CHICAGO (June 25, 8:10 p.m. EDT) — ExxonMobil Chemical Co. is buildin' on the bayou.
The Houston-based plastics and chemicals maker will open a plant with 200 million pounds of annual capacity plant early next year in Baton Rouge, La., focused on producing the firm's ethylene elastomer resins, including its brand-new Vistamaxx specialty elastomers.
ExxonMobil, which is not exhibiting at NPE 2003, announced the project and the launch of Vistamaxx at a June 24 news conference at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.
In addition to Vistamaxx — which incorporates Exxpol-brand metallocene technology — the new plant will make Exact plastomers and metallocene-based grades of Vistalon ethylene propylene diene monomer. The project is expected to create 80-100 new jobs.
Officials said market demand will determine how the plant's output will be split among the three products. ExxonMobil and its parent, Exxon Mobil Corp., have an extensive site in Baton Rouge, where the company first did business in 1909.
To start, Vistamaxx will focus on the North American market. Initial applications include cast films, fibers and modifying thermoplastic polyolefins, with automotive interiors being a later possibility, said George Racine, market development manager for ethylene elastomers.
Racine touted the new material's improved elasticity, adhesion, durability, flexibility and softness, and called Vistamaxx “the first phase of a new era in specialty elastomeric products.”
Chemically, Vistamaxx is an ethylene/propylene-based “reactor product,” said ethylene elastomer global technology manager Hans VanBrackle.
VanBrackle added that the development of metallocene EPDM does not mean ExxonMobil is turning its back on its standard EPDM made with Ziegler-Natta technology.
“We see the metallocene and Ziegler-Natta [EPDM] as very complementary to each other, and think that they'll coexist for some time into the future,” he said.
The introduction of Vistamaxx — combined with last year's acquisition of the remainder of thermoplastic vulcanizate maker Advanced Elastomer Systems — gives ExxonMobil's ethylene elastomers unit “one of the broadest product portfolios in the industry,” said Mary Ahner, the segment's global vice president.
ExxonMobil previously had a 50 percent stake in Akron, Ohio-based AES, which is best known for its Santoprene-brand TPVs. Last year, ExxonMobil bought out partner Solutia Inc.
The firm ranks as one of the world's largest polyethylene makers and also produces polypropylene and a range of specialty plastics.
Global sales of ExxonMobil Chemical's products — including PE, PP, ethylene and propylene — totaled $6.4 billion in the first quarter of 2003, a jump of almost 50 percent from the same period in 2002.