Hercules Chemical Co. has bought one of its staunchest competitors, Cloroben Chemical. Cloroben's particular expertise in drain and septic products was key to the acquisition, according to David M. Siegal, Hercules president.

"The drain-cleaning marketplace has been very good for us," Siegal explained. "But Cloroben's research and development in environmentally-friendly products - a big draw these days - was very advanced."

The acquisition also puts Hercules in a better position to add industrial products, such as Cloroben's automatic doser for cleaning restaurant grease traps, to its line of drain and waste systems products.

Hercules plans to market the Cloroben brand within the wholesale plumbing channel.

Cloroben was established in 1963. As a result of the merger, its Ford, N.J., facility will be closed. Key management personnel will join Hercules headquarters in Passaic, N.J. Hercules, established in 1915, has been an employee-owned company since 1997.