At the European Coatings Show in Nuremberg, exhibitors shared their thoughts on current trends and issues in the polyurethane-based coatings market.
By Louise McHenry, Senior Reporter
Sustainability, it’s the word that is on everyone’s lips at the moment, not only in the coatings market, but in the polyurethanes industry as a whole. At the European Coatings Show, held 19-21 March in Nuremberg, Germany, almost all exhibitors had something to say about this key trend in the industry.
Different companies presented different ideas to fit in with this buzzword, from solutions that are based on water rather than solvents, to ‘green’ polyols and raw materials made from renewable feedstocks. Others said that sustainability was about more than just using bio-based materials, it is about developing environmentally conscious processing solutions, and others admitted that the use of bio-based materials is not practical for everyone, at least not yet.
“People associate sustainability with products grown in a field and then cultivated to convert into chemicals. It’s a little bit more detailed than that. We’ve got to look at all the different aspects,” said Robert Lomax, market analyst, business development, Baxenden Chemicals, in a 19 March interview at the show.
Lomax noted that sustainability is one of the core principles within Baxenden’s parent company Chemtura, but since polyurethanes are predominantly based on materials that still come from petroleum and natural gas, it’s a question of “how you can make the most of that topic”. One of the things that Baxenden is trying to do is to convert its customers from solvent-based products to water-based products, such as its Trixene Aqua range of blocked isocyanates, a water-based version of its original Trixene range.
Mark Moody, marketing manager, EMEA, Adiprene/Vibrathane, Chemtura Europe, speaking during same interview, added that both Baxenden and Chemtura produce a wide range of waterborne polyurethane dispersions, as well as low-free isocyanate prepolymers, with a reduced solvent and the VOC (volatile organic compound) content.
Lomax noted that some of the company’s water-based products contain solvents, but Baxenden is working towards being able to totally remove these. “Sometimes you can, sometimes is not possible, but the idea is to minimise the impact,” he said. “The whole industry is driving that way and we are also being driven that way by our customers – and maybe even by consumer pressure.”
Adding renewable resources
For Vencorex, an isocyanates joint venture between PTT Global Chemical and the Perstorp Group, which was formed in 2012, the event was an opportunity to launch its partially bio-based, solvent-free aliphatic isocyanate polymer called Tolonate X Flo 100. The company, headquartered in Saint-Priest, France, said it is made from 25% renewable material, according to French Association for green chemistry (ACDV) standards. Vencorex says that the new product can be used in a large variety of polyurethane and polyurea materials as a cross linker, as a reactive diluent in two-pack systems, and as a building block for resin and polymer design.
Sutin Chamulitrat, vice president, marketing and sales, told UTI in a 20 March interview that sustainability is now a driving force for the company. “We are using it and believing in it,” he said, indicating that Vencorex’s major shareholder PTT Global is highly invested in sustainability and in deriving raw materials from renewable materials, such as palm oil.
Both the Vencorex and Baxenden executives noted that varying chemical legislation across the world affects business, with Moody noting that the strict regulatory system in Europe “can be a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity”. Chamulitrat noted that there may be regulatory differences depending on the regions, but “one thing for sure is that our customers are everywhere” and they take their high standards across the globe.
Moody added that regulatory bodies across the world are talking to their counterparts in other countries in order to be aware of what is being done across the world. Lomax noted that often Baxenden Chemicals has to offer different ranges for Europe and for the US due to differing standards. Even within the US, there are different requirements by state, such as in California, which tends to have stricter rules than other states in America.
“We supply a lot of products for leather coatings; that leather goes into automotive seating. Nobody knows where a car is really going to end up. It could end up in California, therefore anything that California says automatically feeds back into automotive manufacturers around the world,” Lomax noted, adding that this has important consequences for suppliers like Baxenden.
Going green in coatings
When it comes to sustainability, the idea of ‘green’ chemistry is at the heart of speciality chemical producer Myriant’s company focus. Myriant produces bio-succinic acid from renewable, sustainable feedstocks, such as sorghum or industrial dextrose. The bio-succinic acid can be used as a replacement for adipic acid in polyester polyols, which can be in turn used for a variety of coatings applications.