Plastics News staff reporter Frank Esposito gathered the following briefs at Flexpo 2002, held Sept. 16-18 in Houston.
The dominance of Unipol technology in polyethylene production is set to continue through 2007, according to an analysis by William Vernon, vice president of Chemical Market Resources Inc. in Houston.
More than one-third of the 12.9 billion pounds of new high and linear low density PE capacity set to become available between 2002 and 2007 will be made via the Unipol process. Unipol was developed by Union Carbide Corp. and now is licensed by Dow Chemical Co., which merged with Carbide in 1999.
The loop-slurry process of ChevronPhillips Chemical Co. and Basell NV's Hostalen process each will account for about 18 percent of the new 2002-07 PE.
Vernon expects the PE catalyst market - led by Univation Technologies LLC, a Houston partnership among ExxonMobil Chemical Co., Dow and Grace Davison of Columbia, Md. - to grow 36 percent in volume to 16.6 million pounds by 2007. The value of that market will grow 33 percent to $491 million in that period, he said.
WTO may not impact polyolefins in China
China's polyolefins market is expected to continue its growth, but an executive with Beijing, China-based China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. (Sinopec) advises not to expect fireworks after the country enters the World Trade Organization next year.
WTO membership will help, said market research director Shu ZhaoXia, but Sinopec already has working relationships with major petrochemical players.
Chinese polyethylene output is to continue the 13 percent growth it averaged between 1990 and 2001. Likewise, 22 percent annual growth in Chinese PP output is to continue. But that growth - and import growth of 24 percent in PE and 20 percent in PP - barely keep up with China's consumption.
The country consumed 15.4 billion pounds of PE and 12.1 billion pounds of PP in 2001, Shu said.
TPOs should target automotive interiors
New materials need to be developed so that thermoplastic olefins can continue their high acceptance rate in automotive uses, according to an industry researcher.
Global use of TPOs in automotive is growing 4-5 percent annually, but the similarity of available materials is causing that market to mature, resulting in lower return on new applications, said Amit Dharia, president of Transmit Technology Group LLC of Arlington, Texas.
TPO makers will have to focus on improved grades of material for interior applications, Dharia said. He listed foam, flooring and noise control as the areas of greatest opportunity for soft TPOs in auto interiors.