The following briefs were gathered by Plastics News staff reporter Frank Esposito from Flexpo 99, held June 23-25 in New Orleans.
PE, PVC resin prices to continue rebound
Polyethylene and PVC prices will continue their climb back from the depths they reached in 1998, while polypropylene prices shouldn't see significant recovery until 2000, according to industry consultant Rob Harvan.
Harvan of Houston's Bonner & Moore Associates Inc. believes the short-term recovery will be keyed by oil producers' ability to retain control of the marketplace, thus affecting supplies of plastics feedstocks ethylene and propylene.
This year's dramatic run-up in PE prices can be credited to ``panic on the part of PE producers,'' who saw dramatic ethylene price increases because of several cracker outages, according to Harvan.
In the second quarter, 10 percent of North American ethylene capacity was out of action for at least 30 days, he said.
A wave of added capacity and battles for market share will keep PP from rebounding as quickly as PE and PVC, while PVC's recovery will be offset by a global operating rate that could drop to almost 70 percent of capacity in 2000, Harvan added.
Quattropolymer gains in number of markets
Montell Polyolefins' ``quattropolymer'' - a unique polyolefin product with ethylene, propylene, butadiene and hexene comonomers - is gaining ground in markets for frozen food, ice bags, can liners and agricultural films, according to Ray Armat, new-business development specialist for Wilmington, Del.-based Montell.
Montell launched quattropolymer production late last year on a production line in Lake Charles, La., he said.
Carbide EPDM plant is largest of its kind
Union Carbide Corp. said it opened its first commercial-scale plant for manufacturing gas-phase ethylene propylene diene monomer, in Seadrift, Texas, in December.
The plant, with annual capacity of about 200 million pounds, is the largest single EPDM reaction line in the world, according to Patrick Gallo, EPDM global manager for Danbury, Conn.-based Carbide.
The company has no plans to license the technology, Gallo said.
``[EPDM] is a very small market, and to put our competition out there with this kind of technology is probably not in our best interests,'' he said.
Metallocene PE mixes with standard grades
Exxon Chemical Co. is seeing positive results from processors' efforts to mix Exxon's Exceed-brand metallocene polyethylene with standard grades of high density PE.
``We've seen blends with as much as 15-20 percent high density that still have high dart impact,'' said Marsha Arvedson, Exxon volume products/PE technology manager.
``This might suggest to a heavy-duty sack maker that instead of carrying several varying-density grades of PE, he can use Exceed and blend it to the density that he wants with HDPE.''
Exceed also is replacing some very low density PE materials in food-packaging uses that call for toughness as well as clarity and heat-seal performance.
Blends of linear LDPE and polypropylene that previously were considered incompatible also have been achieved with Exceed, Arvedson said.
Consultant critical of stalled Pemex sale
The Mexican government's inconsistent handling of the sale of portions of its state-run Pemex petrochemical business has prevented private companies from entering the polyethylene and polypropylene markets, said industry consultant Carlos Pani.
Mexico is a major importer of PE and PP. The government's sale of its secondary petrochemical businesses, including PE and PP, fell through when investors balked at a plan that would allow the government to retain 51 percent ownership, said Pani, with Houston's Chemical Market Resources.
Although Pemex is spending $300 million to expand two PE facilities in Mexico, Pani said lasting changes may not occur until the next political elections in 2001.