Dow starts commercial operation of MDI plant in Texas; U.S. chemical production index rises in August; International Conference on Chemical Management sets chemical-related targets; Canada’s polymer producer NOVA Chemicals restructures management

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Passenger aircraft seating, like in most vehicles, is typically padded with polyurethane foam. Polyurethane can also be found in aircraft ceilings and walls for insulation. Image courtesy of Juno1412,Pixabay

Dow starts commercial operation of MDI plant in Texas

Dow  has started-up its new MDI distillation manufacturing site in Freeport, Texas, while at the same time it completed the closing of other polyurethane-related assets in La Porte, also in Texas, as part of capacity improvement for its polyurethane-related business, the company said in late September 2023.

This investment “advances Dow’s leading positions in applications in automotive, construction, consumer, and industrial markets,” the company said. Polyurethane materials serve as cushioning for a wide range of products, like car, bus or airplane seats, as well as in mattresses.

The new Freeport MDI facility, which replaces Dow’s North America capacity in La Porte, Texas, will supply an additional 30% of product, Dow said.

Methylenediphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) is a reactive chemical intermediate used primarily in the manufacture of polyurethanes, according to the American Chemistry Council.

“Our customers are looking for a cost competitive and reliable supply of key upstream polyurethane raw materials to support their growth,” said Jane Palmieri, president of Dow’s Industrial Intermediates & Infrastructure operating segment.

“The back integration at the Freeport site enhances operational flexibility and reliability,” she added.

The new plant will help Dow cut annual greenhouse gas emissions from operations besides decreasing freshwater intake and reduce discharged wastewater, it said.

Dow’s extensive polyurethane franchise “upgrades key polyurethane components and systems to produce rigid, semi-rigid and flexible foams, and coatings, adhesives, sealants, elastomers and composites.”

Besides furniture and bedding, polyurethane finds applications in flooring and footwear, automotive interiors, and insulation.

Dow has plants in 31 countries and employs some 37,800 people. It reported about $57 billion in sales revenue in 2022.

U.S.  chemical production index rises in August after being nearly flat in July

The American Chemistry Council (ACC)’s U.S. Chemical Production Regional Index (U.S. CPRI) rose 0.7% in August, following a 0.2% decline in July, the American Chemistry Council recently said.

The U.S. CPRI, which was off 2% year-over-year, showed month-on-month improvement in production in all regions with the largest gains in the Gulf Coast, the Ohio Valley, and Southeast regions.

“Increased output of resins, organic chemicals, inorganic chemicals, coatings, adhesives, other specialty chemicals, and consumer products was offset by weakness in fertilizers, crop protection chemicals, synthetic rubber, and manufactured fibers,” the ACC added.

The ACC includes the biggest chemical companies in the U.S., such as petrochemical companies that make plastic resins and other commodities.

As for the global chemical production index, it also rose slightly in August for a second month.

“Following the 0.3% gain in the month prior, the ACC Global Chemical Production Regional Index (Global CPRI) bounced back by 0.4% in August,” it said.

All regions recorded growth with the most significant increases in the U.S., China, Germany, the Netherlands, and Russia. Global output is up in all segments with agricultural and coating leading the gains. Global chemicals production growth was up 1.1% year-over-year, the ACC said.

International Conference on Chemical Management sets chemical-related targets

The Fifth International Conference on Chemicals Management that ended on Sep. 30, 2023 in Bonn, Germany, aimed to set targets for global guidelines for key sectors across the entire lifecycle of chemicals.

The meeting, that included government representatives, companies, and non-government organizations, resulted in what the conference organizers described in a press release as the establishment of a “Global Framework of Chemicals.”

“Nature, free from pollution, should be able to thrive and support humanity,” said Inger Andersen, director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), according to the statement.

“The newly adopted framework calls for the prevention of the illegal trade and trafficking of chemicals and waste, the implementation of a national legal frameworks, and the phase out by 2035 of highly hazardous pesticides in agriculture,” it said.

It also calls for the transition to safer and more sustainable chemical alternatives, and for access to information regarding chemicals and their associated risks.

Germany, as president of the ICCM5 (as the late-September 2023 Bonn conference was called) pledged 20 million euros to be managed by UNEP for these purposes.

The previous conference related to chemical management guidelines was held in Bucharest in Sep. 2022. It had been planned for 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic.

Canada’s polymer producer NOVA Chemicals restructures management

Canada-based polymer producer NOVA Chemicals announced a restructuring of its management team including the naming of a Chief Financial Officer, as well as  two other moves at upper management level.

Eric Brenner was named Chief Financial Officer while Rocky Vermani, the senior vice president of Supply Chain, Procurement and Innovation, will take on the “revised role” of senior vice president of Innovation and Sustainability. Breener had been acting CFO since May 2022.

In a third change Robert Vislosky was named to fill the “new role” of Chief Officer, Supply Chain and Procurement.

NOVA Chemicals announced its 2030 Strategy in March of this year that includes “ambitions to drive the plastics circular economy and (...) with recycled materials, be at the forefront of industry decarbonization, and become a top 30 company in Canada.”

NOVA, owned by the Mubadala investment group of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, announced in July it was increasing its participation in recycling.

By Reuters Events Downstream