British Petroleum plc of London has granted a polyethylene processing license to Nova Chemicals Corp. of Pittsburgh in exchange for access to Nova's proprietary single-site catalysts, which can be used to make enhanced grades of PE.
Nova will use the Innovene metallocene technology license to make high-performance linear low density PE for use in cast and blown film applications. The firm has not decided when or where it will begin producing the material, Nova spokesman Jack Maurer said. Nova produces PE in Joffre, Alberta, and St. Clair River and Moore Township, Ontario.
Nova becomes the 25th licensee of Innovene, which is used to produce about 9 billion pounds of PE each year. BP expects to work with Nova in using the Nova catalysts to produce ``next-generation'' polyolefins with enhanced performance attributes.
The licensing fee Nova pays to BP will be reduced because of the catalyst development agreement, officials said.
Industry analyst Surinder Bahl said he would not be surprised if BP and Nova move quickly with the new deal, producing material within the next six months.
``Nova will be able to compete in this market,'' said Bahl, who is with Phillip Townsend Associates Inc. in Houston. ``They'd like to compete with [metallocene/single-site PE leaders] Dow and ExxonMobil, but this [deal] should get them at least to the level of a ChevronPhillips.''
Bahl added that metallocene/ single-site PE is starting to realize some of the market penetration that PE makers have been hyping for more than a decade. In 2001, such materials accounted for about 2.6 billion pounds - or more than 9 percent - of global LLDPE production, according to Bahl. In the U.S. market, they totaled about 1.2 billion pounds - or more than 12 percent of LLDPE output.
``These [metallocene/single-site] materials are really good, and there's been so much talk that converters are familiar with them,'' Bahl added. ``In the U.S., converters are more willing to experiment and try new materials than they are in other regions.''
The agreement is separate from a deal the two firms struck in early 2001 that called for the development of advanced Ziegler-Natta catalysts for use in Innovene. PE made with Novacat-T-brand catalysts were produced in pilot runs at a BP plant in Lavera, France, but have not been fully commercialized, according to Nova's Maurer.