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

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

Ford shrinks its supplier 'watch list'

October 20, 2014 1:35 pm ET

Ford purchasing chief Hau Thai-Tang says suppliers are starting to invest in additional production capacity because they think the recovery is real.    More

Materials firm realigns business divisions

October 20, 2014 1:23 pm ET

Trinseo S.A., formerly known as Styron L.L.C., is realigning its business divisions, creating two new business groups — Performance Materials...    More

Molder goes to auction block

October 17, 2014 12:17 pm ET

An Illinois custom injection molding operation will be auctioned off after its owner decided to close the business.    More

Image

Plastikon expanding in Kentucky

October 17, 2014 11:24 am ET

Automotive supplier Plastikon Industries Inc. plans to more than double the size of its production facility in Leitchfield, Ky.    More

Image

Corbion Purac collaboration taking bioplastics into even more uses

October 17, 2014 6:00 am ET

Corbion Purac NV's collaboration with Taiwan-headquartered compounder Supla Co. Ltd. and Taiwan electronics producer Kuender & Co. is paying dividends...    More

Market Reports

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

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 million dollar plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

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

More Events