BANGKOK — Dow Chemical Co. expects to begin operating its 661.4 million-pound-per-year polyethylene plant in Map-Ta-Phut, Thailand, by March 1999, the company said.
The facility is being built by Siam Polyethylene Co. Ltd., a 50-50 joint venture between Dow and Siam Cement Petrochemicals Group.
Dow remains hopeful about its prospects in the Asia Pacific despite the regional economic slump, which has knocked 25 percent off its 1997 profit from a year ago, to $2.7 billion. Its sales in 1997 fell 1.5 percent from the previous year, to $20.2 billion.
According to Andy DuPont, PE commercial director in the Asia Pacific, PE demand in the region's nascent markets will continue to grow, and Dow's new plant will be well-placed to serve an expanding customer base.
``This investment is part of our geographic expansion in this region to capture emerging market opportunities,'' DuPont said. ``Our commitment to the success of the region is strong, and we are optimistic that polyethylene consumption will see a very healthy growth in the next decade,'' he said.
Dow's PE plant in Map-Ta-Phut is its first in the region, and will use the company's proprietary processes, including its single-site constrained geometry catalyst technology known as Insite, said Pete Sykes, the joint venture's managing director.
Recently, Dow and Siam Cement Trading Co. Ltd. signed a joint marketing agreement to distribute the former's Dowlex linear low density PE resins in Thailand.
In South Korea, Dow recently signed a 50-50 joint venture agreement with LG Chemical Ltd. to build a $250 million polycarbonate plant in Yeochon of South Cholla Province. PC production at 286.6 million pounds per year is scheduled for 2000.
In Japan, Dow and Asahi Chemical Industry Co. Ltd. have obtained preliminary approval from China's State Planning Commission for their planned 286.6 million-pound-per-year polystyrene plant in Zhanjiagang, near Shanghai.
Meanwhile, Dow has scrapped a proposed polyurethane joint venture with the Kumho Chemicals group.
Dow also is reconsidering its planned investment in a world-scale cracker in Southeast Asia amid fears of an ethylene glut. As an alternative, the company could team up with other producers to build and operate a cracker.