The next generation

15 November 2018


Hexion says that its new R&D facility is developing next generation resin technologies for panel producers, with the focus on faster panel production processes

Hexion Inc says that it continues to enhance its position as a primary partner with all the panel and engineered wood production segments of the industry; and as a visible and leading proponent of that industry.

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Hexion’s Forest Products Division operates approximately 40 facilities globally, with 24 in North America.

The company also says that its commitment to the forest products industry in Edmonton, Alberta is already bearing fruit. Strand and fibreboard producers in Canada and all around the world are seeing results in more efficient production and productivity from innovations coming out of the expanded Technology Centre completed in October 2017.

“Customers are asking for our help to improve the productivity of their panel products,” said John Slayter, Hexion’s PF Technology Programme director. “The investments we’ve made in a unique pilot panel press and state-of-the-art analytical equipment in Edmonton are allowing us to mimic commercial production and prove out a range of new solutions.”

Founded to develop the next generation of adhesive technology for panel production, the new facility has been focused in two primary areas: higher throughput core resin solutions for OSB, and the utilisation of renewable raw materials, such as lignin, to replace some petrochemical-based ingredients.

The pilot panel press is a custom made piece of equipment developed by Höfer Presstechnik GmbH in Austria. It allows Hexion to duplicate continuous steam-injected OSB production.

The press can make panels as large as two foot by two foot (610x610mm). Once the panels are cured, Hexion says it can test the strength and water resistance of each panel using the same laboratory and analytical methods it uses on other boards.

On the core resin front, Hexion’s research chemists have developed a new, fast-curing, phenol-resorcinol-formaldehyde system which can be run with higher-moisture-content strands, in shorter cycle times, to deliver increased OSB plant throughput compared to normal OSB resin systems.

Hexion says that its resin incorporates a unique bi-modal cross-linking chemistry that has already been tested in three joint Hexion/ customer research projects. Further tests will be run on the new laboratory press in Edmonton, which has steam pre-heating, to optimise continuous processing capability in order to mimic the latest commercial production methodologies.

Testing with particleboard is expected to begin in the near future. Hexion has already run some experiments with urea formaldehyde particleboard resins on the new press, but is looking for input from customers to outline and plan future research efforts regarding improvements in particleboard production.

Customer relations is a major emphasis, especially given a producer company’s typically long-term plans, and the time they take to execute, because of the size of their factories.

Meanwhile, Hexion has been experimenting with a range of recyclable and bio-based raw materials in order to offer options to customers. The Technology Centre expansion was done in partnership with Alberta Innovates, which, through programmes such as Alberta Bio Future (ABF), is helping to diversify the Alberta economy by accelerating growth of the bioindustrial sector and the use of bio-products. In conjunction with the ABF programme, Hexion is working on emerging phenolic resin technology which substitutes phenol with lignin, a material which has significant potential as an adhesive substitute in wood panel production.

This lignin-focused initiative is in partnership with West Fraser, which also received support from the ABF programme.

Hexion will incorporate that lignin into a panel resin, initially targeting plywood, and then OSB, production. The company points out that a trial run at the West Fraser facility recently, proved to be successful for plywood.

These large investments in capital, people and partnerships create resin innovations that follow on from more than five decades of research and development work that Hexion has carried out, which has enabled reduced emissions from composite wood panels by 80 to 90%; and, it says, has made those panels an even more attractive building product.

The company’s EcoBind trade-marked resin technology, introduced in the 2000's, allows plywood, particleboard/fibreboard and structural engineered wood to meet or exceed all global emission standards, including California Air Resources Board (CARB), US EPA TSCA Title VI, US HUD, European EMB and Japanese standards, as well as specifications recommended by the Green Building Council and UL’s GreenGuard programme.

Options of the EcoBind technology include:

• Ultra-low-emitting urea formaldehyde (UF) resin systems for plywood and particleboard

• Phenol formaldehyde (PF) resins for fibreboard and strand board (OSB)

• A range of emission reduction products, such as scavenger resins and co-reactant technology.

In addition, Hexion recently invested US$125m in several plants, including an expansion of formaldehyde production at Curitiba, Brazil (where the site has also ramped up wax emulsion production), as well as Geismar, LA and Luling, LA (Louisiana).

The latter two facilities provide 400,000 metric tons, combined, of formaldehyde production capacity per year. The Geismar formaldehyde facility supports MDI customers as well as offering Hexion’s amino and phenolic resins, while the Luling plant serves an adjacent Monsanto Company chemical plant by providing formaldehyde through a direct pipeline.

“Hexion is committed to innovation which improves the sustainability and costeffectiveness of panel products,” said Mark

Alness, senior vice president, America's Forest Products. “Our resins and adhesives are the enabling technology which allows 45 million tonnes of CO2 to be sequestered into wood every year. We’re continually looking for ways to promote the use of engineered wood products, leverage renewable raw materials and create new technologies that benefit both our customers and the world.”

Hexion says it continues to support the use of wood as a high-performance, sustainable building material.

In addition to sequestering carbon, says the company, wood utilises less energy through its life-cycle and contributes far less greenhouse gas emissions than other building materials, such as steel or concrete.

The Hexion Edmonton Alberta facility
The Hofer Presstecknik OSB pilot line at Edmonton
New pilot line press to simulate continuous OSB line