Metallocenes: What Will They Replace?

Published - Feb 2003| Analyst - Melvin Schlechter| Code - PLS030A
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Report Highlights

  • Metallocene resin/elastomer applications will grow at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 7.3%.
  • The leading metallocene application, packaging films, will grow from 710 million lbs. in 2002 to 973 Million lbs in 2007.
  • The aggregate total of metallocene resins/elastomers is about 1.5 billion pounds.
  • The metallocene resin/elastomer industry is characterized by complex, overlapping licensing arrangements.

INTRODUCTION

STUDY GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

The objective of this study is to provide a realistic analysis of metallocene-catalyzed resins, which have expanded from polyethylenes to polyolefin plastomers and elastomers, polypropylenes, EPDMs, polystyrenes, ethylene-styrene copolymers, cyclic olefin copolymers and others for the North American market.

REASON FOR DOING THE STUDY

Earlier reports from the last five to ten years have usually been far too optimistic in terms of projected volumes of products. An objective appraisal of these polymers is needed to properly position these materials in the marketplace.

The onset of metallocene polymers has brought forth the concept of single-site catalysis of which metallocenes are just one example, albeit the first commercial success. Furthermore, more traditional polyolefins, most notably LLDPE, which compete with metallocenes, have been made with upgraded conventional Ziegler-Natta catalysis.

Many analysts now group these catalyst advances into one-category by naming them metallocene/single-site (m/SS), which makes it more difficult to differentiate these two types of products. To further intensify the competitive scenario, standard Ziegler-Natta LLDPEs continue to effectively compete with m/SS variants.

Major questions to be answered are: Which end-use markets and what materials will be replaced by metallocene polymers, and to what extent?

SCOPE OF THE STUDY

This report will cover the metallocene-catalyzed versions of the following resins/elastomers: LLDPE, HDPE, VLDPE, polypropylene, polystyrene and EPDM, along with recently introduced variants known as polyolefin plastomers (POPs) and polyolefin elastomers (POEs). Recently introduced ethylene-styrene copolymers and cyclic olefin copolymers, which are both based on metallocene technology, will also be described.

The competitive scenario in which these resins and elastomers will do battle with traditional LLDPE, HDPE, VLDPE, EVA, ionomers, and other resins/elastomers will also be analyzed, along with the backdrop of a wide array of applications led by nonfood and food packaging flexible films, stretch/shrink films, nonpackaging films, and many other uses in markets such as rigid packaging, medical, automotive, wire/cable, hose/tubing, polymer modification and a miscellaneous category comprising foams, sporting goods, toys, footwear, continuous filament, nonwoven fibers, etc.

Competitive markets relate to possible metallocene resin/elastomer replacement and do not refer to entire end-use applications for a given resin or elastomer.

Technologies, mergers and acquisitions, licensing, FDA status, legal issues, industry structure, recycling and pricing are other critical topics that will be included. When discussing recent historical developments, original company names will be used due to the increase in recent mergers. Thus Exxon Chemical and Mobil Polymers rather than ExxonMobil; Union Carbide instead of Dow; Phillips Chemical and Chevron in place of Chevron Phillips; and Montell instead of Basell Polyolefins.

In another context, the producers in this continually make announcements about new construction of new plants or capacity increases at existing plants. In almost all cases, these plans are delayed or even permanently shelved so that, at the time of the writing of this report, some of these plans are "up in the air," so to speak.

ANALYST CREDENTIALS

Mel Schlechter has over 30 years in the chemical industry, and specializes in plastics market research. He has been with BCC for over 10 years. B.S., Chemistry; M.S., Organic Chemistry; M.B.A., Marketing.

METHODOLOGY

A comprehensive review was undertaken of literature relating to single-site-derived polymer, its technology, applications, markets, company involvement and new developments. Unresolved issues were clarified by contact with those involved in the industry.

In addition to the list of acronyms shown below, densities are indicated without the usual units of cc/min (cubic centimeters per minute), which are assumed. For example, a density of 0.94 will be written as "0.94" and not "0.94 cc/min" for easier reading.

ACRONYMS

ABS –acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene terpolymer

ASA – acrylonitrile-styrene-acrylate elastomer

ASTM – American Society for Testing and Materials

BMC – bulk molding compound

BOPP – biaxially oriented polypropylene

CAP – controlled atmospheric packaging

COC – cyclic olefin copolymer

DEHP – diethylhexyl phthalate

EPDM – ethylene propylene diene monomer

EPR – ethylene propylene rubber

ESCR – environmental stress crack resistance

EVA – ethylene vinyl acetate

EVOH – ethylene vinyl alcohol

HAO – higher alpha olefin

HDPE – high-density polyethylene

HMW – high molecular weight

LLDPE – linear low-density polyethylene

LDPE – low-density polyethylene

m- LLDPE, HDPE, etc. – metallocene variants

MAP – modified atmospheric packaging

MI – melt index

MDPE – medium density polyethylene

MLS – multilayer structure

MVTR – moisture vapor transmission rate

MW – molecular weight

MWD – molecular weight distribution

OPP – oriented polypropylene

PBT – polybutylene terephthalate

PC/ABS – polycarbonate/ABS alloy/blend

PC/PBT – polycarbonate/PBT blend

PE - polyethylene

PET – polyethylene terephthalate

POE – polyolefin elastomer

POP – polyolefin plastomer

PP - polypropylene

PPO – polyphenylene oxide

PPS – polyphenylene sulfide

PUR - polyurethane

PVC – polyvinyl chloride

PVDC – polyvinylidene chloride

SBC – styrene block copolymer

SBR – styrene butadiene rubber

SEBR – styrene-ethylene-butadiene rubber

SMA – styrene maleic anhydride

SMC – sheet molding compound

SS – single-site

TPE – thermoplastic elastomer

TPO – thermoplastic olefin

TPU – thermoplastic urethane

UHMWPE – ultra high molecular weight PE

ULDPE – ultra low density PE

VLDPE- very low density PE

ZN – Ziegler-Natta

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