Coatings World: Has the resins market showed any signs of recovery from the economic downturn?
Phil McDivitt, general manager, Celanese Emulsion Polymers: According to our customers in North America, the architectural coatings industry is up about two percent. Recovery remains slow due to the lack of growth in the new construction market. In Europe, particularly in Germany, the recession wasn’t quite as deep and recovery for end-use domestic goods has been strong. In China, paints and coatings has rebounded well based on domestic demand while other end-uses such as adhesives which are driven partially by exports, has not recovered as well.
Coatings World: What are the regions that have the most potential for growth?
McDivitt: The growth rates in China and India are going to outpace the more mature markets in Europe and North America. To meet this growing demand, Celanese is expanded its capacity at our Nanjing, China facility. This investment will double our vinyl acetate/ethylene capacity. However, we are not overlooking the mature European or North American markets as they are growing in the low emission paint end use, a technical “sweet spot” for our VAE emulsions for interior decorative paints.
Coatings World: What are some of the demands you’re hearing from customers?
McDivitt: Our coatings customers are making a variety of requests. In North America, they are asking for alternatives to their current resin technologies with a high interest to shift to vinyl-based technologies. With VAE emulsions such as our EcoVAE line, they are able to keep the performance their customers’ demand, while opening up possibilities for formulating low odor and low VOC interior paints. In Eastern Europe, customers are seeing the cost advantages of waterborne technologies versus solvent-based paints. In China and India, our customers are aiming for the high-quality interior markets which are preferred by consumers. Again, these are best served by our VAE emulsions.
Coatings World: How does Celanese manage to balance customer demands with the rising costs associated with manufacturing resins?
McDivitt: No one is immune to rising costs associated with higher feedstocks. Celanese prides itself on keeping our internal costs low through optimized manufacturing processes and lean business practices. Even with these internal controls, we have had to manage rising raw material costs, just like our customers. Coatings manufacturers have become much savvier in understanding how the prices of oil and gas affect the downstream prices of acrylic and vinyl resins respectively. More and more, they are looking at the more economical natural gas chain and the vinyl resins it produces to help them meet their financial goals.
Coatings World: Stricter environmental regulations have led to the need for increasingly lower VOCs. What are some of the latest green technologies your company has launched?
McDivitt: As a global leader in vinyl acetate/ethylene for low VOC interior decorative paints, our customers look to us for help in meeting their goals in this area and many of our R&D projects center on this topic. In the past year, we have introduced products in all three regions of the world to meet these goals. We also understand that a “green” paint will only sell if it meets the performance expected of the end-user, either a professional painter or a DIYer. Therefore, we have worked with Master Painter’s Institute (MPI) to approve a number of our formulas for low VOC interior paints utilizing EcoVAE resins.
Coatings World: What are two new resins developed by Celanese.
McDivitt: In North America in late 2010, we introduced a pair of resins. EcoVAE 501 is a VAE emulsion and Avicor 601 is an acrylic emulsion. EcoVAE 501 is designed to meet low VOC regulations across the spectrum of gloss levels. Avicor 601 offers very good adhesion and block resistance in flat through semi-gloss paints and was developed to be used with vinyl-based resins. These products can be used separately or together as a package to help the paint formulator meet their performance, marketing and economic goals. In Europe, we introduced Mowilith LDM 1865, a VAE emulsion. In exterior façade paints, it shows good color retention, low dirt pick-up and good flame retardancy for use in EIFs.