Focus On: Investing in Technology
Emerald Kalama Chemical, a business unit of Emerald Performance Materials, celebrated its 50th year of operation in August with the grand opening of its
Cutting the ribbon at the grand opening ceremony on August 2 are (from left): Ed Gotch, president; Shamsi Gravel, K-FLEX product line manager for the Americas; Dave Mezzanotte, managing director, Sun Capital Partners; Bill Arendt, research fellow; and Jerry Andrews, R&D director.
new technical center in Kalama, WA. The technical center focuses on customer applications, as well as formulation support and technology development of K-FLEX® phthalate-free plasticizers and coalescents. In addition, its opening has created eight new jobs, with more expected by the end of the year.
INCREASED DEMAND FOR ENVIRONMENTALLY
Market demand drove the need for the new technical center, according to Shamsi Gravel, K-FLEX product line manager for the Americas. Customers are seeking more environmentally friendly materials that have low VOCs, biodegradability and more favorable product regulatory profiles than phthalate-based plasticizers and traditional high-VOC coalescents.
“Over the last couple of years, rulings regarding phthalates have fueled a significant increase in the number of customer development projects,” says Gravel. “The expanded laboratory facilities will enable us to deliver even greater value to our customers by switching to a more environmentally friendly alternative that can also bring many improved performance features to their products. We have even greater capabilities to further develop and expand our range of products, and evaluate and optimize performance in targeted end-use applications.”
INSTRUMENTS FOR ADVANCED FORMULATION
The center includes state-of-the-art instruments used to develop formulations and optimize product performance in a variety of end-use applications, including latex adhesives, coatings, plastisols, caulks, and sealants. On-site instruments can measure glass-transition and minimum film forming temperatures; volatility; material mechanical properties and strength; QUV/accelerated aging performance; and color, adhesion and rheology. Supporting equipment, including mixers, mills, lab coaters and a Brabender, enables the preparation of a variety of materials into formulated caulks, sealants, paint, multi-layered constructions, coated paper, and films.
THREE MILESTONES IN ONE
“We have many reasons to celebrate: the 50th anniversary of our Kalama operation this year, the grand opening of our technical center in Kalama and last year’s 50-year anniversary milestone at our Rotterdam operation,” says Edward T. Gotch, president of Emerald Kalama Chemical. “During these 50 years, we have evolved, changed and grown. We demonstrate that our operations, based in what are typically characterized as high-cost regions, can be competitive and highly successful by us having a clear vision, being open to change, and having an organizational culture that embraces the relentless pursuit of continuous improvement, innovation and productivity.”
Gotch also recognized Sun Capital Partners for its continued investments to support the growth of the company since acquiring Emerald in 2006. “The investments made since 2006 have enabled us to pursue the exciting path we are now on to transform and grow our business,” he says. “We currently have a number of significant investments under way. These include the recently announced K-FLEX capacity expansion in the U.S. and the new operation in Rotterdam.… Today, with the grand opening of this new state-of-the art technical center, we underscore our commitment to being a world-class organization that serves customers around the globe by providing technology and innovative solutions that deliver real value now and in the future.”
Emerald Kalama Chemical began its toluene oxidation operation in 1962 under Dow Chemical. The Kalama operation grew, experienced changes in ownership and diversified its portfolio over the years. Manufacturing of the K-FLEX plasticizer products began in 1981. In addition to its K-FLEX product line, Emerald Kalama Chemical also produces sodium and potassium benzoate, benzoic acid and intermediates, and specialty flavor and fragrance ingredients, which the company sells globally through its distribution partners. Emerald Kalama Chemical products are used in a range of applications, including beverage preservatives, personal care and household products, and industrial applications.