Dow Polyurethanes, a business unit of The Dow Chemical Company, Midland, Mich., has successfully completed preliminary development of natural oil polyols (NOPs) for urethane formulations and will begin product sampling with a select group of customers immediately. Dow plans to begin market development scale production of the next- generation polyols in 2007.

Since first announcing its intention to conduct small-scale product testing of NOPs with select customers in June 2005, Dow has continued to invest in further advancing the technology and capabilities of these next-generation products. "Our developmental work has reached the point where we are now able to produce natural oil polyols that can match or exceed the performance of hydrocarbon-based products, and at fairly high levels of natural oil polyol content," said Pat Dawson, business vice president, Dow Polyurethanes.

To enable more extensive product sampling and scale up of small, beta projects, Dow plans to begin market development scale production of soy-based polyols in 2007. Meanwhile, the company is exploring various production options to support additional capacity as demand grows. Based on progress in this second phase, Dow will evaluate options for this new line of natural oil polyols, which includes bringing on additional capacity and expanding into new applications and geographies.

Natural oil polyols can be made from soybeans, sunflower seeds or rapeseeds, although Dow's technology currently focuses on a polyol that contains a significant percent of oil extracted from soybeans. Dow's intention is to ultimately develop a NOP-based multigenerational product line that provides customers with superior solutions to meet their needs in applications such as flexible slab, molded and some CASE applications.

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