Polyolefins maker Equistar Chemicals LP is linking with consumer products giant Procter & Gamble Co. to develop elastomeric grades of homopolymer polypropylene.
The materials, to be made with a metallocene catalyst that P&G acquired several years ago from an independent scientist, will be aimed at applications in the packaging, health and hygiene, non-woven fiber auto interior, construction, houseware and wire and cable markets, officials with the two companies said.
The product is being developed ``in response to the market needs for softer polymers, particularly in applications requiring soft touch and resiliency,'' said Equistar research and development Vice President Rick Fontenot.
The new PP grades could be used in commercial products as early as 2004, officials said.
Dennis Grubbs, an executive with Cincinnati-based P&G's external business development and licensing group, said it's ``not unusual for [P&G] to get into upstream development of a material that it's an end-user for.''
Grubbs, in an interview at Flexpo 2002, held Sept. 18-20 in Houston, singled out beauty care and laundry and home care as segments where the new elastomeric PP could make an impact.
P&G had worked with Houston-based Equistar and Equistar partner Millennium Chemicals over the years, primarily through a Millennium/Equistar R&D center in Cincinnati, but the current deal is ``a more formal collaboration project,'' according to Grubbs.
Under the deal, P&G will have some exclusive application areas, with Equistar free to develop other applications in such areas as flooring, construction and automotive, according to Venki Chandrashekar, director of Equistar's platform, license and alliance agreement unit.
``This partnership will be good for the industry,'' he said. ``At the end of the day, you need end users pulling applications.
Equistar, a joint venture between Millennium and Lyondell Chemical Co., ranks as one of North America's largest polyethylene makers. The firm, which had sales of $5.9 billion in 2001, has been a smaller player in the North American PP arena, with a market share estimated at about 7 percent.
P&G's roster of well-known brand names includes Crest, Downy, Folgers, Ivory, Clairol, Cover Girl, Pringles, Tide and Pampers. The firm employs 102,000 and posted sales of $40.2 billion in its 2002 fiscal year, which ended in June.