Industry News

Dow Cites Progress In Natural Oil Polyols

Published on 2005-06-24. Author : SpecialChem

MIDLAND, MI -- The Dow Chemical Company reports that it has made significant progress toward developing consistent soy-based polyols for urethane formulations. Soy-based polyols can substitute for a considerable percentage of hydrocarbon-based polyols, providing customers with greater economic stability and significant environmental advantages. David Babb, Ph.D. and scientist for Polyurethanes at Dow presented the information at a recent United Soybean Board meeting held in Detroit, Michigan.

"The biggest challenge in working with natural oils is the variations of the fatty acid makeup in the oils. If fatty acids are not controlled, final urethane product performance is impacted, thereby impacting overall customer acceptance and satisfaction," stated Babb. "We've been able to successfully overcome these challenges by utilizing a multi-step process that selectively modifies the natural oils."

Babb noted that Dow is focusing initially on developing soy-based polyols for flexible slab polyurethane products, the largest market for polyols today. Dow has achieved production success at the lab and pilot-plant scale. Foam performance data from products made in the company's pilot plant indicate that key product properties have been matched with formulations incorporating 35 percent soy monomer. This preliminary work also required no special processing steps, indicating that customers should not have to make any equipment or process modifications to work with the new soy-based polyol products.

Producing polyols from natural oils, such as soy, is increasingly being viewed by the industry as a viable alternative to hydrocarbon-based feedstocks due to the favorable environmental advantages and economic stability of these raw materials. Soy is an annually renewable resource that is cost-competitive and has reduced impact on the environment. From plant growth to polyol production, soy polyols are expected to require about half the fossil fuels and feedstocks required by traditional polyols. In addition, the introduction of natural oils into the polyurethane supply chain can provide an opportunity for polyurethane suppliers and customers to reduce their dependence on natural gas and crude oil, whose highly volatile and increased costs continue to make it difficult for them to compete.

Dow plans to start product sampling with select flexible slab customers in the U.S. and Europe in the fourth quarter of 2005 and will continue at least through 2006. Once pre-commercial trials are successfully completed, the company will evaluate full commercial investment in this technology.

About Polyols and Polyurethanes

Polyols are a component in the production of polyurethanes, which are rigid foams, flexible foams, and adhesives used in appliances, automotive parts, adhesives, building insulation, furniture, bedding, footwear and packaging. Dow is a leading global supplier of polyether polyols and other polyurethane raw materials, and offers one of the broadest lines of polyurethane products in the industry.

About Dow

Dow is a leader in science and technology, providing innovative chemical, plastic and agricultural products and services to many essential consumer markets. With annual sales of $40 billion, Dow serves customers in 175 countries and a wide range of markets that are vital to human progress: food, transportation, health and medicine, personal and home care, and building and construction, among others. Committed to the principles of sustainable development, Dow and its 43,000 employees seek to balance economic, environmental and social responsibilities. References to "Dow" or the "Company" mean The Dow Chemical Company and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise expressly noted.

Source: Dow

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