Total Petrochemicals USA Inc. will launch a new grade of high density polyethylene for blow molded drums in North America by the end of 2005.
The Houston firm also is commercializing metallocene grades of HDPE for blown film. A pair of grades are fully commercial, with others in the works, according to PE product manager Mike Goins.
Work also continues on commercializing PE-100, a bimodal HDPE pipe resin that's been successful in Europe for the past decade.
PE-100 can handle high pressure with thin sidewalls and offers a combination of stiffness, toughness and ductility, according to Goins.
Commercially, PE-100 is finding applications in gas distribution, potable water, sewer relining, pipe coating and other fields.
In the broader HDPE market, North American demand growth should return to a more historical 4-6 percent in 2005 after hitting 8-9 percent in 2004, Goins added. At Total, HDPE demand growth hit 12 percent in 2004.
Total officials aren't overly concerned about the market's relative slowness in the first quarter of 2005.
``There was some ability on the part of converters to draw inventory in the first quarter,'' Goins said. ``Our anticipation is that this is a temporary phenomenon.''
Total also anticipates strong growth in the pipe sector this year, particularly in the oil-and-gas-gathering end market, which has grown more lucrative as prices for those materials have climbed.
As of 2005, Total held about 5 percent of North American market capacity, operating a 900 million-pound-capacity plant in Bayport, Texas.