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North American thermoforming goliath Tenneco Packaging is investing $25 million to add oriented polystyrene products to its Beech Island, S.C., plant.

The 240,000-square-foot plant, part of the Amoco Foam Products Co. acquisition last year, had concentrated on expanded PS food-service products. The new extrusion and thermoforming equipment will add OPS capacity.

``We need additional capacity for demand,'' said Tenneco spokesman Warren Hazelton. ``The plant had room to bring the equipment in and we liked the business climate and employment base.''

Recruiting for about 75 additional employees has begun, according to Hazelton. The plant has a staff of 250. New equipment, including sheet extruders and thermoformers, will start arriving in April and will be added continually for the next year.

He would not reveal the number of lines being added, or the number currently installed. For now, Tenneco does not plan to expand other plants, he said.

EPS containers for food, such as meat trays, have been standard fare at Beech Island. Clear trays for takeout salads, deli items and in-store bakeries soon will be made there as well.

``The PS foam and OPS operations serve the food-service, agriculture and supermarket industries,'' said Jim Morris, vice president of operations.

Tenneco acquired the Beech Island plant Aug. 26 as part of its $310 million purchase of Amoco Foam. Amoco Foam made PS tableware, hinged-lid food containers, packaging trays for meat and poultry and industrial products.

Four of Tenneco's 25 plastic plants have OPS capability.

Earlier this year, Tenneco announced its bid for NV Koninklijke KNP BT of Amsterdam. The deal comprises KNP's protective and flexible packaging operations in North America and Europe. Those segments make up about $550 million of KNP's $8 billion in sales. Terms for the deal, set to close in March, were undisclosed.

With this acquisition, Tenneco will have about $2.2 billion in plastics sales in what it calls ``specialty packaging,'' which includes thermoformed containers; consumer and institutional trash bags; food bags; PS foam cups and plates; carry-out containers and meat trays; foam building insulation; and PE stretch film. The Specialty Products unit of Tenneco Packaging had sales of $1.9 billion for 1996.

Tenneco reported thermoforming sales of $950 million last year, placing it first in Plastics News' 1997 ranking of North American thermoformers. It has 17 U.S. plants. Last year, Tenneco reported sales of $6.57 billion.