The South Texas Section of the Society of Plastics Engineers hosted the International Polyolefins Conference on February 23 - 26, 2014 at the Hilton North Houston Hotel. The conference includes tutorials, technical presentations, and an exhibition.
The first day is taken up primarily by tutorials. Presentations are delivered on the second day. Instructors and speakers include representatives from many companies that are top players in this industry: Dow Chemical, LyondellBasel, Flint Hills Resources, Exxon Mobil, and many others.
One interesting topic of note at the conference is the increasing importance of shale gas, methane. Though perhaps the best known process for making polyolefins is the thermal cracking of LPG or raffinate followed by polymerization, another way to make polyolefins is through the use of methane. The fact that so much methane is being discovered worldwide, to the extent that great quantities are being flared, makes it a pertinent topic for discussion at this conference.
The exhibition is quite fascinating. A wide range of companies participate; for instance, manufacturing companies, vendors of process equipment, vendors of polymer additives, even employment recruiters. Something I find interesting is the use of additives via an extruder. Additives give polymers the opaqueness or the texture required for a particular application. Before, the polymer is extruded into its final form, the additive is mixed into the process by using the extruder itself as the mixer. I saw a few videos on this process, quite interesting.
The best part of the conference, however, was the party on the second evening (see slide show). We listened to a band called Password, and they were great. I even got a chance to join the band for one song as their lead singer. It was a good time.