Dow buys a straw business

Dow Pipeline has agreed to acquire a majority of the Manitoba assets of Isobord Enterprises, and enter the business of producing engineered composite panels made from wheat straw.

Dow Pipeline, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical Canada, has agreed to acquire a majority of the Manitoba assets of Isobord Enterprises, and enter the business of producing engineered composite panels made from wheat straw and Dow’s polyurethane resin. Dow Pipeline will be renamed at a later date to reflect the new composite panel business.

The purchase includes a manufacturing facility in Elie, Manitoba, Canada, that produces the wood-replacement products, according to Brad Money, business manager, Dow Polyurethanes New Business Development. Money will lead the new business after the agreement closes, which is expected to be in mid-June. Details of the agreement were not disclosed.

The Elie site includes a 215,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and two straw staging areas on 68-acres in Elie, which is near Winnipeg. The plant began operations in August 1998 and has about 70 employees. Following a review to determine business requirements, Dow hopes to be able to offer employment to most of the current employees shortly after the sale closes.

Isobord Enterprises has been in receivership since February. Arthur Andersen was named receiver and manager by the Manitoba Court and has continued to operate the business.

Agrifiber composite panels are made by combining finely chopped wheat straw with a polyurethane binder. The resulting biocomposite material is formed, pressed and trimmed to the desired size panels. The wood-replacement products can be used for kitchen counters, shelving, ready-to-assemble furniture, cabinets, door core, and floor underlay.

The products have received several environmental awards, including the Sustainable Development Award of Excellence from the Manitoba Round Table and the Salute to Clean Air Industry award from the Manitoba Lung Association.

The use of straw and a polyurethane binder helps conserve forest products by using straw, an annually renewable resource. The composite panels do not use formaldehyde, which has been raised as a concern with other composite building materials.