Midland, Michigan - Dow Chemical has said it has increased capacity for its range of Nordel IP materials by 40 percent thanks to process improvements at the company's manufacturing plants. Dow anticipates a further increase, allowing it to make 60 percent more material in these plants than was the case when the assets were transferred to the Dow product line in 2005. At the time, Dow's nominal capacity for EPDM was 190 kt/year, of which about half is for the Nordel IP products.
Dow's Nordel product range includes EPDM materials using both the gas-phase production technology pioneered by Union Carbide and the Insite metallocene catalysis developed by Dow. The company acquired the Nordel brand when these assets were transferred to Dow during the break-up of the DuPont-Dow Elastomers (DPDE) company in 2005.
â€œSince it became a part of our product family, we have integrated the assets that produce Nordel ethylene-propylene-diene monomer (EPDM) rubber products into Dow, while focusing on seamless transition for our customers,â€ said Marco Levi, the Company's global business director for plastomers, elastomers and EPDM. â€œThrough our manufacturing and R&D expertise, we are now significantly increasing Nordel capacity and manufacturing quality - providing customers around the world with the confidence that they can rely on Dow to support their increasing demand for high-quality EPDM products as they grow their business.â€
The company operates two plants making EPDM. The former DuPont-Dow plant in Plaquemine Louisiana had a nominal capacity of 100 kt/year when it was transferred to Dow. It makes EPDM under the Nordel IP name, using metallocene technology and also some grades of the company's Engage product line. The plant was purpose-built in 1996.
ERJ estimates that the changes will bring Dow's capacity for EPDM to around 260 kt/year, of which 110 kt is Nordel MG and 150 kt is Nordel IP.
The former Union Carbide plant in Seadrift, Texas had a nominal capacity of 90 kt/year when it was transferred to Dow. That plant makes EPDM using gas-phase polymerisation under the Nordel MG name. However, it was known to be operating at well below nominal capacity when the Union Carbide business was acquired by Dow Chemical. Also, before converting to matallocene catalysis, the Unipol process produced material with a pronounced and unpleasant odour, making it unsaleable in the marketplace. The plant makes EPDM in pellet form with a blend of carbon black. The plant was transferred form Dow to DuPont-Dow (DPDE) in late 2001 and DPDE brought the plant on stream in 2002 using the Insite metallocene technoology and said at the time that the change in catalyst might allow output of more than 110 kt/year.
Dow said of the Seadrift plant that its "drive for continuous improvement and rigorous Six Sigma methodologies have significantly strengthened manufacturing quality and efficiency at the company's world-scale Nordel MG production site in Seadrift, Texas, which is owned and operated by Union Carbide Corporation, a subsidiary of Dow."
The company said it plans to add more Nordel MG grades, with a Mooney viscosity greater than 100, without oil extension. These high-Mooney Nordel MG grades will be high molecular weight and will incorporate more oil and filler while still maintaining the desired benefits in a wide range of applications. â€œImproved process control will allow for the implementation of tighter specifications, enhancing customers' batch-to-batch compounds consistency,â€ said Manfred Holzleg, Dow's global market manager for thermoset applications within Specialty Plastics and Elastomers.. â€œTogether with the inherent low-gel nature of the Nordel MG process, and its excellent carbon black incorporation, the new developments should provide winning value propositions for our customers.â€