whole process is very consistent for part weight and dimensional control. It’s a very efficient way to make compounds.”

Ascend officials expect demand for nylon compounds for auto applications to continue to grow, with more work going into structural components and engine mounts. Auto demand should remain strong for nylon in under-hood parts such as radiator intakes and cooling systems. The auto market is the largest consumer of Ascend’s nylon resins and compounds.

U.S. auto production is expected to increase 4 to 5 percent this year, Rook said, with production in the Chinese auto market expected to surpass the 20 million mark for the first time.

The electrical/electronic market ranks No. 2 for Ascend’s nylon products, and more growth is expected there as well, according to nylon marketing director Dharm Vahalia.

Construction on the $1.2 billion propylene project at the Chocolate Bayou complex in Alvin, Texas, is set to begin by the end of the year, with an anticipated startup date of late 2016. Currently, Ascend “is waiting to hear back” on environmental permits for the site, according to Rook.

The unit will use propane dehydrogenation (PDH) technology, and will benefit from new supplies of propane from shale gas development throughout North America. The Ascend project is one of several PDH-based propylene expansions announced for the region. Ascend is the only major nylon maker to use propylene-based technology.

The firm currently buys propylene to make acrylonitrile for use in its nylon products.

“There’s value to be gained by doing our own propylene because of the amount of propylene by-products that are based on propane,” Rook said.

Other nylon makers use a butadiene-based process to make nylon feedstocks, but the butadiene market has been more volatile than the propylene market in recent years.

“Propylene is more stable, and it’s trending down because of these new PDH plants,” Rook said.

Propylene not consumed internally by Ascend will be sold to outside customers, officials said.

On the new product front, Ascend is aiming new resins and compounds at automotive, electrical and electronic and specialty markets such as barrier film used in food and meat packaging, as well as in stock shapes. Other new grades will be able to make higher heat-resistant parts.

Ascend also recently launched three new non-halogenated grades of its Vydyne Eco-brand compounds. The materials are available in glass-reinforced and non-reinforced grades and are being aimed at connectors, breakers and other electronics uses.

Private equity firm SK Capital Partners of New York has owned Ascend since 2009, when it bought the integrated nylon business of Solutia Inc. SK also owns plastic additives maker Addivant and acrylic sheet maker Aristech Acrylics.

Ascend employs 3,000 worldwide. The firm does not disclose financial data. Its annual sales were near $2 billion when it was acquired by SK in 2009. 


Comments

Ascend targets nylon for auto applications, opening propylene monomer unit in Texas

By Frank Esposito
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: April 18, 2014 10:57 am ET
Updated: April 18, 2014 11:03 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Ferro sells another piece of its plastics business

December 19, 2014 3:33 pm ET

Ferro Corp. has sold its North American polymer additives business to a private equity firm for $154 million in cash.    More

Image

Judge limits scope of jury verdict against JM Eagle

December 19, 2014 2:30 pm ET

A federal judge in Los Angeles said Dec. 18 that last year's jury verdict issued against J-M Manufacturing Co. — now JM Eagle — for...    More

Image

Jarden hiring for new plastics plant

December 19, 2014 1:45 pm ET

Consumer products conglomerate Jarden Corp. is hiring plastics technicians for a new operation in Erlanger, Ky.    More

Image

Antimicrobial polymers firm TiFiber launching pilot production in Ark.

December 19, 2014 10:58 am ET

TiFiber Inc., which makes synthetic compounds to control dangerous microorganisms, will locate a pilot production facility and its future company...    More

Image

Patel named LyondellBasell CEO

December 19, 2014 9:56 am ET

Bhavesh V. “Bob” Patel has been named CEO of Houston-based polyolefins producer LyondellBasell Industries NV, effective Jan. 12.    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

Our latest RESEARCH report examines trends in FLEXIBLE PACKAGING impacting the North American market including a review of economic conditions, key drivers of growth, materials pricing, M&A activity, sustainability challenges and the outlook for 2015.

Learn more

Plastics in Brazil - State of the Industry Report

This in-depth report examines the Brazilian plastics industry from a historical and geographical context. Our analysts provide insight on economic trends and forecasts, growing manufacturing sectors that utilize plastics, private investment opportunities, market environment challenges, and innovations in R&D.

Data tables and charts on producer prices, trade, plastics production and end market indicators is also included.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events