DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - Eastern European countries could become a significant source of the bottle resin polyethylene naphthalate because the region's old polyester fiber plants could be converted to PEN production, a Swiss petrochemicals consultant predicts. Several batch-production polyester fiber units are operating in Russia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland, and their basic equipment could be upgraded to produce PEN, according to Faycal Charaf, who is based in Geneva.
If its high price can be lowered, packaging industry observers believe, PEN could become an important bottle resin, competing against PET.
PET has gained a foothold across eastern Europe and the countries that made up the former Soviet states, Charaf said Oct. 4 at ``Plastics High Performance Packaging,'' a Society of Plastics Engineers' conference in Dusseldorf.
Major soft drink producers such as Coca-Cola have opened plants there, and blow molders are starting to follow, such as Constar International PET in Poland and Johnson Controls Inc. in the Czech Republic. Two officials from Constar in Hungary attended the conference, held before the K'95 trade show opened.
Charaf expects more process-ors and converters to follow. They, in turn, will be followed by resin production.
The market is small now. Charaf said per-capita PET consumption is far less than 1 pound per person. Total demand for PET in eastern Europe and the former Soviet states was 11 million pounds in 1990.
But that small base means there is room for growth, as a free-market, consumer society takes hold in the areas formerly gripped by state-run economies. PET demand there should hit about 62 million pounds in 1995 and 330 million pounds by 2000, he said.
PEN demand is nonexistent now, but by 2000 it should reach 220.5 million pounds, Charaf said.
But it won't be easy. Several conferees said they have known of companies and individuals who invested money in eastern Europe - and lost it.
Still, according to Charaf, PET bottle markets such as water and soda bottles are sure to grow.