For Dow Chemical Co., K 2010 was an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the firm's advances in several materials.
Bill Fordyce global polyethylene R&D director for Midland, Mich.-based Dow covered several recent developments in an Oct. 28 news conference at K 2010 in Dusseldorf. Dow highlights included:
* Ecolibrium-brand seed oil-based bioplasticizers for PVC wire applications that can reduce greenhouse gas consumption by as much as 40 percent. Fordyce described Ecolibrium as a groundbreaking advance in sustainable chemistry.
Ecolibrium materials are expected to find a home in personal electronics and appliances. They also offer optimum flame resistance and safe end-of-life disposal. In the building and construction market, Ecolibrium offers safe building wire options for end users.
* Clarilite-brand cap and closure resins, part of Dow's PE and polypropylene line, with consistent taste and odor performance and reduced costs. The materials are aimed at beverage bottles and containers for pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
Products in the Clarilite portfolio also can offer cap lightweighting opportunities, production consistency and supply reliability. The materials are suitable for use in carbonated and non-carbonated beverages, food packaging, pharmaceutical packaging and cosmetics.
* Five new high-melt-flow PP grades for rigid packaging containers.
* Dowlex-brand PE-RT (raised temperature resistance) for industrial pipe can provide long-term hydrostatic strength at high temperatures. It was previously available only in smaller pipes.
* Inspire-brand PP with low shrinkage for non-pressure pipes can offer 10 percent line-speed increases.
* New high-performance PE grades for rotational molding, with improved strength.
* Durelast-brand reinforcement systems for bathtubs, based on a polyurethane spray.
* Amplify TY-brand functional polymers for multilayer food packaging.
* Sealution-brand peel polymers for easy-open packaging.
* Enlight-brand polyolefin encapsulation films for photovoltaic modules.
In an interview at K 2010, Dow plastics executive Mauro Gregorio said the lineup Dow brought to the event was only part of 250 new products the firm has developed in the last three years.
There's a lot of talk about how to differentiate, said Gregorio, who serves as commercial vice president of Dow's Basic Plastics unit in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. We've got new catalysts and new ways of producing that takes packaging to a new place. We're relying much more on fundamental research.
Gregorio, a 26-year Dow veteran, added that he was impressed with the positive vibes at the K show. That feeling was borne out by nine-month results for Dow Basic Plastics. In that time, the unit's sales grew almost 23 percent to $8.6 billion vs. the 2009 period. Pretax profit almost doubled in that comparison, checking in at just over $2.1 billion.
Although Europe's low density PE production grid is aging, Gregorio said that the region's linear LDPE supply is in good shape and that high density PE in the region has benefited from new capacity additions in recent years. Differing price levels for HDPE and LDPE were needed in 2010 to keep both materials at reinvestment economics, he explained.
Gregorio added that although supply and demand in the region currently are in balance, supply could be very tight in the not too distant future because of the growth of Chinese demand and a lack of new projects even in the project-heavy Middle East beyond 2011. Supplies of oil-based feedstocks also might be an issue moving forward, since the world needs oil for other things, he said.
He also smiled at the notion that 2010 was going to be a difficult year for PE and PP because of an abundance of new resin, particularly in the Middle East.
You heard people saying the market would be flooded with resin and that there would be a trough in business conditions, Gregorio said. If that's a trough, we want a trough every year. It didn't feel like a trough.