Ashland was once an oil company headquartered in the midwest. Over the years it diversified to become a chemical company. It is best known for its foundry resins and certain specialty coatings (such as vapocure technology--paint hardened by exposure to catalyst vapor rather than by baking).
Ashland is a leading distributor of chemical products. They operate warehouses in many cities where customers can purchase a single drum or a few hundred pounds of chemicals, which manufacturers often prefer to supply in truckload quantities.
According to Ashland's website, their businesses are--
With customers in more than 100 countries, Ashland today operates through five commercial units:
Ashland Aqualon Functional Ingredients, a global provider of specialty additives and functional ingredients derived from renewable and natural raw materials, serving the coatings additives, construction, energy, personal care, pharmaceutical, food and other industries;
Ashland Hercules Water Technologies, a leading specialty chemicals supplier to the pulp and paper, commercial and institutional, mining, chemicals, general manufacturing and municipal wastewater-treatment industries;
Ashland Performance Materials, a global producer of specialty resins, adhesives and metal casting consumables serving the construction, transportation, infrastructure, packaging and converting, and energy markets;
Ashland Consumer Markets, a leading innovator and supplier of high-performance lubricants, automotive chemicals and appearance products, including those marketed under the Valvoline® and Eagle One® brands, and operator and franchiser of Valvoline Instant Oil Change® centers; and
Ashland Distribution, a leading provider of chemicals, plastics, composite materials and environmental services in North America and plastics in Europe.
In November, 2008, Ashland acquired Hercules, a leading supplier of specialty chemicals such as cellulosic thickeners. This expands their specialty chemicals line.
Ashland continues to remake itself presumably as a specialty chemical company in the process selling off assets and paying down debt.
In January, 2010, Ashland announced the sale of its Pinova wood rosin and terpenes business and its plant at Brunswick, GA, to TorQuest Partners. This business was part of Hercules. (This business and the brand names are now part of Eastman Chemicals.)
In November, 2010, Ashland announced the sale of its chemical distribution business to TPG Capital. "This divestiture reflects Ashland's strategic direction and completes a major step in our multi-year transformation into a high-performing specialty chemicals company."
In January, 2011, Ashland announced the sale of its pentaerythritol business to Perstorp. Its pentaerythritol plant at Louisiana, MO will be shutdown, but production of synthetic lubricants at that site will continue. Both businesses and the site were acquired in the Hercules acquisition.
In 2011, Ashland acquired ISP (International Specialty Products), the acetylenic chemicals unit of GAF (General Aniline Film) seized as an asset of IG Farben in World War II under the War Powers Act. GAF continues as a privately held manufacturer of shingles and roofing products.
In 2014, Ashland announced the sale of its water treatment business (presumably the one acquired with Hercules) to a fund managed by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. C&EN reported that Ashland water treatment "focuses on the pulp and paper industry and industrial water treatment, through acquisitions, notably of Degussa’s water business in 2006 and of Hercules in 2008." The new company is to be known as Solenis.
In 2015, Ashland announced plans to spin off its Consumer Markets business described above under the name Valvoline. That will create a new specialty lubricants business and leave Ashland as a true specialty chemical company.