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E-Weekly News Briefs, December 12 - 16

Owens Corning scoops up Asahi Glass

Glass-fiber supplier and composites business Owens Corning (Toledo, OH) has reached an agreement to acquire the composites business, including a glass manufacturing facility located near Tokyo, of Asahi Glass Co. Ltd.

Owens Corning says the composites and glass fibers produced in the Tokyo facility will support its customers in the Japanese automotive, consumer, electrical, infrastructure, and building and construction and markets. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2006 after approval by bankruptcy court officials. Owens Corning was forced to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2000 after being swamped by asbestos-related lawsuits .

RTP officially opens China plant

Engineering compounds supplier RTP (Winona, MN) officially opened its new 16,000-sq-m compounding facility in Suzhou Industrial Park, near Shanghai. RTP Co. (Suzhou) Ltd. is a fully owned subsidiary of RTP.

RTP also has a compounding facility in Singapore, seven manufacturing plants on three continents in total, plus sales representatives throughout North America, Europe, and Asia/Pacific.

John E. Theberge: GE, LNP, TPC veteran passes away

Industry veteran John Theberge, vice president of technology and quality at TP Composites, passed away on Oct. 14, 2005 from complications during surgery. He is survived by his wife, three children, and eight grandchildren.

Theberge, an organic chemist by training, earned his undergraduate degree at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, a Masters in Chemistry from Notre Dame, and an MBA from the University of Massachusetts. Theberge''s name has been well known in plastics circles since the early 1960s when he moved within GE to that supplier''s GE Plastics business.

After six years, Theberge left GE and joined a small plastics grinding and compounding company, Liquid Nitrogen Processing Co., later renamed LNP Engineering Plastics. He retired from LNP 20 years later, in 1989, and founded MDC Corp., a plastics-industry consulting firm.

In 1994, Theberge became a founding partner of a specialty plastics compounding company, TP Composites Inc. (TPC; Aston PA). He was active in product development activities at TPC right up until his death and even worked part-time in 2004 and the first half of 2005, while waging a successful battle with colon cancer. Theberge wrote or co-wrote nearly 200 technical papers while at LNP and was a frequent, popular speaker at ANTEC and NPE conferences.

Italy''s Alfatherm broadens product portfolio

Ongoing 5%/yr demand growth rates for shrink films are a key reason cited by PVC film and sheet processor Alfatherm SpA (Venegono Superiore) for its investment in a new integrated calandering and stretching line for the production of film for shrink-sleeve labels. The new line will start up in Q4 2006 using one-step technology developed by the firm.

Alfatherm says its new technology offers significant benefits in terms of quality and customer service over the traditional process of making film for shrink-sleeve labels. Typically films for shrink sleeves are first calandered in an ordinary calandering line at a higher thickness, and rolled in reels and then stretched in a separate stretching line. The Alfatherm line will operate in a continuous inline process.

Alfatherm has been investing considerably this year. Early in 2005 it acquired Italian competitor Resine Sintetiche Adamoli. This year it also has opened a subsidiary in Germany and acquired 100% control of its distributor for France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Arkema increases stabilizer output

In response to what plastics supplier Arkema (Philadelphia, PA) calls "significant growth in demand for methyl tin stabilizers", the company has decided to debottleneck its Carrollton, KY plant, to increase output there. The increase, the amount of which the company does not specify, affects output of grades used for processing vinyl window and door profiles, siding, injection molded pipe fittings, and certain types of packaging.

"We''ve seen market growth for methyl stabilizers in all parts of the world," says Mark Heldt, Arkema''s business manager for stabilizers. "But it is the growth in Chinese demand that prompted this optimization."

Polystyrene game racks up donations for African school

An Internet game to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the start of production of polystyrene (PS) has resulted in donations of €37,000 for a school in the SOS Children''s Village in Natitingou, Benin. In the month during which this campaign, sponsored by PS producer BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany), ran, it was played and a donation was made a total of 1370 times. For each 100 points, the polymer producer donated €5. Altogether, players from 40 countries took part in the game.

