Plastics News staff reporter Frank Esposito filed the following briefs from Metcon 99, held June 9-10 in Houston.
Borealis expanding in standard catalysts
Advancements in metallocene and single-site catalysts aren't leading Borealis A/S to stop looking for ways to improve traditional Ziegler-Natta catalysts.
Borealis, one of Europe's largest polyolefin makers, has been able to apply its Borstar bimodal polyolefin catalysts to produce enhanced grades of PP, according to Klaus Jens, manager for low-pressure polyethylene technology. The firm began producing the materials commercially in Finland in 1995 and plans to make them at a plant under construction in Austria.
The Stathelle, Norway-based firm also plans to produce enhanced PP and PE at a billion-pound plant under construction in Ruwais, United Arab Emirates.
Although Borealis is doing research into single-site catalysts, Jens said Ziegler-Natta catalysts ``are still very competitive today.''
New owner maintains software design
Molecular Simulations Inc., a San Diego catalyst software firm, has a new owner, but still is designing software for some of the biggest names in the plastics industry.
The 350-employee firm was bought by Pharmacopeia Inc. of Princeton, N.J., late last year. Both companies test pharmaceutical catalysts as well, but MSI's polymer work made it an attractive acquisition target, according to senior account manager Stephen Mumby.
MSI's customer list includes DuPont, Dow Chemical Co., Exxon Chemical Co., Phillips Petroleum Corp., EniChem SpA and Imperial Chemical Industries plc.
Mumby said MSI can start with a model of a needed polymer and work backward to design a catalyst. Other firms need to start with the catalyst and work to find a matching resin, Mumby said.
Metallocene nibble at traditional ETPs
Engineering thermoplastics made using metallocene or single-site catalysts are starting to infringe on markets held by nylon, polycarbonate and other traditional engineering TPs, according to John Murphy, program director of Catalyst Group in Spring House, Pa.
Metallocene/single-site use is moving past traditional polyolefins to create such materials as cyclic olefin copolymers (by BFGoodrich Co. and Ticona), ethylene styrene interpolymers (Dow Chemical Co.), syndiotactic polystyrene (Dow and Idemitsu Petrochemical) and aliphatic polyketones (Shell Chemical Co. and a GE Plastics/BP Chemicals partnership).
``We can expect some market impact on engineering thermoplastics, as well as on styrenics and vinyls from metallocene-catalyzed materials,'' Murphy said. ``Traditional ETP makers have to bear in mind the return on their materials might be slower than they're used to because of these new materials.''