For ExxonMobil Chemical Co.'s line of Exceed-brand metallocene-based polyethylene resins, the question is: How low can you go?
The Houston firm, one of the world's largest PE makers, introduced a new grade of metallocene-based very low density PE (mVLDPE) in September. Production of the material at ExxonMobil's site in Mont Belvieu, Texas, could reach 50 million pounds this year, Mark Healey, marketing manager for high and linear low density PE, said March 19 in Houston.
Healey said the material fills the performance gap between standard metallocene LLDPE and plastomers. To date, its biggest impact has been in food-packaging film.
``In talking to a lot of our bigger customers in food packaging, we learned that they were under a lot of pressure to get newer and novel ways to present their products, while still doing the job of traditional packaging,'' Healey said.
``And that's the beauty of metallocenes - you can push the density down without the production debits you'd have with traditional [LLDPE] catalysts,'' he added.
In applications such as poultry bags, the new material can offer much higher dart resistance, while in other areas it can provide downgauging of 10-20 percent.
To date, most of ExxonMobil's mVLDPE sales have been in North America, although Healey said the material has drawn recent interest from Central American accounts. The company will announce two new grades in the next 12 months. The material has been sampled to customers in the personal-care market for use in diapers, feminine-hygiene products and other applications.
The material, which is being sold at a slight premium over standard metallocene LLDPE, can replace metallocene LLDPE plastomer blends or can be blended with metallocene LLDPE, Healey said.
Healey estimated that metallocene-based materials now make up more than 10 percent of the PE market, both at ExxonMobil and in the North American PE market.