Mexico City — Things are going well in Mexico for ExxonMobil Chemical's polyethylene business — and two new grades of linear low density PE are expected to keep that trend alive.
“2015 was an incredible year for us, particularly in Mexico,” PE market development manager Dave Dunaway said at Plastimagen 2016 in Mexico City. “Demand was up well over double digits.
“We have good channel partners, plus a direct business,” he added. “Our partners do a good job representing our product. It's very much a relationship market in Mexico. We do 80 percent of our Mexican business through distribution. We've seen good demand in film, and flexible packaging also has done well.”
Dunaway cited standup pouches and packaging for products such as bread, rice and beans as recent PE applications that are moving from rigid to flexible packaging.
“Our customers have come to appreciate new products, and they drive us to new solutions,” he explained. “When you look at packaging, it's accelerating from rigid to flexible, which is lighter and has less waste.”
ExxonMobil — based in The Woodlands, Texas — imports PE sold in Mexico from plants outside of the country, mainly from Texas. The firm is in the process of completing a major petrochemicals expansion in Baytown, Texas, that will include almost 3 billion pounds of new PE capacity. That capacity is expected to come online in 2017.
“The U.S. is long on [PE] capacity, so we'll continue to export [to Mexico],” Dunaway said. “But it's good to see investment in Mexico like what Braskem Idesa is doing.” The Braskem Idesa joint venture expects to be making PE at a new facility in Coatzacolacos by the end of April.
Dunaway added that while low oil prices are in general a good thing for the PE market, they bring unwanted volatility. “No one likes volatility,” he said. “It changes the discussion with our customers from the value chain and sustainability to a pricing discussion.”
One of the new LLDPE grades being promoted by ExxonMobil is Enable 4002, which was launched globally in February. Its applications include shrink film and compression packaging, such as that used in diapers and feminine products.
Enable 4002 “is our highest melt strength metallocene to date,” Dunaway said. “It enables us to protect goods from production to consumption and helps us move away from cardboard.”
The other new LLDPE grade is Exceed 00191M, which is being aimed at flexible injection molded lids such as those made by Tupperware and Glad Products. The material can provide more flexibility, clarity and toughness than previous lids that were made of LDPE, Dunaway said.
ExxonMobil Chemical is a unit of global oil and energy giant ExxonMobil Corp. The unit posted earnings of more than $4.4 billion in 2015.
ExxonMobil Chemicals' PE distribution partners in Mexico are the Channel Prime Alliance unit of Ravago Group and Mexico-based Materiales Primas.