Sept. 25, 2012 interview of Denny Spicher in Urethanes Technology Magazine


US group offers alternative FRs for those left short by Albemarle’s withdrawal

by Liz White- Editor, Urethane Techology Magazine

25 September, 2012- Atlanta, Georgia – When Albemarle closed its phosphorus-based flame- retardants business earlier this year, it came as a surprise to customers and competitors. But for Atlanta, Georgia-based Cellular Technology International Inc. (CTII), which supplies speciality chemical additives including flame retardants for the PU sector, it provided an opportunity.

Customers who used Albemarle’s TL10ST product lost their supply and CTII “is getting more enquiries for its alternatives in the EU and worldwide,” said president Denny Spicher, in a 25 Sept interview at the CPI meeting in Atlanta.

So CTII, founded in 1985, gained some business following Albemarle’s departure, principally in Europe in the Antiblaze V66 and TL10 ST materials, which are chlorinated phosphate esters. These FR materials have been purified to various degrees to remove TCEP [tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate)] and hence reduce fogging, as needed for automotive foam, Spicher said.

Albemarle was a strong competitor to CTII in Europe in these FRs, with Cellular Technology Europe Ltd (CTEL, CTII’s European subsidiary) as the No 2 — and only other supplier.

CTII has equivalent products available in Europe, Africa and India though CTEL as well as in the US.

“When Albemarle exited the market they didn’t really give anyone much notice — or product or inventory,” Spicher said. In the US, Albemarle did not really have much business in FRs for flexible foam, but it did well in Europe with the TL10ST product and CTII was surprised, both with the exit, and that Albemarle did not try to sell the business, but simply shut its facilities in the UK and China.

Spicher commented that these phosphorus esters are not halogen- free, but they perform well in terms of flame retardancy, exhibit a good toxicological profile, give low scorch, and have their effect in “a reasonable loading range.” And when refined to cut the TCEP content they are suitable for automotive uses, he added.

Even lower TCEP possible

“We are looking at taking the TL10 material (which we call Celltech 60) which has a TCEP content of less than 0.1 percent, and cutting this to the next level,” down to 0.01 percent, said Spicher.

CTII’s data indicates that at that level there is no detectable fogging or emission of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from the FR.

This extra processing will make the product more expensive, but CTII thinks there is a “small but significant market that wants that product.”

“As a company our focus for the next ten years will be low-emissive, low-VOC, reactive products,” Spicher said, whether for reactive and high- molecular-weight amines, or for FRs.

CTII also sells into the rigid foam business, providing commodity FRs for the spray foam and lamination markets, through a US subsidiary, Cellchem International LLC, which is a 50:50 JV between CTII and Chemfoam International.

Spicher said Cellchem markets TCPP and TCEP for rigid applications, sourced from Russia, Asia, and Eastern Europe, and has a strong distribution network across in the US to move those products by railcar and tank trucks. This business makes Cellchem the second or third largest TCPP supplier in the States after the withdrawal of Albemarle.

Cellchem also distributes the Schill+Seilacher line of silicone surfactants in the US.

CTII is growing well, Spicher said. “Our business is mostly specialities, so we sell relatively low volumes, but the profitability is good, and we don’t look to change this approach.”

Spicher said “The US has not yet moved so far towards low- emission products, but I think they will.” He is also finding that a lot of customers were using the TK10ST products in uses such as coatings, for example, where CTII has not particularly been strong.

Anti FR press helps no-one

“It’s a shame that public perception from press articles [in the Chicago Tribune in May] is initially that FRs are health hazards, and to use them endangers your health more than it provides safety from fire ignition,” said Spicher, noting that the truth is somewhere in between. “We think there are FRs, both additive and reactive types, whose active ingredients are not bio-persistent or bioaccumulative that will help retard ignition without damaging health,” he commented.