DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - Exxon Chemical Co. and DSM NV inked a deal last week that will extend commercial metallocene resin production into Europe. At an Oct. 5 news conference at K'95 in Dusseldorf, the companies announced they will form a 50-50 joint venture to make and market metallocene plastomers for the European market.
DSM will contribute a polyethylene production plant in Geleen, Netherlands, and a pilot production plant, not yet built, also in Geleen. Houston-based Exxon will supply its Exxpol met-allocene catalyst technology.
The Geleen plant will use DSM's 8-year-old trademarked Compact solution technology with Exxon's catalysts to make more than 253 million pounds of plastomers per year.
DSM's Geleen polyolefins complex will be the first site in Europe to use metallocene technology to produce polymers, George Rizzo, Exxon's senior vice president, said at the conference.
``This joint venture is a key milestone to extend the metallocene technology to Europe and later to the rest of the world,'' he said.
DSM, based in Heerlen, Netherlands, expects to make as many as 45 grades of the plastomers with the Exxpol technology, said Louk Ligthart, a member of DSM's managing board. The product has a density of less than 0.015 pounds per cubic foot, according to both firms.
``This puts us at the cutting edge of innovative developments. The two technologies complement each other perfectly, so that we can offer an even wider range of tailor-made, high-performance ethylene-based polymers,'' Ligthart said.
DSM will continue to supply its line of linear low density PE elastomeric products from Geleen.
But the 253 million-pound facility will adopt the Exxpol technology, gradually displacing existing PE production there. DSM now does 250 million to 300 million Dutch guilders' ($156 million to $187 million) worth of LLDPE elastomeric business at the plant, he said.
Although the metallocene polymers are expected to obtain a higher market price, neither Rizzo nor Ligthart would discuss pricing structures. Rizzo only said he expects the metallocene polymers to get a fair market value.
Besides being the first commercial use of metallocene catalysts in Europe, the DSM joint venture will mark the first use of Exxon's metallocene technology in a solution polymer process.
Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, Mich., Exxon's leading competitor in metallocene technologies, developed and uses metallocene catalysts in its own solution polymerization processes.
Exxon and DSM examined Dow's patent position before launching their venture and anticipate no patent problems with Dow, Rizzo said.
Separately, Rizzo also said the partnership does not preclude Exxon's further developing its metallocene technology for the European market.
He said Exxon expects to begin producing Exceed PE products at its facility in Notre Dame de Gravenchon, France, by January 1997.
Likewise, Ligthart said the joint venture will not prevent DSM from licensing its Compact technology worldwide.