BASF, SHELL APPROVE DUTCH MONOMER PLANT

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MOERDIJK, NETHERLANDS — European chemical giants BASF AG and Shell Chemicals Europe Ltd. have given the final go-ahead for a DM900 million ($523 million) joint venture plant to produce propylene oxide and styrene monomer.

But the 50-50 Basell plant at Moerdijk is still the subject of scrutiny by the European Union under antitrust regulations. The European Commission has invited comment on the plan, and its final ruling may not be made for two or three months.

The Basell plant, close to Shell's existing world-scale styrene/propylene oxide plant at Moerdijk, will have capacity for 550 million pounds per year of propylene oxide and 1.21 billion pounds per year of styrene monomer. It will employ Shell technology.

Groundbreaking for the plant was scheduled for this month, and the unit is set to come on stream in the second quarter of 1999, according to BASF. Its output is destined largely to meet growing captive demand within the two companies, BASF said.

``This is an important step in securing our feedstock base for our polyol activities,'' said Jean-Pierre Dhanis, head of BASF's polyurethanes operating division.

The companies submitted their plans to both the regional Dutch authorities and the EU competition regulators in December.Shell Chemicals Europe is based in Eschborn, Germany, and BASF is in Ludwigshafen, Germany.