Repairs force closure of ethylene plant
HOUSTON — Equistar Chemicals LP of Houston has declared force majeure on ethylene after shutting down a 1.9 billion-pound-per-year plant in Channelview, Texas, for unplanned repairs.
Houston-based Equistar, North America's largest ethylene and polyethylene maker, ``is aggressively working to mitigate the impact on its customers,'' company officials said in a news release.
The unit will be down until May 16 so repairs can be made to a compressor.
Planned and unplanned shutdowns at several North American ethylene plants have tightened supply in 1999, with inventories currently at about six to seven days. Levels below 10 days are considered to be signs of a tight market, according to industry contacts.
The resulting supply situation has helped drive PE prices up 6-8 cents per pound so far this year. Almost 60 percent of North American ethylene is used to produce high, low and linear low density PE.
Plan to close Mactac plant riles union
STOW, OHIO — The Teamsters union has filed a complaint against the Mactac unit of Bemis Co. Inc. over a decision to move work from a plant in Stow to Columbus, Ind.
The unfair labor practices complaint, filed with the National Labor Relations Board, accuses Mactac of failing to discuss alternatives before deciding to move its adhesive sheet manufacturing operations.
About 140 employees were told in February they would lose their jobs and would not have the option to transfer, said Carin Zelenko, a representative with the Office of Strategic Initiatives of the Teamsters International Union in Washington.
Moving the sheet manufacturing would allow Mactac to operate under a ``focused factory'' plan and save money, Katherine Burik, director of human resources for Mactac, said in an April 8 telephone interview.
Hourly employees at Mactac average $16-$17 an hour. Zelenko said the Indiana plant would be staffed with temporary workers making $8 an hour and receiving fewer benefits.
Mactac, however, said wages are not an issue. The company did cite a $2.2 million tax abatement as an incentive for building the plant and moving operations, she said. Bemis Co. Inc. is based in Minneapolis.
Saturn using steek to augment plastic
DETROIT — Although still trumpeting its use of plastic body panels, Saturn Corp. will put more steel on its new models.
The automaker plans to use steel to cover the upper rear quarter panels for its new L series sedan and wagon due out this summer. The rest of the vehicle's body, including the rear fascia, still will be encased in a plastic skin, said Saturn spokesman Tom Wilkinson.
The company, a unit of Detroit-based General Motors Corp., is making the panels for the LS sedan and LW wagon at its Spring Hill, Tenn., plant. The carmaker added two HPM injection presses with clamping forces of 5,000 tons last year to make body parts for the L series and other models.
The switch to steel for the upper panels was for structural reasons, Wilkinson said. The car has a large trunk that is more than 17 cubic feet long and needed extra crush strength to protect against rear crashes, he said.
The L-series models are based on GM's Opel Vectra, sold in Europe. The Vectra contains steel body panels.
The new Saturn, like its 9-year-old S-series models, uses a thermoplastic skin for its door panels, front fenders, front and rear bumper fascias and exterior roof.
Saturn still will advertise the advantages of using a plastic body for rust protection and ding resistance, Wilkinson said. The new vehicles are larger than Saturn's typical compact-class cars.
``Even with some steel, we're probably putting more plastic on the [L series] than we do with our other models,'' Wilkinson said. ``There's a huge amount of plastic on the body.''
Trex shares moving on the stock market
WINCHESTER, VA. — Trex Co. Inc. went public April 8 on the New York Stock Exchange, selling shares under the symbol TWP.
The Winchester-based plastic lumber firm's stock opened the day at $10 a share and closed at $11.375, raising $41 million for Trex. Some 4.1 million shares of common stock were offered and 894,000 were traded the first day.
Trex uses recycled wood and polyethylene to make a decking material that requires no stain or sealant for protection. It has been used for residential and commercial decks, large-scale boardwalks, nature trails, marina docks, playgrounds and landscaping. Trex has a manufacturing plant in Winchester and is building a 150,000-square-foot plant in Fernley, Nev.
The company reported sales of $46.8 million last year.