DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY (Nov. 12, 11:10 a.m. EST) — Basell NV, a 1-year-old polyolefins powerhouse, is restructuring in January to create what it calls a more “market-driven organization.” And even while the economic downturn is forcing it to cut back production at some facilities, it continues to invest in resin capacity and technology around the world.
Volker Trautz, president and chief executive officer of Basell Polyolefins, touched on those topics Oct. 25 at Dusseldorf's K show. He estimates industry overcapacity in North America at close to 20 percent, but said he sees mild improvement already and expects a much better balance between supply and demand next year.
“We also believe there will be growth rates of 5-6 percent possible [in North America] in 2003 and 2004,” he said. Meantime, in Europe, polyolefins growth already is coming back, he said, and “Asia-Pacific and South America are still bright spots for growth, but they are not as attractive as they were.”
Trautz said it is difficult to quantify the impact that the Sept. 11 U.S. terrorist attacks will have on 2002 materials markets, but he believes “many people jumped on the bandwagon” and blamed the attacks for financial problems in their companies that already existed.
Meantime, Hoofddorp, Netherlands-based Basell — formed as a 50-50 joint venture last year when Shell Petroleum NV and BASF AG merged their Montell NV, Targor GmbH and Elenac polyolefins businesses — plans to implement a new organizational structure Jan. 1. The firm is combining its polyethylene and polypropylene operations into the polyolefins volume business, to be headed by Rolf Richter, who currently is chief operating officer for polyethylene. He said a primary objective is to allow Basell, the world's largest PP producer and fifth-largest PE producer, to present “one face to the customer” in a seamless fashion.
“We will be merging the supply chains of PP and PE to standardize procedures and response times,” Rolf said. “And this will enable us to complete the integration of the former Elenac, Montell and Targor organizations and systems.”
Kees Linse, currently COO for polypropylene, will assume responsibility for Basell's new value and ideas business, which will cover its specialty products as well as catalysts and licensing.
Despite announcing recently it was slashing nearly 800 million pounds of PP resin and compounding capacity in England and Spain, Basell said it still is on track with various projects that are due on stream in 2003:
* In Spain, a 496 million-pound-per-year Novolen PP plant in Tarragona will replace a slurry plant and an older Novolen homopolymer plant.
* In Brazil, the firm's Polibrasil SA Industria e Comercio Ltda. joint venture is involved in a major scrap-and-build project that will result in a 661 million-pound, Spheripol-process PP copolymer plant at its Maua site near SÃ£o Paulo.
* In Saudi Arabia, Basell has joined with regional investors to form a manufacturing joint venture called Saudi Polyolefins Co., which is building a 992 million-pound homopolymer PP plant, coupled with a propane dehydrogenation unit.
Last month, Basell commissioned a new front end on its MG-6 cracker project in Wesseling, Germany. In 2004, it plans to begin production there of a 705 million-pound-a-year plant to make high density PE pipe grades in black, blue and orange-yellow, using the latest generation of its Hostalen slurry technology.
Basell — which employs about 8,000 and has annual sales of some 6.4 billion euros ($5.76 million) — also touted its multizone circulating reactor technology as “the next major breakthrough in polypropylene manufacturing.” It is refitting a 19-year-old Spheripol-process plant in Brindisi, Italy, with the technology and expects to begin operating the 397,000 pound-a-year plant in the second quarter next year, Trautz said.