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Huntsman speaks with POLYMERUPDATE on its Polyurethanes Business and its Contributions to the Indian Plastics Industry

Persisting with its initiative of conducting and publishing interactions with top industry officials, POLYMERUPDATE is pleased to present its latest offering, an interview with Mr. Arun Kumar—Commercial Director Indian Sub-Continent, Huntsman. The interview was conducted post PU Tech India 2014, held at India Expo Centre, Greater Noida, India, during March 12–14, 2014. Huntsman used the show to introduce a number of contemporary technologies to the Indian market. Below are some excerpts from the interview.

Mr. Arun Kumar - Commercial Director ISC, Huntsman

Tell us more about the polyurethane and methyl diphenylene isocyanate (MDI) products and technologies that Huntsman has to offer.

There are many applications for MDI: innovative footwear technologies; tailor-made solutions for use in automotive manufacturing; retail and cold supply chain systems for the country's thriving logistics sector and construction products for infrastructure projects. Huntsman is active in all these areas worldwide, but in India it is gaining the most traction in markets that are being fuelled by rapid social and economic development—consumer goods including domestic appliances, cars, footwear and furniture; and insulation and sandwich panels for domestic, industrial and commercial buildings.

Does Huntsman plan to open a major manufacturing facility in India, like its recently opened polyurethane facility in Shanghai, China?

Huntsman is committed to doing business across the Indian sub-continent but at present there are no plans to open a manufacturing facility in the region.

When did Huntsman become active in India?

Huntsman was one of the first companies to enter the Indian MDI market and has had a local presence since the 1970s. When we started out demand was steady and there were just a few companies supplying the sector. Initially, we worked alongside third-party trading organizations that already had a foothold in the region. In 1993 we decided to build our own dedicated office and blending facility in Chennai. In 1996 we created a technical center at Thane, near Mumbai. Then two years later we added a large-scale systems house to the same site. Today we also have a sales office in Noida, near Delhi, and a network of warehouses spread across the country to enable just-in-time deliveries to customers. We moved out of Thane as part of our expansion plans and invested in a new modern systems house and a technical center in Chakan, Pune.

How does Huntsman plan to make an impact on the polymer and petrochemical industry in India?

Over and above the provision of innovative products that meet the needs of a rapidly evolving country, Huntsman takes a holistic approach to supporting growth across the industry. We play an active role in industry taskforce programs, liaising with government bodies and courting key decision makers to increase awareness of the benefits of polyurethanes and raise standards through legislation, training, product stewardship and sharing examples of best practice. We have a long-working relationship with the Indian Polyurethanes Association (IPuA) - India's main trade body for the sector. Over the years we have worked on various different projects including the industry's HCFC phase-out committee. We are a key player in the EU drive for REACH compliance and ensure all of our products adhere to international regulations through a rigorous product stewardship program. We also work hard to sign our customers and their associates up to Walk the Talk - the polyurethane industry's health and safety initiative. Employment is also key. To succeed long term the Indian polyurethanes industry and its associated manufacturing markets need a skilled workforce. Future generations of chemists, designers, engineers and product specifiers need to be nurtured to make sure that they are aware of the advantages of employing polyurethane-based systems and the opportunities that exist through this exciting strand of chemistry. Key industry players such as Huntsman have an obligation to help train individuals that can make a difference to the industry now and fill positions that are hard to recruit for. Establishing education and community outreach programs is a critical part of this. Confronted with acute growth forecasts we need to help men and women in the country's poorest communities fulfill their potential and get jobs in the sector. This is particularly important for those people that live in areas adjacent to our plants and facilities. Huntsman is involved in one such project in the footwear industry, which is making a real difference to people's lives and business in general. We work closely with the Footwear Design & Development Center (FDDC) - a registered charity based in Kerala. Founded in 2007, FDDC supports small to medium sized footwear manufacturers across India, providing them with access to resources designed to make their business a success and improve overall industry standards.

What other services does Huntsman provide for the benefit of the oil and gas, refining and petrochemical industry?

