The challenges of packaging, as seen by raw material manufacturers


CATEGORY: Packaging and containers BRAND: Repsol

Repsol Chemical’s products are used in everyday objects that improve peoples’ quality of life, their well-being and their safety. These products include polyolefins, that are widely used in the packs and packaging sector.

Within this sector, a large proportion of their raw materials are used to conserve and transport foodstuffs. The raw materials are transformed into packs to hold foodstuffs intended for human consumption. In view of this, Repsol has made food safety a cornerstone of its vision and its strategy, taking the initiative and demonstrating its leadership in this field. As a result, their priority, the first criterion to be considered when taking decisions, ahead of costs and even, when necessary, ahead of technical considerations, is food safety.

Indications of Repsol’s commitment and their leadership in food safety are the specialized consultancy service that they offer their clients, their having obtained an FSSC 22000 certification for food safety in their Tarragona plant, and their Naturep and Migroil projects

Via their consultancy service, Repsol guides and helps their clients in everything related to the care of their product, the interpretation of different regulation or the selection of the most suitable raw materials, including theoretical calculations of migration rates and migration testing.

The FSSC 22000 certification obtained in January 2018 in their Tarragona plant, and in December 2018 in their plant in Puertollano is a giant step forwards in this industry, since Repsol is the first manufacturer world-wide to certify a polyolefin manufacturing plant according to a standard from the food industry. They have even gone beyond the requirements of the standards and best practices of the food industry, applying them to the production of raw materials for packaging, guaranteeing greater quality and offering extra food safety. In addition, the company is taking all steps required to obtain the same certification in its remaining polyolefin manufacturing centre in Sines (Portugal)

Repsol’s Naturep project seeks to eliminate additives with migration limits from its polyolefins, while its Migroil project is intended to avoid migration of mineral oil saturated and aromatic hydrocarbons (MOSH and MOAH) into food.



Repsol responds to the challenges

Food safety is especially relevant for Repsol, since plastic packaging, in many cases, has been taking over from other materials, since its properties protect and conserve foodstuffs, helping to reduce waste and in some cases, to reduce the need for preservatives. Another of the advantages of plastic packaging is that, on average, it weighs four times less than packaging made of other materials. This light weight can reduce the number of truck journeys required to transport the same amount of product by 50%, saving fuel and reducing CO2 emissions.

With regard to packaging tendencies, Repsol is anticipating new requirements arising from new regulations, new consumer habits or new designs conceived to make packaging more attractive. These tendencies have an impact throughout the entire production chain, and on most occasions imply significant challenges for manufacturers of raw materials and their clients.

In this area, Repsol has been seeking solutions for each of these challenges, working with transformers, packaging companies, food producers and distribution chains. For example, Repsol has launched solutions that allow the thickness of the final packaging to be reduced, such as high-rigidity heterophase Polypropylene (PP) copolymers, high-density grades of polyethylene (HDPE) with greater rigidity for the dairy industry, and Repsol’s Resistex metallocene linear low-density polyethylene (mLLDPE)

Another tendency is undoubtedly energy saving during transformation, and here, Repsol offers solutions such as high-fluidity grades of PP that allow increased productivity and energy savings associated with lower working temperatures, and also offers materials with a lower weld-initiating temperature for the film sector, such as Repsol Isplen PR274M1F and Repsol’s Resistex range.

Optical properties, such as transparency or gloss, and the aesthetic appearance of packaging in general, continue to constitute one of the most demanding areas of this market. For this reason, materials for films must have a very low gel content. In this area, Repsol has its Ultraclean range, highly transparent and glossy materials, such as the Repsol Isplen PP random co-polymers, and even materials with properties at odds with traditional requirements, that have undoubtedly presented a challenge, such as films with greater turbidity, low gloss and softness to the touch. A clear example of these new tendencies is the matt-effect film, which produces a very attractive effect and is used in food packaging, graphics arts and luxury goods.



Flexible food packaging, which is increasingly used, and in many cases has replaced rigid packaging, has also required numerous developments by manufacturers of raw materials like Repsol. Thanks to these developments. Repsol can now offer solutions for the manufacture of stand-up pouch packs (Repsol Isplen PR274M1F) and grades of PE, PP, EVA, EBA and mLLDPE with many combination possibilities for film and flexible packaging applications.

One of Repsol’s objectives is to maximise the circularity of its materials, which is now one of the major challenges in packaging, and so they work actively to improve packaging recycling, developing raw materials that allow single-material packaging to be made with the same or similar properties as traditional multi-layer packaging that uses several materials simultaneously.



Other lines that Repsol is investigating to improve circularity and sustainability are:

· The international industrial program “Operation Clean Sweep” (OCS), that Repsol joined some time ago, aimed at eliminating the loss of pellets of plastic materials that can find their way into the environment.

· Increased energy efficiency of its installations, to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions during its raw materials manufacturing processes.

· Its Zero project, directed at the chemical recycling of flows of plastic waste that would otherwise end up in rubbish tips.

· Organic recycling, via the development of biodegradable or compostable polyolefin materials of fossil origin.

· Mechanical recycling via its Reciclex project, that develops new models for the value chain in the circular economy that guarantee consistent quality, to use recycled raw materials in technical applications. With this aim in mind, Repsol has subscribed to several collaborative agreements with waste managers.

Definitively, as manufacturers of raw materials, Repsol faces many challenges in the field of contributing to the development of safer, more sustainable materials with improved technical properties. Repsol has been offering solutions of this kind to the market for decades, and will continue to do so in coming years.


Ignacio Martínez Alonso


Ignacio Martínez Alonso is director of Technical Assistance and Development for PE, EVA and EBA in Repsol, a multi-energy company with a world-wide presence, whose activities range from petroleum and gas prospecting and production to refining and distributing derived products, including a wide variety of chemical products, and utility service, such as natural gas or electricity. The company has three large petrochemical installations in Europe that produce differentiated products with high added value.

Return to the list