Sabic and Korean petrochemical company SK Global Chemical (Seoul) have signed a 50-50 joint venture agreement that will see the partners invest a total of $595 million in metallocene-catalyzed polyethylene production assets employing SK’s Nexlene process technology.
The joint venture, which is located in Singapore, will operate a series of manufacturing plants, the first of which, initially reported by PlasticsToday in 2012 and subsequently in mid-2013, was recently completed by SK Global Chemical at its complex in Ulsan, South Korea, with an annual capacity of 230,000 tonnes for Nexlene polyolefin elastomers and plastomers (POEs/POPs).
With the start-up of its POE/POP plant in South Korea, SK Global joins a select group of players supplying these versatile products, including ExxonMobil Chemical (Houston, TX) with its Vistamaxx and Exact resins, Dow Chemical (Midland MI) with its Affinity and Engage offerings, and Mitsui Elastomers (Singapore) with its Tafmer product range. LG Chem (Seoul) is another recent Korea firm that has entered the POE field.
The agreement was signed by Mohamed Al-Mady, SABIC Vice Chairman and CEO, and Ja-Young Koo, SK Innovation Vice Chairman and CEO, and is subject to regulatory approval.
Besides the plastomers/elastomers plant, which is itself also capable of producing more conventional grades of metallocene LLDPE, a second plant is planned for Saudi Arabia while over time, production bases will be established worldwide. The joint venture’s plants will meet the growing needs of diverse industries such as advanced packaging, automotive, healthcare, footwear and electrical & lighting.
Mosaed Al-Ohali, Sabic Executive Vice President, Polymers Strategic Business Unit, said that the new venture will allow both partners to enter the highly specialized high-performance polyethylene market, providing premium and high value polymer products to customers around the world. “Our new partnership with SK Global will complement our comprehensive polymers portfolio with an innovative new product line, enabling us to offer cost effective, efficient and customer-focused solutions in Asia and beyond,” he said.
Giving a technological perspective, Ernesto Occhiello, Sabic Executive Vice President, Technology and Innovation, said that this solution, based on metallocene technology, will enable the two companies to manufacture a wide range of materials. “These technologies will benefit both converters and end customers through better performance, processability and final product properties. Excellent impact strength, enhanced toughness, superior transparency, low heat seal temperature, incremental output and improved organoleptic properties are just a few of the competitive advantages that this technology can deliver,” he said.
These unique properties and characteristics offer a range of possibilities for the development of innovative product applications. The packaging industry can benefit from lighter versions of Nexlene (mLLDPE) to produce films to manufacture flexible food packaging and wrapping materials. They can also be used in pipes for greater variations as well as in consumer goods, such as rotomolded articles.
Polyolefin elastomers find applications in a number of industries where elasticity is important including impact modifiers in the automotive industry, footwear in consumer markets and wire coatings in utilities and construction industries.
Polyolefin plastomers are specifically designed to provide excellent heat seal strength for a variety of packaging products to help provide inner sealing, adhesive and air/moisture barrier layers.
By Stephen Moore