Huntsman's Performance Products business division is a global manufacturer and marketer of specialty processing chemicals. Our technical team develops specialty mining reagents used in the processing of base and precious metals, industrial minerals, iron ore, sands and coal. These chemistries enable and enhance processes such as flotation, frothing, dispersion, heat transfer, dewatering, dust suppression and coagulation. We also produce a wide range of gas treating and oilfield chemicals. For gas producers we produce amines that help remove undesirable compounds from refinery and natural gas streams to make products safe for domestic and industrial use. For oil field refiners and service companies we have a variety of specialist chemistries from corrosion inhibitors and demulsifers to drilling additives and cementing super-plasticizers.

What are the innovative measures that Huntsman has adopted for sustainable development?

Sustainability is a fundamental part of our corporate and business strategies - and runs throughout our organization at lots of different levels.
At a corporate level we have already mentioned that we are engaged across the Indian polyurethanes industry in programs to drive up standards and ensure product compliance. Encouraging behavioral safety and getting companies to engage in an ongoing process of information exchange is critical to building a sustainable regional market, with an excellent reputation, that we can all be proud of for many years to come.
At a business level, we identify long-term trends that affect our markets. We assess how our products, and research and development programs, can play a part in supporting and providing solutions to key challenges facing the planet - for example, higher energy prices and our dependence on finite natural resources such as water and fossil fuels. Then we set about raising awareness and encouraging adoption.
We also develop new products to meet specific sustainability challenges facing a growing world population. A prime example of our sustainable innovation development is a polyurethane-based, lightweight substrate called VYDRO®, which serves as an ideal planting medium for green roof applications. VYDRO® substrate is used below the nutrient layer, capturing, absorbing and retaining rainfall as a ready source of water for plant roots. The product has very high water-retention capacity, can absorb up to 30 times its weight in water and is 70 percent lighter than existing technologies - meaning it can be used in green roofs in applications where weight and structural strength are critical issues, such as in older buildings. Green roofs and living walls, either partially or completely covered in vegetation, are on the rise as governments look for green solutions to combat climate change in towns and cities. Green roofs assist with water management, improving a building's insulating envelope, reducing the impact of urbanization, decreasing the Urban Heat Island Effect (caused by the widespread use of heat-absorbing materials like concrete), improving biodiversity, countering urban sprawl and reducing building maintenance costs.
Furthermore, we are exploring the use of innovative renewable feedstock. We work with third-party organizations and academic institutes in this area and there are some interesting initiatives underway. For example, we are looking at the potential to use natural resources such as rapeseed oil as the basis for polyurethane foams employed in automotive seating applications. We are also a member of a consortium that is looking into converting tree bark—a waste product from the lumber industry—into value added intermediates for polyurethane to achieved improved properties and greater levels of renewable content.

Which products or technologies of Huntsman are intended to particularly benefit the plastics processing industry?

Huntsman produces a wide range of thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) that are used across plastics processing industries. Tough, reliable and extremely versatile, our TPUs can be injection molded and extruded or turned into adhesives, coatings and films to improve the production and performance of everything from shoes, technical parts, cables and conveyor belts to films and seals.

Easily processed on standard machines and compatible with a range of color masterbatches, our TPUs offer a range of properties including:
  • High wear and hydrolysis resistance
  • High elasticity and flexibility
  • Improved consistency and reduced yellowness
  • Faster cycle times
  • Easy demolding
  • Less wastage – sprues and rejects can be regranulated and used again.

How much investment can be anticipated from Huntsman in its future activities in India and in the Indian subcontinent?

Huntsman is committed to the Indian market and will continue to invest in line with local growth requirements. India is becoming increasingly influential in the global market place and of growing importance to the continued success of the polyurethanes industry.
Rapid social and economic developments, including emerging megatrends such as the growth of the middle class, urbanization and the need for improved energy management, are now boosting demand for polyurethanes.
Huntsman has been active across the Indian sub-continent for decades; nurturing the polyurethanes sector in its infancy and leading from the front with groundbreaking industry and application specific projects. As the market has grown, so has our commitment to the region and the depth of our professional relationships.

For further information, commentary and interviews, please contact us on +(91-22) 61772000 and info@polymerupdate.com