DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - Borealis A/S, Europe's largest producer of polyolefins, believes it has found a way to manipulate molecular weights in a polymer reactor to produce resins similar to metallocene resins. Borealis of Lyngby, Denmark, said in a news conference at the K'95 trade show in Dusseldorf that its Borstar polyethylene technology uses a loop reactor and a gas-phase reactor in tandem, and propane as a diluent to produce narrow-molecular-weight polymers similar to those made with single-site, metallocene catalyst technology.
Kent Abbas, senior vice president for research and technology, said the Borstar process can use either conventional, Ziegler-Natta catalysts or metallocene catalysts.
However, he added, Borealis has used a highly specialized, proprietary catalyst based on Ziegler-Natta catalysts in developing its process.
Abbas said the combination of the two reactors combines with the use of propane under supercritical conditions in the loop reactor to yield the narrow-molecular-weight products.
Also, Abbas said the tech-nology allows Borealis to incorporate a variety of comonomers and manipulate the process so that polymers of one molecular weight are produced in one reactor while polymers of another molecular weight are produced in the other.
Borealis plans to use the Borstar technology at its 264 million-pound-per-year PE production facility at Porvoo, Finland.
That facility is to be commissioned by the end of this year.
In a news release, Borealiscalled the Bor-star technology a major devel-opment in PE technology during the 1990s. The firm also said it expects the technology to have a dramatic effect on the global PE industry.
Borealis introduced a new grade of PE for water and sewer pipe applications made with the Borstar process that the company said has increased pressure resistance provided by the new technology.
The company also noted that the technology can be adapted for polypropylene production.
Meanwhile, Abbas said he expects Borealis to use metallocene catalyst technology at some future point, and said his firm either will develop its own technology or develop the technology in cooperation with another company. He did not rule out the possibility that Borealis could license such technology from another company.
Separately, Juha Rantanen, president and chief executive officer of Borealis, said his company is looking to Asia for markets for its polymers.
Rantanen said his company is doing a feasibility study with a petrochemical complex in China for a 50-50 joint venture to build a 440 million-pound-per-year PE production facility.
Because it would be part of an existing complex, the facility could be in production by the end of 1996, he said.
Separately, Rantanen revealed that Borealis has signed a letter of intent with the government of Oman to study the possibility of building a polyolefins facility there by the year 2000. The plant would have the capacity to produce 660 million to 770 million pounds of polyolefins per year.
He said the Omani project would require more work than the project in China because ethylene production capacity would have to be expanded significantly in Oman before the project could proceed.
Rantanen noted the decline in volume thermoplastic resin prices that has occurred worldwide since May, and said he believes that decline has been due mainly to an inventory adjustment rather than weakness in the market.
The growth in demand for polymers that swelled sales in 1994 was an aberration, and the inventory and price adjustments were proof that the market for thermoplastics is returning to normal growth patterns, Rantanen said.
Besides the new PE developed with the Borstar technology, Borealis introduced several new grades of thermoplastic olefins at K'95.
A controlled-crystallinity PP for thermoforming applications and a new injection molding grade of PP for very-high-impact applications.
A high-clarity grade of random copolymer PP under the trade name Transpalene for housewares and packaging applications.
New olefinic compounds for automotive applications, especially dashboards and door panels.
An extended range of pipe-grade PP resins for hot- and cold-water applications.