Hurricane season hit the Caribbean hard last month with a terrible cost to people’s lives as storms wreaked havoc across several islands before slamming into the US states of Texas and Florida. Hurricane Harvey, which was later downgraded to a Tropical Storm caused significant flooding across Texas and took out more than half of all US ethylene production, with capacity dropping to 36 per cent at one point.

A study by IHS Markit confirmed that ethylene and polyethylene capacity had been most heavily impacted, with new production capacities amounting to nearly four million tonnes now unlikely to be completed by the fourth quarter. Polypropylene fared better but truckers in the Houston area were paralysed by flooding, while costs for chemicals and plastics shippers rose significantly. The impact is likely to be felt for several months.

While US producers took a battering, Sabic continued its global expansion with the inauguration of a PP pilot plant at Geleen in The Netherlands, and confirmed that a new PP extrusion facility will also be built there. The pilot plant will design next-generation PP materials using gas-phase polymerisation technology.

A little slower on the approach than the seasonal storms, Dow Chemical and DuPont finally completed their merger of equals, some 21 months after the deal was first announced.

DowDuPont, which has an estimated market value of more than $30 billion, quickly adjusted its portfolio following the merger with a number of businesses including Dow’s Pharma and Food Solutions, Microbial Control and Performance Polymers moving to the Specialty Products division from the Materials Science division.

Dow and DuPont were not the only companies securing deals in recent weeks. French mineral-based speciality products supplier, Imerys Group, has acquired UK recycler Regain Polymers from Germany’s Aurelius Equity Opportunities SE & Co. The deal enables Imerys to expand its Performance Additives Division, which develops products from recycled polymers. Aurelius owned Regain Polymers since 2015.

As one giant chemical deal completes, another shuffled closer to completion, with the US Federal Trade Commission delivering a second request for information from HuntsmanClariant on two products relating to the deal. The products accounted for less than $24 million in total sales of each of the two companies in the US in 2016. The merger will create a global speciality chemical company with sales of $13.2bn.

In other deals, flexible packaging firm ProAmpac acquired pouches and bags manufacturer PolyFirst Packaging, private-equity firm Genstar Capital moved close to acquiring US-based medical packaging maker Tekni-Plex for $1.5bn according to news agency Reuters, and Sealed Air Corporation bought Brazilian flexible packaging manufacturer Deltaplam for an undisclosed amount.

Partnerships were the order of the day across Europe, with Sipa and Erema holding an open house in Italy to demonstrate what they call the world’s first PET inline preform system. It’s claimed that they have developed a flexible, direct process to make food-contact-compliant inline preforms from PET flakes in a single step.

Erema is also collaborating with Krones in the field of PET plastics recycling, with the two firms looking to incorporate their combined technical expertise into the planning and design of recycling lines and complete factories.

In other collaborations, Solvay Specialty Polymers is working with Husky Injection Molding Systems to develop Verian HBP, a recyclable line of high-performance polymers, while BOPP film maker Treofan has agreed to work with sales specialist Koylu in the area of packaging and labelling solutions of Turkey.

From acquisitions to investments, thermoforming tools manufacturer CMT Materials has expanded its production capabilities at its Attleboro headquarters in the US in order to keep pace with global demand for its plug-assist material, HYTAC syntactic foam.

Meanwhile, PFF Packaging Group has invested £1.5m ($1.9m) in injection moulding technology for the food packaging sector, Constantia Flexibles has spent $7m on technology to manufacture film-based flexible packaging at its site in Weiden, Germany, CSP Technologies is expanding its Auburn manufacturing and warehouse facility in the US state of Alabama by 110,000sqft, and Multivac is expanding its production capacity at Enger, Germany.

And finally…

An ergonomic HDPE bottle has been developed for a brand of ice melt for pets that replaces the traditional wide-mouth screw top with a custom polypropylene flip-top. US brand Morton Salt assigned Berlin Packaging and its Studio One Eleven design division to give the Safe-T-Pet container a fresh package with more shelf-impact.

The switch to the new container and cap combination is viewed by the brand as a paws-itive (sic) change.

Steven Pacitti