Corrected: US INVISTA develops new polyol to raise feedstock flexibility

25 September 2013 17:11  [Source: ICIS news]

Correction: In the ICIS story headlined “US INVISTA develops new polyol to raise feedstock flexibility” dated 25 September 2013, the story reported that production will start in January 2014. However, production has already started in Wilmington at the existing facilities. Production at the expanded facilities will start in January 2014. A corrected story follows.

PHOENIX (ICIS)--INVISTA developed a new polyester polyol to give its Terate product line feedstock flexibility, as a key raw material was becoming scarcer, an executive said on Monday.

The new polyester polyol, Terate HT, was one of the finalists for the Polyurethanes Innovation Award, the winner of which will be announced on Wednesday.

At the same time, INVISTA wanted to improve on the qualities of the Terate line.

The Terate line is important for INVISTA, because it is an aromatic polyester polyol that is used to make rigid-foam polyurethanes, said Bob Francois, president of specialty materials for the company. He made his comments on the sidelines of the Polyurethanes Technical Conference, held by the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI).

Rigid-foam polyurethanes are used to make high-quality insulation. Such insulation is seeing increasing demand from the construction industry, which is eager to meet new building codes that call for better energy efficiency. At the same time, rigid foams made from aromatic polyester polyols have good flame-resistance qualities, which avoids the need to add halogenated flame retardants to the foam.

After a couple of years of development, INVISTA created Terate HT, which is based on a new chemistry and that builds on the qualities of the original Terate line, Francois said. At the same time, Terate HT has recycled content, which allows customers to meet sustainability goals.

INVISTA is already producing the polyol at its plant in The Netherlands, he said. . It then made an initial investment in Wilmington, North Carolina and began producing in the US late in 2012.  INVISTA is now in the process of retrofitting and expanding its plant in Wilmington, North Carolina, with the new investment start up in January 2014.

For INVISTA's older generation of Terate polyols, its feedstock was tied to the production of dimethyl terephthalate (DMT), Francois said.

DMT, in turn, is a feedstock used to make polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Over the years, however, PET production increasingly relied on another raw material, purified terephthalic acid (PTA).

With supplies of feedstock dwindling, INVISTA nonetheless chose to continue investing in the Terate line.

"We challenged the R&D team and the business team," he said. INVISTA wanted to retain the best properties of the original Terate line, as well as improve on other qualities of the product.

As INVISTA worked on developing the new line, it had cooperation from customers and co-suppliers, Francois said. "The customers were very willing to take risks in every step of the process."

The company chose its plant in The Netherlands to start initial production, Francois said.

INVISTA chose Wilmington for the second production site, since the company has a research and development (R&D) team there, and the plant is close to the company's customers in North America, Francois said.

Although Terate HT is a new product, it is already receiving interest from Asian customers, Francois said.

The polyurethanes conference runs through Wednesday.

By: Al Greenwood
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