MEXICO CITY - Eastman Chem-ical Co. has started production at its new PET plant in Mexico, a project it hopes will make it a major force in the rapidly growing bottle polymer market in Mexico and Latin America. The plant, located in Cosolea-caque in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, began operating a production line in late March that will produce 132 million pounds of PET annually.
A second line, also annually producing 132 million pounds, is scheduled to begin production at Cosoleacaque in May.
Although about 30 percent of the new facility's output will be exported, the primary focus for the new Mexican plant is the domestic market, according to T.A. Smith, president of Eastman Chemical Mexicana SA de CV.
``It's the type of thing we have to do if we're going to be a real player in Mexico,'' the Eastman executive said.
Smith was interviewed March 14 at the PlastImagen '96 trade show in Mexico City.
The strongest PET end-use markets in Mexico currently are for carbonated soft drinks and bottled water, for both refillable and one-way containers, according to Smith.
Other promising end uses include sports drinks and bottles for edible oils.
Prospects for long-term growth in the PET market are excellent in Mexico, Smith said.
``We're very bullish on the water bottle market,'' he said. ``We could not be happier about our Mexico decision.''
The Mexican plant is the first green-field expansion to go into production for Eastman since it was spun off as an independent business from Eastman Kodak Co. in 1994.
The firm has two other PET plants planned for the Spanish-speaking world; one plant is located in San Roque, Spain, and the other is in Z rate, Ar-gentina.
In Mexico, the privatization of some of the petrochemical operations of Petr¢leos Mexicanos SA, the state-owned oil company known as Pemex, is ``only going to be good news for us,'' according to Smith.
The millions poured into these petrochemical businesses will result in upgrades of technology, an improvement in environmental controls and a better quality of life for Mexican petrochemical workers, Smith said.
He said Eastman was ``not an aggressive bidder'' for the Pemex businesses.
For the new Mexican PET plant, Eastman is purchasing raw materials from a variety of Mexican companies.
Those materials include natural gas from Pemex, purified tere-phthalic acid from Tereftalatos Mexicanos SA, or Texmex, and ethylene glycol from Polioles and Grupo Idesa.