Solvay SA has launched a new polyetheretherketone (PEEK) product that delivers higher glass transition temperature and melting temperature compared with standard PEEK materials in the market to cater particularly for the oil and gas industry.
KetaSpire PEEK XT has a glass transition temperature of 170° C (338° F) and processes like standard PEEK at a 20° C (36° F) higher melt temperature without losing its resistance to chemicals.
"PEEK is a high-temperature, high chemical-resistance material. The material, at high temperatures, maintains its very high and stiff nature. And what we are introducing here can withstand higher temperatures while still maintaining the stiffness," said Michael Finelli, president of Solvay's specialty polymers unit, in an interview.
The oil and gas industry is a key target for the product, as companies will need to drill deeper for oil and the material will need to tolerate higher temperatures.
Having worked closely with key customers over the past two to three years, Solvay has already secured commercial orders for the materials, which are produced at its plants in Augusta, Ga., and Panoli, India.
"Bringing a new polymer, a new child, into the market is not a simple or easy task. You first have to understand what the real requirements are and then design the molecules, which takes time. … And then you want to make sure that what you, as the producer, see in the product, your customer can see, too," Finelli explained.
Developed in response to market demand, the product has been tested by customers "who needed a true high-temperature PEEK."
What makes the new product stand out from other materials with thermal capability is its chemical resistance.
"With PEEK, customers have come to count on a certain level of chemical resistance. There were other high-temperature polyketones available that lost their chemical resistance and, in most cases, their easy processing properties [in high temperature]," Finelli explained.
Only "incrementally" higher-priced compared with other PEEK products in the market, KetaSpire can be processed on all the machinery already on the market.
And Solvay is addressing security of supply by producing the materials at two different sites in two different continents.
"PEEK is an important product for many of our customers, and security of supply is absolutely critical. So, we can reassure them by saying that we produce the material in two locations," the Solvay official added.