A slow economy isn't stopping Houston firms ExxonMobil Chemical Co. and Total Petrochemicals USA Inc. from stepping up their efforts in metallocene polyolefins.
ExxonMobil launched production of Enable-brand metallocene polyethylene in April at its plant in Mont Belvieu, Texas, said global polyolefin technology manager Dirk Michiels.
The material is ExxonMobil's third generation of metallocenes, following its Exact plastomers in 1991 and Exceed metallocene PE in 1995.
``The driving force here is downgauging and creating value,'' Michiels said at Flexpo 2008, held June 25-27 in Galveston. Enable can be extruded over a range of processing conditions with minimal impact on film properties.
ExxonMobil has commercialized nine grades and is releasing more next year. The firm also will add Enable production in Singapore when it opens a petrochemicals plant there in 2010.
Features like improved optical properties give Enable potential to replace many low/linear low density PE blends, Michiels said.
At Total, a production debottlenecking in La Porte, Texas, will let that firm boost production of its metallocene polypropylene. The firm now makes about 45 million pounds of the material annually at plants in La Porte and Belgium.
New grades aimed at the medical market may be commercialized by year's end, said polyolefin molding technical service manager Mike Musgrave.
In molded parts, Total's metallocene PP offers enhanced clarity and more uniform shrinkage for syringe parts and other medical applications, he said. It also has found a home in packaging, providing better gloss and haze performance, low taste and odor and improved stiffness, he added. Ten commercial grades are available.
In cast films, the material can provide higher line speeds and good microwave properties and clarity for clear thermoforming. It competes well with PET and polystyrene on aesthetics, he added.
Chemical Market Resources Inc. of Houston hosted Flexpo.