Total Petrochemicals USA Inc. is going bimodal in an attempt to win business in blow molded high density polyethylene.
Houston-based Total is bucking the unimodal trend in that end market to incorporate more post-consumer material in sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging, according to PE product manager Greg DeKunder.
The new bimodal HDPE debuted earlier this year when it was pilot-tested by several Total customers. The resin can be used to make thinner-walled containers and offers 10 times the chemical resistance of a standard blow molded HDPE, DeKunder said recently in Houston.
``There's a technical gap for new material in some specific end markets,'' he explained. ``The approach that detergent bottle makers are taking is to use less [plastic] material in order to fit more bottles on shelves.
``But because the detergent uses less water and is more concentrated, it attacks the polyethylene and creates stress cracks at the corners of squared-off bottles. So a new material was needed.''
DeKunder also reported that sales of Total's PE-100 HDPE grades for the pipe market ``are really taking off'' this year after receiving several key approvals.
``Pipe is very regulated, so it took a while,'' DeKunder said of the pipe grades, which first were commercialized in 2003. The resin ``can make thinner-walled pipe and provide as much as 25 percent cost savings in natural gas or water.''
To date, most of the PE-100 line's success has been in replacing 6-inch to 12-inch diameter pipe in the natural gas market.
Elsewhere, Total late last year commercialized a new grade of metallocene-based medium density PE for the packaging market. The material offers improved stiffness, clarity, gloss and toughness for applications in produce, lawn and garden and frozen food.
Total operates 900 million pounds of annual HDPE capacity at a plant in La Porte, Texas. The firm also makes polypropylene and polystyrene, employing a total of 1,600 in the U.S.
Total - a unit of Total SA of Courbevoie, France - posted sales of $10.4 billion in 2005, representing an increase of almost 40 percent vs. the previous year.