Growing phthalate-free plasticizers

The blog is not that familiar with the plasticizer market although ICIS Chemical Business has been covering some part of this market in the form of phthalate plasticizers dioctyl phthalate (DOP), di-isosonyl phthalate (DINP) and feedstock phthalic anhydride.

However, the blog has constantly been receiving news on alternatives development to phthalates DOP and DINP, which are produced using phthalic anhydrides – obtained by oxidation of orthoxylene. These plasticizers have been scrutinized by regulatory bodies across the world.

Unfortunately, the blog has not been keeping up-to-date with the phthalate regulatory status (the last post was in July 2010 about Lanxess’ expansion of its Mesamoll plasticizer). However. it seems that plasticizer suppliers have increasingly come up with alternatives.

Lanxess’ Mesamoll is reportedly based on alkanesulfonic acid esters. In October 2011, Lanxess has also been expanding its phthalate-free plasticizer portolio with the acquisition of North Carolina-based UNITEX, and the company has also been working with BioAmber to develop bio-succinic acid-derived plasticizers, which was announced in October as well.

Like Lanxess, Eastman has also been expanding its non-phthalate plasticizer capacity worldwide (recent ones in Tennessee and Estonia) as well as acquiring plasticizer companies such as Sterling Chemicals and Scandiflex in Brazil. Speaking of Scandiflex.

Speaking of Scandiflex, my colleagues attended a conference in Brazil last month called EBDQUIM and an Eastman official noted during the event that the company is developing a Scandiflex plasticizers based on bio-butanol. If readers recall, Eastman bought bio-butanol developer TetraVitae Bioscience late last year.

Meanwhile last year, BASF has also been expanding its Hexamoll DINCH phthlate-fee plasticizers; Oxea launched last year its Oxsoft phthalate-free and non-VOC plasticizers; Dow introduced its Dow Ecolibrium plasticizers in late 2010 and started collaborating with Teknor Apex this year to jointly market the bio-based plasticizers in certain applications.

A more recent news on biobased plasticizer is Galata Chemicals collaborating with US PVC producer Georgia Gulf to develop a line of flexible bio-based PVC compounds containing Galata’s newly launched Drapex® Alpha plasticizer made from epoxidized soybean oil. The bio-based vinyl compounds – which can be used for wire and cable, medical uses and a range of general-purpose customer needs in the area of environmental-oriented applications – can be custom blended at Georgia Gulf’s Aberdeen, Gallman, Madison and Prairie facilities in Mississippi.

Also on the biobased plasticizer developments, US polymer materials producer PolyOne has been collaborating with agribusiness firm Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) since 2008 on this area and the companies have launched reFlex 100, the first in their bioplasticizer pipeline, at the recent NPE plastic show held in Orlando, Florida.

PolyOne said the bioplasticizer can be an alternative to conventional plasticizers such as BBP (benzyl butyl phthalate), DBP (dibutyl phthalate) and benzoates where most of them have also come under regulatory pressure. reFlex 100 is said to have a 94% biobased label awarded by the USDA Biopreferred program.

Applications for the biobased plasticizer include toys and other consumer goods that need to be non-phthalate, flooring, carpet backing, and other building and construction end uses.

PolyOne is also working with renewable chemicals developer Segetis since 2010 on bioplasticizers using Segetis’ levulinic-ketal based platform under the trademark Javelin.

Meanwhile, Myriant is already offering its biosuccinic acid-based plasticizers under the tradename Myriflex and France-based Roquette has also been working on its Polysorb ID 37 plasticizer made from 100% biobased isosorbide diester.

With DuPont’s acquisition of Danisco last year, the company has also been showcasing Danisco’s Soft-N-Safe vegetable oil-based plasticizer at the NPE show this year.

According to Lanxess, the global market for phthalate-free plasticizers is currently estimated at EUR1.3bn ($1.7bn) with annual growth rate of 7%.

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