CHICAGO (June 22, 11:55 a.m. EDT) — Equistar Chemicals LP (Booth N2314) is looking to the past and the future at the same time, adding capacity at one of America´s oldest polyethylene plants while announcing the first commercial run of PE made with the firm´s next-generation Star-brand single-site catalysts.
The Houston-based firm announced June 20 that it will add 70 million pounds of capacity at its low density PE plant in Morris, Ill., and that it has begun engineering work to add 240 million pounds of LDPE capacity in La Porte, Texas.
"LDPE is the most profitable polyethylene we make," said Vaughn Deasy, Equistar´s vice president of high density PE business management. "Everyone has thought it´s a dead business. Its growth rate has been flat, but it´s also been steady."
"Our Midwest facilities are in good shape and they´ve got captive ethylene supplies," he added.
The Morris expansion — which will be up and running in the second quarter of 2001 — may surprise industry veterans, since the site is one of the oldest PE plants in the United States. It was originally owned by USI Inc. and changed hands several times before Millenium Chemicals Inc. brought it into Equistar in 1997. The plant has been in operation since at least the early 1960s.
The LDPE capacity being added at Morris will be fractional melt material. James Clark, manager of Equistar´s commercial film business, said the Morris LDPE will be competitive with LLDPE materials.
The proposed La Porte expansion would double that plant´s LDPE output. Deasy said Equistar´s board of directors will be asked to fund the project later this year. An expansion would be completed 15-18 months after the project gains board approval.
Equistar officials declined to release the location of its first single-site catalyst run, but said it would involve high density PE produced via slurry process.
"Several customers have looked at (the single-site PE) and sampled it and found that it´s more clear than existing products," Clark said.
Equistar is a polymers and olefins joint venture owned by Lyondell Chemical Co., Millennium Chemicals Inc. and Occidental Petroleum Corp. The venture ranks third in total North American PE capacity. The firm´s polymers segment posted sales of just more than $2 billion in 1999.