MIDLAND, MICH.-Dow Chemical Co. is taking steps to become a player in polypropylene. Separately, the company said Oct. 25 it will stop making high density polyethylene blow molding resins in North America, where it is a minor player in those materials.
Through its intended acquisition of an 80 percent interest in a polyolefins plant in the former East Germany, Dow wants to add PP to its list of resins, which Dow claims allows it to ``offer the broadest range of thermoplastic and thermoset materials of any manufacturer worldwide.''
The Midland firm announced in April it had signed an agreement with the Bundesanstalt fur vereinigungsbedingte Sonderaufgaben (BvS), an agency of the German government involved in the privatization of state-owned businesses.
Dow hoped to close the agreement by September, but it has been delayed for reasons that are not clear. Company officials were not available late last week to comment on the firm's PP plans.
However, Dow announced Oct. 20 that it has named Robert Wood global vice president for engineering thermoplastics and polypropylene, indicating the company's intentions for the business.
Dow's plans for the acquisition include building a 400 million pound-per-year PP plant, a new linear low density PE plant, an aniline production facility and an acrylic acid plant.
The acquisition involves operations of three state-owned chemical companies.
Dow is seeking to buy a steam cracker at Saechsische Olefinwerke GmbH in Boehlen, Germa-ny; electrochemical units and derivative operations at Buna GmbH in Schkopau, Germany; and polyolefin operations atLeuna-Polyolefine GmbH in Merseburg, Germany.
Meanwhile, Dow Chemical Canada Inc. said it will shut its sole remaining North American facility, in Sarnia, Ontario, for making slurry HDPE blow molding resins, while continuing to make and supply such resins in Europe, where Dow Chemical says its process is competitive.
The firm is a relatively small supplier of those materials and is not cost-competitive with other North American producers, according to Mike Ginn, Dow's rigid-packaging market manager for North America.
The Sarnia plant, with an annual capacity of 160 million pounds, mainly supplies customers in Canada. It makes fractional melt-grade resins for blow molded containers and parts for recreation, automotive and other markets. Dow Canada is helping customers find alternate suppliers and expects to shut the slurry train by next March, Ginn said in a telephone interview from the Sarnia site.
The shutdown should have ``little impact'' on the HDPE market, said Tim Roberts, HDPE business manager for Phillips Petroleum Co.'s Plastics Division in Houston. ``Finding resin is not a problem'' because supply and demand are better balanced than a year ago, according to Roberts.
Ginn said Dow remains committed to making solution HDPE injection molding grades in North America. Its solution HDPE plants are in Plaquemine, La., Freeport, Texas, and in Spain and Belgium.
Customers have the options to switch to Canada's other domestic producers - Novacor Chemicals Ltd. of Calgary, Alberta, and Petromont Inc. of Montreal, or several U.S. producers.
Dow is the smallest producer of such blow molding grades in North America, Ginn said. Last year it shut two slurry HDPE trains in Plaquemine, and uses the third for internal supply to a chlorinated resin operation.
Dow Canada recently announced a debottlenecking program for its high-pressure LDPE plant in Sarnia. It also is debottlenecking a solution-based LLDPE train in Fort Saskatche-wan, Alberta. The two projects will add more than 100 million pounds per year of capacity.