By Liz White, ERJ staff
DÃ¼sseldorf, Germany-Italian rubber supplier Polimeri Europa has finally launched a grade of styrene ethylene-butylene styrene (SEBS) thermoplastic elastomer, the firm announced at the K2004 exhibition in DÃ¼sseldorf, 20 Oct.
Polimeri Europa said back in Jan 2000 that it was investing $50 million to set up a SEBS plant at its main production site in Ravenna, Italy, but little has been heard about the operation since.
Now the rubber, latex and TPE producer says the plant was completed in 2002 and is making commercial amounts of the hydrogenated SEBS. Polimeri Europa is selling the material under the trade name Europrene SOL TH. Nominal capacity of the plant-which uses proprietary hydrogenation technology based on metallocene catalysts-is 30 kilotonnes per annum, the firm added.
Five grades of varying molecular weight are available, ranging from a low viscosity grade especially suitable for hot-melt adhesives to a high molecular weight version, most appropriate for compounding and moulding applications.
The future of major rubber-producing group Polimeri Europa-put up for sale in late 2002 by owner Eni SpA-still hangs in the balance. No suitable single buyer has been found and Eni announced in 2003 that the operation may be split up and the plants or businesses sold in pieces. This plan would initially keep the Italian elastomer businesses based at Ravenna as one unit, while the other plants-see list below-would be sold.
Late last year, the Eni group's chief executive Vittorio Mincato said buyers had expressed firm interest in five of the plants. No Polimeri Europa staff were available for comment on progress of the disposal at K2004.
The group has gained $41 million from the Dec 2003 sale of its 50 kilotonnes per annum US styrenic block copolymer plant to Taiwanese firm Lee Chang Yung Chemical Industry Corp. The plant, at Baytown in Texas, makes standard styrene-isoprene-styrene and styrene-butadiene-styrene block copolymers, but not the higher performing, higher value SEBS grades.
Polimeri Europa's remaining plants are in:
Ravenna, Italy, SBR 120 ktpa, BR 80 ktpa, TPEs (SBS, SIS) 90 ktpa,
Latices 60 ktpa;
Ferrara, Italy, EPR/EPDM 85 ktpa;
Port Torres, Italy, Nitrile rubber 33 ktpa;
Champagnier, France, Chloroprene rubber 40 ktpa;
Grangemouth, UK, SBR 30 ktpa, BR 80 ktpa;
Hythe, UK, SBR 75 ktpa; Latices 40 ktpa.