Additives for Polymers (v.2003, #11)

Great Lakes Chemical Corp has launched Firemaster® 552, a new high performance flame retardant for mechanically cooled, flexible polyurethane foams. The product was introduced at the Polyurethane Expo 2003 held in Orlando, FL, USA on 1–3 October 2003. The new additive is currently available in the Americas and Asia Pacific regions only.

A new range of masterbatches from Italy’s Viba Group promises to greatly reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in plastics.

Heritage Plastics, a privately-owned US-based company, is offering a new mineral additive range, Minapol, designed to improve the productivity, physical properties and profitability in polyolefin moulding and extrusion applications. The pelletized mineral concentrates can be used in applications such as polyethylene film extrusion, polyethylene blow moulding, polypropylene injection moulding and polyethylene sheet extrusion and thermoforming.

Great Lakes Chemical Corp has announced a series of planned manufacturing consolidations, workforce reductions and other cost reduction steps intended to generate annual pretax savings of approximately US$30 million over the next 12 months. The major components of the plan are the consolidation of facilities, primarily in the company’s Polymer Additives business unit, and a reduction in jobs by approximately 400, or roughly 9% of the total workforce, as a result of the facility closures and other organizational changes. The company had $18.9 million in net income in the second quarter, down from $105.9 million during the same period last year, though its second-quarter sales were up about 2%.

Gabriel-Chemie Deutschland GmbH, the new name for Bühler Kunststoffe, Farben und Additive GmbH, has developed 36 new special effect colours which received their introduction at the Fakuma 2003 exhibition in Friedrichshafen, Germany, in October 2003.

Titanium dioxide producers Kerr-McGee Chemical LLC and Millennium Chemicals have recently introduced a series of price increases for customers in different geographical regions. Albemarle Corp and subsidiary Martinswerk are also raising the global price of aluminium hydroxide (ATH) flame retardants.

Degussa AG, a leading carbon black manufacturer, is to expand production capacity at its Qingdao Degussa Chemical Company, Ltd (QDCC) joint venture in Qingdao, China.

Akzo Nobel is investing an undisclosed amount to increase the production capacity for Expancel® expandable microspheres at its industrial products plant in Stockviksverken, Sweden. The need for more capacity has been brought about by increased global demand for the microspheres, the company says.

Ciba Specialty Chemicals increased sales, operating income and EBITDA during the first half of 2003 in local currencies, each by 2%, compared to the same period last year. Four of its five business segments equalled or increased sales in local currencies compared to the first half of 2002. On average, volumes were up 5%, offset by a 3% fall in prices. These results were achieved despite the expected continued adverse environment in global markets.

Colortech, Inc has purchased Eastman Chemical Co’s polyethylene colour masterbatch (concentrates) business. Terms of the sale, which was effective 1 October 2003, were not disclosed. Major end-use markets for polyethylene colour concentrates are flexible packaging and consumer goods such as plastic bags and containers.

In the second quarter of 2003, Millennium Chemical reported a net loss of US$9 million compared to net income of $2 million in the second quarter last year. Sales from majority-owned businesses were $416 million in second quarter 2003 compared to $405 million in the second quarter of 2002.

Other titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment producers have reported mixed results for 2003 to date. Kerr-McGee Corp, while reporting a net income from continuing operations for 2Q 2003 compared to a loss for the same period in 2002, saw a net operating loss of US$9 million for its TiO2 pigments business for the quarter, compared to a profit of $11.9 million in 2Q 2002. For the first six months of 2003 as a whole, the pigment business recorded an operating loss of $2.9 million. However, sales for both the second quarter and the first half rose, to $283.8 million and $537.1 million, respectively. TiO2 production also rose, totalling 261 000 tonnes for the first six months of 2003 compared to 246 000 t last year.

Plastics additives producer Ciba Specialty Chemicals has linked up with Dolder AG, a leading European seller of chemicals, to set up a new trading company, Chem2U. Chem2U will offer users high quality products at spot prices through individualized promotions.

Speciality chemicals producer Albemarle Corp has made a voluntary separation programme available to a number of its salaried US employees as one element of a multi-year initiative to reduce costs by US$50 million. The programme is expected to result in annualized pre-tax savings of approximately $10 million when fully implemented during 2004. The company will take a charge to earnings of about $8 million in third quarter 2003.

Leading flame retardants producer Dead Sea Bromine Group (DSBG) has completed its flame retardants website. In addition to detailed product information, the site now also features formulation know-how on the use of the company’s flame-retardant products and environmental aspects concerning their use.

The North American market for thermoplastic concentrates, otherwise known as masterbatches, continues to grow. The industry is served by over 140 companies, which provide concentrates to the merchant market. The use of concentrates continues to grow because they offer an economical solution to many of the plastic processors’ problems.

The Luzenac Group has appointed UK-based distributor Blagden Speciality Chemicals Ltd of Westerham as the exclusive distributor of its talc products in the UK. Luzenac says that it will be able to take advantage of Blagden’s proximity and knowledge of the UK market to provide customers with an enhanced service. Luzenac, part of international mining group Rio Tinto, is a leading global producer of talc products, selling over one million tonnes of talc and talc-related minerals every year. Blagden Speciality Chemicals is an independent, privately-owned, specialist chemicals marketing and distribution company.