Bye-bye Copenhagen, hello Vienna

Polyolefins producer Borealis, which has changed ownership, has decided to relocate its headquarters from Copenhagen, Denmark to Vienna, Austria by the end of summer 2006. The company was previously owned by Statoil of Norway and Neste of Finland. It is now owned 65% by the International Petroleum Investment Co. (IPIC) of Abu Dhabi and 35% by Austrian oil and gas producer OMV (Vienna).

Lanxess sells iSL-Chemie

Plastics and chemicals supplier Lanxess (formerly part of Bayer, Leverkusen, Germany) has sold iSL-Chemie (Kürten, Germany), a producer of pigment pastes and plastics surface coatings, to Berlac (Sissach, Switzerland). The company, which Lanxess says no longer belongs to its core business, expects to have a turnover of €25 million this year.

EFKA Additives deemed most competitive in Holland

EFKA Additives, part of Ciba Specialty Chemicals (Basel, Switzerland), has been named the most competitive and innovative organization in the Netherlands. The Rotterdam School of Management at the Erasmus University presented EFKA (Heerenveen, Netherlands) with this year''s Erasmus award. The company is a producer of additives for plastics, paints, and inks.

BASF ups yellow pigments

Polymer and chemicals producer BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany) is increasing its quinophthalone (yellow 138) pigment marketing under the Paliotol brand and production by 40% to 1400 tonnes/yr at its headquarter''s site. It says world demand for these additives is growing substantially.

Rapra Technology picks up European research funding

Polymer research and test house, Rapra Technology (Shrewsbury, England) has secured €1.4 million of EU funding together with a consortium of organizations to improve the plastics extrusion process by using supercritical carbon dioxide.

The project is entitled FreeFlow and aims to increase extrusion output rates and reduce processing temperatures required and energy consumption during processing. Besides Rapra, the team of companies, trade associations, and research partners includes UK company Presearch, Queen''s University (Belfast, Ireland), Aimplas of Spain, Turkish company Yelkenicilier, AGOR of Germany, Cesap of Italy, and the Spanish companies Plastire and Reboca.

Pipe extruder WL Plastics changes hands

Lincoln Partners, a middle-market investment bank, announced the sale of a majority interest in pipe extruder WL Plastics to Sequel Holdings, Crow/Kaminski Capital, and Falcon Investment Advisors. The WL Plastics management team will continue to own a significant stake in the company. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

WL Plastics extrudes high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pressure pipe in the U.S., primarily serving the oil, gas, municipal water, mining, and industrial markets. The company has three facilities located in Casper, WY; Cedar City, UT; and Gillette, WY.

Global TPE demand to grow 6.2%/yr

A new study released by the Freedonia Group, a Cleveland, OH-based industrial market research firm, reveals that global demand for thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) is forecast to increase 6.2% per year through 2009 to 3.1 million tonnes. Value gains will expand an even stronger 7.4% per year over the same period, due to the increasing number of applications that require costlier types of TPEs, and due to high energy prices, which will raise TPE production costs. TPEs will continue to find the majority of their use as replacements for natural and synthetic rubber, as well as for rigid thermoplastics and metals. TPEs will continue to gain new applications in which they are overmolded onto rigid plastic or metal components to enhance ergonomic or "soft-touch" features on a wide range of products, according to the report.

Through 2009, China''s TPE market (the world''s largest volume market) will expand and diversify rapidly based on the country''s significant positions in the production of many of the key products manufactured with TPE parts and components. With the exception of China, global TPE sales will remain concentrated in the developed markets of the U.S., Western Europe, and Japan, particularly for higher performance materials such as copoylester elastomers (COPEs) and thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPVs).

Weekly futures activity from the LME

Futures trading of linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) and polypropylene (PP) on the London Metal Exchange (LME) for the week of Dec. 5-Dec. 9 saw a low price for LLDPE of $1105/tonne set on Friday, Dec. 9 for January buyers. LLDPE''s high of $1190/tonne came on Tuesday, Dec. 6 for March sellers.

For PP, a low price of $1050/tonne was reached on Thursday, Dec. 8 for January buyers. The high of $1140/tonne came on Tuesday, Dec. 6 for March sellers.

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