Materials maker Saudi Basic Industries Corp. will open a new polypropylene resin pilot plant in Europe next year, and is advancing in polymer foam as well.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Sabic will have a new pilot plant for development of next-generation PP on-stream in Sittard-Geleen, the Netherlands, by the end of March. The plant will use gas-phase polymerization technology and will support production at nearby full-scale plants of materials for automotive, pipe, appliances and advanced packaging, officials said in a recent news release.
The pilot plant is the latest in a series of investments made by Sabic at the Brightlands Chemelot R&D and manufacturing campus in Sittard-Geleen. The company opened a new research facility there in May.
“When [the pilot plant] starts up next year, we will have considerably more capacity to develop new PP materials for commercialization in our current European assets,” global PP technology director Lina Prada said in the release.
Sabic is taking a fast-track approach to construction and installation of the pilot plant. It's contracted that work to Zeton, a leading designer and builder of innovative pilot and demonstration-scale plants with facilities in the Netherlands and Canada. Installation will begin this month after Zeton has built and tested the plant. It then will be partially disassembled into around 15 modules for delivery.
Sabic is looking in particular to develop PP grades with improved stiffness/impact, flow properties and other secondary properties, officials said. The firm plans to concentrate on development of impact grades of PP, as well as random copolymers and homopolymers.
In polymer foam, Sabic is expanding its portfolio to include more polyolefins (including POP elastomers and POP plastomers), and engineering resins such as the firm's own Lexan-brand polycarbonate and its modified PPE (Noryl) and polyetherimide (Ultem).
Several innovations are being commercialized, officials said in a news release. One low density PE grade offers special benefits for the physical foam extrusion process, as well for the resulting lightweight foams. Another LDPE grade offers benefits for crosslinkable foam extrusion processes. The XL foams have an improved properties-to-weight ratio, offering the possibility to use them in higher added-value applications, officials added.
Sabic also has developed a new series of foam material solutions that provide improved production efficiencies for foam makers. One new grade is the first in a series of products that combine up to 50 percent savings in degassing time — reducing the foam manufacturer's inventory — and an improvement in production efficiency of up to 5 percent through less production waste and better foam consistency.
Further innovations in polymer foams are already being planned and executed at Sabic's new Foam Innovation Center in the Netherlands. Officials said that polymer foam technologies are essential to meet growing needs for improvements in sustainability and efficiencies.
The polymer foam-producing industry currently consumes around 55 million pounds of plastics every year. That market is expected to grow by close to 2.5 percent per year over the next 10 years, mainly in building and construction, packaging, transportation, and also furniture.
Sabic employs more than 40,000 worldwide and ranks as one of the world's largest makers of both commodity and engineering resins with sales of more than $39 billion in 2015. The firm is 70 percent owned by the Saudi government.