Ashland Distribution Co. has expanded its lineup with new resins from BASF Corp., ExxonMobil Chemical Co. and Sunoco Chemicals.
Dublin, Ohio-based Ashland - a unit of specialty chemicals maker Ashland Inc. of Covington, Ky. - now is distributing BASF's Elastollan-brand thermoplastic polyurethane, as well as ExxonMobil's high density and linear low density polyethylene resins for the injection molding market. Ashland also has added polypropylene from Sunoco as part of a multiyear contract.
Ashland already had several resins from ExxonMobil and BASF in its portfolio, but the deal with Sunoco is its first. The ExxonMobil PE in part will replace material formerly supplied by Dow Chemical Co. Dow and Ashland ended a long-term supply arrangement last year. Dow represented about 5 percent of Ashland's total material purchases in its fiscal 2006.
``We want to give our customers choices and fill out our supplier line card,'' Ashland Distribution Vice President Michael Gilbert said of the new product offerings. ``We're looking to understand global dynamics and align ourselves with the best in the industry.''
Ashland also offers PE, PP and TPU from suppliers other than those included in the new deals. Gilbert said customers sometimes single-source from one supplier when buying from Ashland, but some also diversify their purchases, buying similar material from different resin makers represented by Ashland.
``Some customers have to buy a certain kind of resin from a certain producer because of product specs,'' he said. ``But we can supply them with whatever they need.''
Ashland Distribution ranks as one of North America's largest resin distributors, with annual resin-related sales of more than $1.7 billion. The division distributes resin from more than 30 suppliers.
The lost Dow resin business - as well as softness in markets for automotive and construction - resulted in the distribution unit's sales falling 2 percent to just over $1 billion in its fiscal second quarter, which ended March 31. That total includes sales of resin and other chemical products.
Ashland Distribution doesn't release separate totals for resin sales, but officials previously said the unit's annual sales have increased by $170 million since 2005. Its resin sales volume in pounds was up 1 percent in the first half of Ashland's fiscal 2006.
Elsewhere at Ashland, the firm's Composite Polymers unit recently announced plans to increase epoxy vinyl ester resin capacity. The unit also has taken a number of steps to grow its business in Europe.
The epoxy vinyl ester expansion covers products made under the Derakane and Hetron trade names. Those materials are used in corrosion-resistant equipment for the waste-water treatment, chemical processing and mining industries.
In a recent news release, Ashland officials said the expansion work will take place ``over the next two years.'' Further details were unavailable, but Ashland spokesman Ken Gordon said the project could include both debottleneckings and new assets. Ashland currently makes epoxy vinyl ester at plants in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, as well as at facilities in Spain and Brazil.
Elsewhere, Ashland introduced its Polaris-brand specialty resins to the European market at a recent trade show in Paris. The materials are used in engineered stone and other solid-surface products, officials said. Polaris resins also offer low water absorption, low color and high filler loading capacity, they said.
Ashland also named Group Arnaud as its sole distributor of unsaturated polyester resins, gel coats and epoxy vinyl ester resins in France. Previously, Ashland's French customers were served by Brenntag. In a European personnel move, Ashland named Jean Philippe LeCointe as technical service manager of its European composite transportation business. In that role, LeCointe will assist customers in new product launches and technical support.