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Material Thoughts: Evonik, BASF, Cereplast and ColorMatrix

In this edition of Material Thoughts, our look at news in the plastics and additives supply world, we report on Evonik's exit from carbon black, Cereplast green lighting a Turkish processor's supply, BASF racing to new XPS capacity and ColorMatrix pulling into its new R&D center.

First to Düsseldorf, Germany where plastics and chemicals supplier Evonik Industries announced it completed the divestment of its carbon black business on July 29, 2011. The new owners are equity investors Rhône Capital and Triton Partners. Including the assumption of certain obligations, the transaction is valued at more than €900 million ($1.3 billion). The carbon black business generated sales of around €1.2 billion in fiscal 2010.

The business has been acquired as a going concern with its 1650 employees. It was renamed upon transfer and now operates as Orion Engineered Carbons. Carbon black is used as reinforcement in rubber for tires but also sees use in thermoplastics in applications such as belts, hoses and gaskets. The leading supplier is Cabot Corp.

Meanwhile, BASF plans to expand its production plant for Styrodur C at its Ludwigshafen site in Germany. This will increase the production capacity of the extruded polystyrene rigid foam panels (XPS) from the current 1.3 million m³ by an additional 220,000 m³. In the extended plant the new XPS types Styrodur Neo and Styrodur HT can be manufactured along with standard products. Operation will start at the end of 2011.

"The Styrodur C business runs successfully, the demand for energy-efficient building insulation products rises continuously. By increasing our capacity we are aiming to establish our new XPS products, which represent a major advance in insulation performance and processing, within the construction sector in the long run. We can also ensure the delivery to our customers of high-performance standard products, such as thick or high-density panels," said Giorgio Greening, head of BASF's global business unit Foams.

BASF reckons the European XPS market is growing by 3 - 5% per year, driven by rising energy prices and legal regulations on thermal insulation in new and old buildings.

From Cereplast (El Segundo, CA), a supplier of proprietary biobased, compostable and sustainable plastics and a company we have covered extensively as it has grown (check here for a list of recent articles), comes news that Turkish plastics processor Polimernet Plastik Ltd. will be the recipient of a minimum of 100 tons of Cereplast Compostables resin per month for 2011, with that number to grow in 2012 and beyond. In terms of bioplastic market share in Europe, Turkey ranks third, after Italy and Germany. According to trade group European Plastics, the bioplastics industry in Europe is growing at a rate of about 20% each year. 

Polimernet Plastik will use the Cereplast Compostable 3000 and the Cereplast Compostable 7003 film grades to extrude film for garbage bags, food packaging and t-shirt bags, processing the film on its existing blown film extrusion machines. Cereplast Compostable 3000 and 7003 are proprietary patented formulations, which includes Ingeo PLA, the material made and marketed by NatureWorks.

Cereplast's Seymour, Indiana plant, location of all the company's R&D and production lines, is also benefitting from increasing demand for bioplastics. The plant will start a third line on Sept. 1, boosting output there to 80 million pounds a year. In May 2011 Cereplast announced the site for its second plant would be in Italy.

In other plastics-related news, ColorMatrix (Berea, OH) reports it has expanded with the opening of a new Global Technology Center. The new center, an investment of upwards of $1.6 million at ColorMatrix's site near Liverpool, England, will house a new suite of instruments for material analysis and product testing, including an expansion to the spectroscopy and microscopy analysis laboratory there. The center encompasses dedicated laboratories for product development, plastic processing and testing, gas barrier evaluation, spectroscopy, microscopy and separation science and technology.  

TAGS: Materials
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