BASF Escalates BDO, Emery Oleo Expands, Segetis Funds Further
- Aug 23, 2012
Hello and welcome to your late week international coatings industry update, brought to you by SpecialChem. The theme of this issue is expansion. It is everywhere and that's good - because it is good to occasionally suspend our economic worries with signs of increased demand and consumption. Our industry, in most areas, is a textbook case of rolling out production expansion to meet demand without risking margin loss. So for the time being, things are looking up - let's look at the details.
BASF Intermediates announced that they will modernize and service its acetylene facility at the Ludwigshafen site. In the course of these efforts the company will also perform routine maintenance at its facility producing 1,4-butanediol (BDO), which is based on acetylene. BASF will make use of this period to upgrade its plant technology, thereby securing the long-term supply of raw materials to meet the growing demand for BDO and its derivatives. In 2012 the company is investing more than 20 million Euros in this material.
Work on the project will start at the end of August and are expected to last six weeks. BASF plans to bring the facility back on stream in mid-October. The company will make sure that customers of the Ludwigshafen site and elsewhere will receive supplies as usual by building up stocks and by arranging product shipments from other BASF sites.
Also in news from Germany, Emery Oleochemicals recently celebrated the groundbreaking of its Loxstedt manufacturing facility expansion and construction of the Technical Development Center. Valued at an estimated 20 million Euros, it is billed as the company's largest investment in Loxstedt to-date, reinforcing its significance to the company's global strategy of becoming a key player in the Green Polymer Additives segment. The expansion is scheduled for completion by the end of 2013.
"With this expansion, we aim to support both existing and new customers by increasing our Loxstedt capacity and in focusing on strategic product development works. We see a steady annual growth in plastic additives consumption of 4%-5% worldwide making our Loxstedt expansion integral and timely," explained Dr. Kongkrapan Intarajang, CEO. "Our investments here combined with our global reach, innovation and market insights will prove instrumental when partnering with customers to find solutions necessary to meet the rapid product evolution seen in the Green Polymer Additives segment."
In other green chemistry news, this time in building blocks, Segetis, Inc. announced that it has raised $25.5 million in its Series C financing. Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) Ventures B.V. led the investment with full participation by current Segetis investors including Khosla Ventures, Malaysia Life Science Capital Fund, and DSM, through its venturing subsidiary DSM Venturing. A new Malaysian-based investor, PNB Equity Resource Corporation Sdn Bhd, also joined in this round of financing.
"As one of the fastest growing chemical companies, SABIC is a fantastic addition as a strategic investor," said Atul Thakrar, Segetis CEO. "SABIC's lead in this round and the follow-on investment from our current investors demonstrates the strong confidence and excitement in what we are trying to accomplish. The new financing will accelerate our progress in ramping up the supply chain and commercialization of our high-performing renewable chemicals."
As we highlighted in an issue last week, paint recycling is becoming more and more popular. It reclaims a product for its original use, is economical and inexpensive to remarket. Even paint companies are getting into the act. Miller Paint Company last week signed an expanded contract with the Portland, Oregon, USA metro regional government to buy at least 40,000 gallons of recycled paint per year through 2017.
Portland-based Miller will then sell the paint, which retails under the label MetroPaint, at 50 Miller Paint stores across the Pacific Northwest. Miller Paint was the recipient of an Innovation in Sustainability award from Sustainable Business Oregon in 2010.
MetroPaint, part of Oregon's innovative paint recycling program, is made at a Swan Island processing center. About 19 percent of the paint entering the recycling process is from Miller. MetroPaint took in 328,000 gallons of recycled paint in the last fiscal year and sold about 44% of that as MetroPaint. Nearly $1 million in paint was sold in the last fiscal year, about a quarter of that through Miller Paint.
Miller Paint CEO Steve Dearborn said: "It's, first of all, the right thing to do. From our standpoint as a retailer, it's been a positive addition to our line, and the colors work. For the customers who are looking for recycled paint, it's been good."
It's no real wonder why terrorist protection is taken seriously in the USA; we've lost a lot of lives to both domestic and foreign terrorism in the recent past. But how do we protect our sensitive chemical facilities and who should do it? Right now, it is the primary job of the EPA, but as all things in government, this could change.
