By Steve Toloken, Plastics News Staff
Beijing -- South Korean conglomerate SK Chemicals believes the key to surviving as a plastics manufacturer over the long-term is to become much more efficient with existing fossil-fuel feedstocks and develop non-fossil fuel alternatives like making plastics from carbon dioxide.
The Seoul-based company, for example, plans to bring on stream a 40-kilotonne-per-annum olefins facility later this year, using a new lower temperature cracking process it claims boosts olefin production by 25 percent, while cutting raw material use and carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent, compared with conventional steam crackers.
And it said it's making progress on what it calls "breakthrough" technology making polymers from carbon dioxide.
In an address at the Flexpo 2010 conference June 9-11 in Beijing, the head of the company's China operations, Sang Hoon Park, said the rapidly changing business climate, from rising energy costs and much cheaper resin coming out of the Middle East, gives companies little room for error.
"Over the past years, the industry has been struggling with an incredible shift in short-term dynamics," he said. "To win this competition, it is important to quickly detect changes in the global environment. The weapon needed to overcome this hurdle is technological innovation."
While Park said SK sees opportunities with its new cracking process, dubbed "advanced catalytic olefins," he said the company also sees potentially far reaching developments from its research on making plastics partly from carbon dioxide.
The company successfully started a pilot plant in October, which it said is the world's first continuous process manufacturing plant for a carbon dioxide-based polymer.
For long-term sustainability, the petrochemical industry must lessen its dependence on fossil-fuel feedstocks, said Park, who is also president of the company's Tech Innovation Center in Seoul.
In Europe, Bayer MaterialScience recently announced a research project to make polyols to use for polyurethane production using carbon dioxide.
See a longer version of this story on SKC at www.plasticsnews.com