MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Some Australian resin producers and plastics manufacturers fear they will lose sales permanently to overseas suppliers, after a fire cut all gas supplies to the state of Victoria.
Others are facing large financial losses because of an inability to supply their customers for at least 12 days.
The Sept. 25 fire at Victoria's main gas-supply plant killed two men and injured eight. On Oct. 5, Esso Australia Pty. Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Exxon Corp. of Houston, began restoring supplies to manufacturers.
Esso Australia is the sole gas supplier in Victoria.
Australia's only PVC resin manufacturer, Melbourne-based Australian Vinyls Corp. Ltd., was forced to shut its two PVC resin plants for 12 days. Other plastics suppliers and manufacturers also were affected severely.
Rob Guttentag, Australian Vinyls' resins general manager, said the company has lost ``tens of millions of dollars'' because of the lack of gas.
Australian Vinyls is a joint venture owned by Orica Ltd. and Auseon Ltd., both headquartered in Melbourne.
Guttentag said the company has supplied customers, when possible, from existing stock, but many customers are sourcing product from outside Australia.
``They didn't know how long the crisis would last and made orders with overseas companies,'' he said.
Guttentag said Australian Vinyls was concerned that customers would continue to source product from overseas, even once local plants were operational.
Melbourne-based Kemcor, a joint venture between Mobil Chemical Co. and Exxon Chemical Co., also closed two manufacturing plants.
Maureen Short, Kemcor public affairs officer, said the company temporarily closed two plants in the Altona district of Melbourne — one that produces polyethylene and polypropylene, and one that makes rubber elastomers.
Kemcor's Altona olefins plant, which supplies feedstock for the resin and elastomers operations, had to run at half capacity because there was insufficient gas to power it and because the other plants were not running, so there was no requirement for the feedstock, Short said.
Short said Kemcor had not assessed its financial loss, but said the company had restored production Oct. 6 and that the company had sufficient stockpiles of resin to meet customers' needs.
Jane Loudon, public affairs director for the Melbourne-based Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association, which represents major resin suppliers and converters, said the gas crisis affected manufacturers supplying the domestic appliances and automotive industries.
Victoria is a major auto manufacturer, with Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. plants, both of which shut down as a result of the fire.
Esso had not identified the cause of the fire. Two Melbourne law firms were planning to file class action lawsuits against Esso on behalf of industries and consumers.
Australian Vinyls' Guttentag and Kemcor's Short said those companies had not decided whether to join a class action suit.