CLEVELAND—It only makes sense that Marty Gregor, senior account manager, organic peroxides, in the Functional Additives Group at Arkema Inc., is opening his 50th year in the rubber industry by doing what he does best—promoting an important new product for his company.
Gregor was at the International Elastomer Conference in Cleveland Oct. 9-12, representing Arkema in its introduction of Luperox AIR-XL technology, a hot air curable organic peroxide for EPDM compounds.
"I never wrote a resume in 50 years," said Gregor, who began his career straight out of Lehigh University with a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1968. "In those days, your grades were your resume."
Finding work with the then-Hercules Powder Co. in Wilmington, Del., Gregor spent six years helping to develop Hercules' rosin-based emulsifiers for SBR, then helped build the market for the company's groundbreaking epichlorohydrin rubber technology.
By 1995, Gregor was working in Hercules' organic peroxide business in Akron, partnering with Harwick Standard Distribution Co. on Di-Cup and Vul-Cup organic peroxides. He stayed with the organic peroxide business when Hercules sold it to GEO Specialty Chemicals, and again when GEO sold it to Arkema in 2009.
"I worked with Hercules for more than 30 years, a big company at that time—one of the top five in the U.S.," he said. "Then GEO was a company owned by a financial group, with cherry-picked professionals. GEO hired four or five people that came from Hercules, and I wore a lot of hats there.
"With Arkema, I came back to a large chemical entity, and it got claustrophobic for the first couple of months," he said. "But Arkema tech-wise is one of the best companies around. In the Functional Additives Group, the people are just great to work with, so here I am."
Gregor was accompanied at the IEC by two other executives from the Functional Additives Group—Len Palys, principal scientist for organic peroxides R&D, and Nancy Storoz, business director, organic peroxides. Palys presented a paper at the IEC on Luperox AIR-XL technology.
The great advantage to Luperox AIR-XL is in auto weatherseal profiles, according to Palys.
"Sulfur is able to cure in hot air tunnels, but not conventional peroxides," he said. "Peroxide interferes with the weatherseal surface, so you get a sticky surface."
By enabling the curing of elastomers in the presence of air, Luperox AIR-XL allows for the production of an excellent, tack-free surface finish ideal for weatherseals, according to Palys and Gregor.
Luperox AIR-XL was designed specifically to improve EPDM, EPM and HNBR mechanical performance and heat aging as compared with sulfur cure.
"This is the last area besides tires to offer a replacement for sulfur in a critical part," Palys said. "This gives the manufacturer more opportunities to look at other elastomers."
Elastomers cured with Luperox AIR-XL also are nitrosamines-free, offering tangible health and safety benefits, he said.
Luperox AIR-XL also will eliminate hot tear problems, according to Palys. "Elastomers won't rip when you remove them from the mold," he said.
Arkema still is recovering from the damage it suffered at its organic peroxides facility in Crosby, Texas, according to Storoz. The Crosby plant lost power Aug. 28 in Hurricane Harvey, and trailers filled with organic peroxides caught fire, prompting local authorities at one point to evacuate an area within a 1.5-mile radius of the plant.
The most serious damage the Crosby facility sustained was from flooding, according to Storoz. "The fires were in the trailers only," she said.
Arkema declared force majeure at Crosby, and the facility continues to operate under that status, according to Storoz. Some of the plant's materials suppliers in the area continue to do the same, she said.
"There's nothing yet about lifting force majeure," she said. "We hope in the next couple of months to have a much deeper assessment of the damage at Crosby, to help us rebuild and restart."
While logistics are a challenge, Arkema continues to supply its organic peroxides customers with products from its supply chain around the world, according to Storoz.
"In regard to our rubber customers, one of the advantages we have is redundancy of production, even before Harvey," she said. "It's just good supply management."