Shell Chemical Co. is terminating production of its Carilon-brand engineering polymers after being unable to find a buyer for the product line. London-based Shell opened its first North American Carilon plant just last fall in Geismar, La. Carilon is an aliphatic polyketone marketed as a replacement for nylon and acetal in the automotive market and elsewhere.
After the 55 million-pound-per-year Geismar plant closes, Shell will provide customers with Carilon from its plant in Carrington, England, for a short time before that plant closes as well.
Shell had announced in late 1998 that it planned to sell off 40 percent of its chemicals businesses. The firm has found buyers for its PVC, PET, polystyrene and other businesses, but has had no such luck with Carilon.
"In 1999, [Carilon] was thoroughly marketed and discussions were held with several interested parties, however none of these discussions developed into a sale," Shell officials said in a Feb. 17 news release.
The decision did not sit well with customers who had embraced Carilon because of the advantages it had over standard nylon and acetal.
One such customer is DLH Industries Inc., an injection molder and tubing extruder in Canton, Ohio.
DLH "spent a year of heavy testing" and had done prototype tooling to use Carilon in windshield-washer tubing and sunroof drains and eventually had planned to replace 90 percent of its nylon and acetal products with Carilon, DLH advanced products engineer Daniel Olson said Feb. 18.
"This was the material we had been looking for for years," Olson said.
"It's the light at the end of the tunnel — the long-awaited engineering grade of polypropylene/polyethylene," he said.
Carilon was less sensitive to moisture and chemicals than nylon and acetal, according to Olson, who has been in the automotive and medical plastics industry for more than 30 years.
Carilon also handled high-heat applications better than PP, he said.
In the medical field, Olson said Carilon could have replaced PP and PE in wound-drainage systems because it was not affected by radiation sterilization.
DLH received approval Feb. 16 from a major customer to use Carilon in its windshield-washer tubing — the same day Shell informed DLH it was dropping the product.
Shell has told DLH it will receive Carilon through June. After that, DLH will switch to nylon and acetal, which it had used in the past.