FOCUS ON: Major Milestone
“We are excited to commemorate this milestone achievement,” said Fogarty. “The 50th anniversary celebration of our Belpre plant is a perfect opportunity for Kraton Polymers to show its appreciation for the loyalty, dedication, and commitment of our employees, valued customers, the Mid-Ohio Valley, and our neighbors in Belpre, in particular. Kraton’s Belpre plant has played a critical role in our ability to deliver cutting-edge, highly engineered solutions that continue to help solve problems and make lives better. Kraton has developed a rich portfolio of innovation products and a pipeline of new products and applications for styrenic block copolymers, and this has helped set us apart from our competitors.”
The company’s annual picnic kicked off the 50th celebration on the weekend of September 17, with more than 850 local Kraton employees, retirees and their families attending. Kraton also constructed an exhibition hall to showcase its latest technological advancements, including the recent commercialization of a new C5 tackifier reduction technology. Kraton’s new SIBS-based compound enables customers to reduce the amount of tackier resins by 15-20% while achieving similar or better performance at similar system costs in hot-melt pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) applications.
“Our tackifier reduction product technology gives customers a new sourcing option in pressure-sensitive adhesives formulations as our customers manage the ongoing supply challenges in their target markets,” said Mark Siebert, vice president for Adhesives, Sealants & Coatings. “Our customers can now formulate their adhesive products using less tackifying resin to support immediate growth opportunities previously limited by the structural shortage of piperyline. In addition, our technology can be extended to SBS polymer grades typically used for nonwoven construction. Kraton Polymers’ research and development efforts continue to explore new chemistry options to reduce the dependency on scarce formulating ingredients, and this is a perfect example of Kraton ‘Giving Innovators Their Edge.’”
Plant DetailsServing as the company’s flagship facility, the Belpre plant produces a broad product range of SBCs, including both hydrogenated (SEBS, SEPS) and unhydrogenated (SBS, SIS) grades. The plant opened in 1961 and is reportedly the largest styrenic thermoplastic elastomer production facility in the world. The 330-acre plant has approximately 600 employees and contractors. It is located on the north bank of the Ohio River, less than five miles west of Parkersburg, WV, and 15 miles south of Marietta.
The plant features four polymer process units, four finishing/packaging operations and a polymer compounding unit. At full capacity, the Belpre plant produces approximately 189 kilotons of Kraton polymers (thermoplastic rubber) each year. The product offering includes nearly 70 polymer grades in pellet, crumb, and powder form, which are packaged in bales, boxed bags, stretch-wrapped bags, boxes, and bulk.
In 2011, with an emphasis on health and safety, the company’s board of directors allocated approximately $37 million for instrumentation upgrades and the construction of state-of-the-art lab facilities. The company also successfully launched a line conversion for new solid isoprene rubber (IR) capacity to support sales growth in Cariflex™ isoprene rubber, a pure, high-performance alternative to natural rubber that replaces the capacity from the Pernis, Netherlands, facility that was closed in 2009. The line conversion project began in 2010, was completed in 2011 and represents a capital investment of $27 million.
Product OfferingsKraton produces high-performance elastomers engineered for a variety of end-use applications. The elastomers have a combination of high strength and low viscosity that facilitates ease of processing at elevated temperatures and high processing speeds. The company’s products can be processed in a variety of manufacturing applications, including injection molding, blow molding, compression molding extrusion, hot melt and solution-applied coatings.
Kraton also offers a broad product portfolio of value-enhancing polymers that are used in a number of applications, including consumer and personal care items, adhesives and coatings, electronics, medical supplies, automotive components, and paving and roofing materials. Many of the world’s top Fortune 500 companies have chosen to partner with Kraton Polymers for the development of creative solutions. Kraton offers approximately 800 products to more than 700 customers in over 60 countries worldwide, and its intellectual product portfolio includes approximately 1,400 patents (issued or pending).
In the adhesives, sealants and coatings market, Kraton SBC products primarily compete with acrylics, silicones, solvent-based rubber systems and thermoplastic polyolefin elastomers. The choice between these materials is influenced by bond strength, specific adhesion, consistent performance to specification, processing speed, hot-melt application, resistance to water and total end-product cost.
For this sector, Kraton’s products are used in a number of demanding applications, such as adhesives for diapers and hygienic products, sealants for construction and automotive applications, and adhesives for tapes and labels. In tapes and labels, either solvent-based or hot-melt forms, Kraton SBCs impart water resistance, color stability, strong bonding characteristics high cohesive strength, good ultraviolet light resistance, heat stability, and long shelf life. Its coatings polymers have expanded into the elastomeric white roof coatings sector to provide not only weather resistance, but also improved energy efficiency, reducing solar absorption on bitumen-based industrial roofs.