On August 2, Representative Mike Pompeo (Republican of Kansas) introduced a bill that would bar the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating chemical facility security under the Clean Air Act's general duty clause. The General Duty Clarification Act (H.R. 634) comes in response to a petition filed last month by some 50 environmental and labor groups asking EPA to develop new chemical security regulations that would impose so-called "inherently safer technology" requirements, using what these groups contend is authority provided the agency under the general duty clause of Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.
According to Pompeo, the bill would leave chemical facility security under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), not EPA. The bill has been referred to House Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration.
The legislation would require EPA to complete a rulemaking process before finding any facility in violation of the general duty clause related to accidental releases and require EPA to set definitions of several terms, including "extremely hazardous substance" and "appropriate hazard assessment techniques" in any related regulation.
In June, the American Coatings Association responded to Congressional outreach to the industry and their trade associations to identify regulatory impediments to business innovation and competitiveness, and ACA voiced concern about this particular issue. ACA expressed concern that the heavy-handed approach that EPA is being urged to consider has been thoroughly considered by several Congresses and consistently rejected. ACA went on record in its letter stating that: "the program that Congress has developed and reauthorized on several occasions, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), while not yet fully implemented by DHS, has already accomplished many of the goals that the environmental advocacy groups claim to seek, including the fact that approximately 3,000 sites have reduced risk by voluntarily changing their ingredients or processes. The entry of EPA into this homeland security area will not improve security, but will create overlapping and duplicative requirements that will impose heavy new burdens on industry without improving security."
In the same correspondence to Congress, ACA had also expressed concern about an Information Collection Request (ICR) entitled "Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorist Standards (CFATS) Personnel Surety Program (PSP)," which had been recently submitted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last year. The ICR is a step in the creation of a regulatory standard for access into CFATS facilities, but instead of complying with the risk-based framework mandated by CFATS, as ACA pointed out, DHS deviated from Congress' risk-based approach by prescribing a rigid program based on information gathering instead of a system that focuses on making a facility more secure.
Due to the major impacts the ICR has, along with the absence of any tangible security value this program will have on affected industries, ACA and other organizations had asked that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) not allow this ICR to move forward, and DHS announced last week that it had withdrawn the ICR.
The department indicated that it would re-evaluate its approach to the PSP requirement and would resubmit a new proposal at some future date.
In business news, Arkema has increased its production capacity for Kynar fluoropolymer at its Changshu site in China by 50%. The company says that new capacity, brought on stream several weeks ahead of schedule, will enable it to consolidate its position in this product line. Arkema now has production capabilities for Kynar PVDF in Europe, North America, and Asia.
The new line, dedicated to the production of Kynar and its VF2 (vinylidene fluoride) monomer, is designed to bolster Arkema's presence in traditional markets such as coatings, chemical engineering, and offshore oil extraction, as well as emerging applications such as water treatment, lithium-ion batteries, and photovoltaic panels.
Printed electronic devices are slowly becoming more commonplace, much more slowly than your editor expected, in fact. But recently chemical technology has all but caught up to application and packaging technology, and progress is speeding up considerably. In the August issue of Nature Communications, Professor Ludvig Edman and PhD Andreas Sandström at Umeå University, Sweden, report that they have produced organic light-emitting electrochemical cells (LECs) using a roll-to-roll compatible process under ambient conditions.
"LECs can thus be produced as inexpensive and large-area extremely thin light-emitting devices for informative displays and, at a later stage, lighting applications," says Ludvig Edman, Professor in Physics. Professor Edman's group at Umeå University is focusing on novel organic compounds (such as light-emitting and conducting polymers and graphene) and develops LECs based on such materials.
The researchers have dramatically improved the energy efficiency and lifetime of LECs, as well as demonstrated the unique physics and chemistry behind their operation and have recently enhanced the performance of LECs to a point where lifetime and efficiency make LECs useful for signage applications.
The next step in the development was to ensure that the manufacturing costs can be attractive for commercial applications. The report shows that using solely air-stable materials in a roll-coater apparatus, the team managed to deposit a light-emitting layer and a PEDOT-PSS anode on top of a flexible cathode-coated substrate mounted on a roll by means of a slot-die head.
The layers in the produced LEC device were found to be highly uneven, and the layer thickness, for both active layer and anode, was very thick at approximately 1 µm. However, due to the unique self-doping operation of the LEC, the light emitted did not suffer from the rough interfaces, and was in fact found to be very uniform. This feature is ideal for roll-to-roll processes, as the demands of the coating quality can be relaxed thus lowering the costs substantially. It is notable that all the steps involved, i.e. preparation of inks, the subsequent coating of the constituent layers, and the final device operation all could be executed under ambient air.
This shows that the LEC-technology can be used for a low-cost fabrication of large-area light emitting devices under ambient air. The experiments were carried out in collaboration with Professor Frederik Krebs and Henrik Dam at the Technical University of Denmark, where they have extensive experience of low-cost roll-to-roll fabrication of organic solar cells."It was great to work with Frederik Krebs' group so that we quickly could prove that our 10x10 cm2 application techniques for LECs were transferable to roll-to-roll-processing. Thanks to them we have made a rapid technology leap in a very short time", says Andreas Sandström, PhD student at Umeå University.
In further expansion news, BASF Shanghai Coatings Company Limited is investing in a new facility for basecoat production at the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park in Shanghai, China. Intended to support the growth of the Chinese automotive industry, the new plant will increase BASF's local production capacity for basecoat by 13,500 tons per year. The new plant, scheduled to begin production in early 2014, will be designed according to the latest environmentally friendly manufacturing processes and technologies, the company said.
BASF Shanghai Coatings Company Limited is a joint venture between BASF and Shanghai Coatings Company Ltd. The partnership has been in existence for 15 years, and is currently running a production facility in the district of Minhang in Shanghai.
"In China, BASF has been supplying coatings reliably to international and domestic car makers for more than 15 years," states Peter Fischer, Senior VP, Coatings Solutions Asia Pacific, at BASF. "Our investment in additional local coatings production facilities reflects our commitment to address the current and future needs of our automotive customers in this dynamic market."
The niche of superhydrophobic coatings has accelerated since we started emulating nature for our coatings by looking at lotus leaves, pitcher plants and the like - and there has been no slowing in research in this area.
The surface of the lotus leaf, for instance, has a hierarchical structure - comprising both micrometer and submicrometer features - that makes it difficult for water droplets to spread. As a result, water droplets form tight spheres that easily roll off the leaf, picking up dirt particles en route. Such functionality can become useful if applied to textiles or windows, and may also be used in analytical techniques for controlling fluid flow.
Linda Yongling Wu at the A STAR Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology and co-workers have now developed a fast and cost-efficient way to fabricate large-scale superhydrophopic surfaces on a hard material - silica. The researchers used a laser to carve out a microstructured template that they then used to pattern a sol-gel coating.
Nanoparticles were subsequently bound to the surface of the cured sol-gel surface to create a second level of hierarchy. The fabrication methodology can be adjusted to achieve different degrees of micro- and nanostructures. In addition to the new fabrication methodology, Wu and co-workers considered various ways to optimize the water repellency of the textured surface.
They found that increasing the surface roughness increases the true area of contact between the liquid and the solid, enhancing its intrinsic wetting properties. However, if the surface features are small enough, water can bridge protrusions leading to the formation of air pockets; the wet ability of such a nanostructured material is then calculated as a weighted average of the wet ability of the pure material and that of air. These two effects are known respectively as the Wenzel and Cassie-Baxter states.
The researchers derived an equation for calculating the surface contact angle between a water droplet and a silica surface with a certain degree of roughness. They found that there was a transition between the Wenzel to the Cassie-Baxter state, as surface structuring enters the nano dimension.
The researchers found that for an optimum superhydrophobic effect, the Cassie-Baxter state must dominate the surface structure to allow a massive 83% of the surface state to be involved in air trapping with only 17% of the liquid drop surface actually in contact with the silica itself. The researchers are hoping that their findings will generate new ideas for making innovative self-cleaning materials. "We are now developing the technology for real applications, such as easy-clean coating for solar films and structured surfaces for personal care products," says Wu.
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