Romania's Rompetrol making HDPE again
CONSTANTA, ROMANIA - Rompetrol Petrochemicals srl has launched production of high density polyethylene on a 132 million-pound-per-year line in Constanta, after investing $14.5 million in new equipment.
The move is part of a two-year investment that will upgrade the company's HDPE production equipment, which was mothballed in 1996 because of a lack of ethylene feedstock.
Overall, Constanta-based Rompetrol plans to invest more than $170 million in petrochemical expansion during the program, according to the firm's Web site.
In April 2006, the firm signed a 14-year partnership deal with Dow Chemical Co. of Midland, Mich. In the early phase of the agreement, Rompetrol will provide Dow with some 132 million pounds of high and low density PE products annually.
Rompetrol Petrochemicals, Romania's leading polypropylene producer, forecasts 2007 sales of $284.4 million this year, representing an 85 percent rise over 2006.
The company is part of Rompetrol Group NV, the country's top industrial company, and is based in Bucharest, Romania.
O'Neil Color facility gets extrusion line
JASPER, TENN. - O'Neil Color & Compounding Corp. has installed a new extrusion line with 12 million pounds per year of capacity at its Jasper plant.
The line began operating in the fourth quarter of 2007, President Mark Bruner said in a Jan. 22 phone interview. The line is dedicated to production of O'Neil's Faraprene thermoplastic elastomer compounds, and is ``close to sold out'' already, Bruner said.
Sales of Faraprene - which can be based on styrenic block copolymers or thermoplastic polyurethanes - have been on the rise, with ``a vast majority'' of sales into the automotive market, Bruner said.
``We're in niche automotive applications where we're not selling to the Big Three directly,'' he said. ``We're selling into some window and door gasketing and into products like upscale carpet backing for a Japanese automaker.'' Faraprene also is sold into soft-touch applications in the consumer and industrial markets.
Previously, TPE-based products were made on three separate lines at the Jasper site. O'Neil now has 12 compounding lines at the 72-employee facility.
Later this year, Jasper-based O'Neil plans to add an extrusion line to make concentrates and compounds at its plant in Garfield, N.J. That new line is expected to have annual capacity of about 8 million pounds. The Garfield site currently operates seven lines and employs 46.
O'Neil does not release annual sales data, but Bruner said the firm's overall sales were up almost 10 percent in 2007.
Basell constructing another site in China
ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - Basell Holdings BV is building its second polypropylene compounding plant in China, in the automotive and consumer products manufacturing center of Guangzhou.
Basell announced the expansion Dec. 19. The firm's merger with Lyondell Chemical Co. of Houston became official Dec. 20, and the combined companies now are known as LyondellBasell Industries AF SCA. The new firm is based in Rotterdam.
The 33 million-pound-capacity facility will open in September, making PP compounds and alloys for local automotive and appliance manufacturers.
The factory will join a larger PP compounding plant in Suzhou that Basell opened in 2005. The company last year expanded the Suzhou site ahead of schedule, and suggested the Guangzhou site could grow as well.
``This initial capacity [in Guangzhou] could be easily expanded to more than 110 million pounds based on future demand growth,'' said Frank Noeltgen, Basell's automotive vice president for the Asia-Pacific region, in a recent news release.
Most of Basell's business is with foreign manufacturers in China, such as the heavy Japanese automotive presence in Guangzhou, although the firm is selling more to domestic Chinese automakers as they raise their quality, he said in a phone interview.
It remains to be seen if the Chinese government will be successful in cooling down China's auto market, but he said it could be difficult. Basell's investment is conservative and assumes somewhat slower growth rates, he added.
Ecopetrol purchasing Colombia's Propilco
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA - In a significant downstream move, Colombian state oil company Ecopetrol SA is acquiring the country's leading polypropylene producer, Polipropileno del Caribe SA (Propilco).
Bogota-based Ecopetrol agreed to pay $690 million for Propilco, which claims to be the largest plastics producer in the Andean region. Ecopetrol has the capacity to produce 126 million pounds per year of low density polyethylene at its refinery complex in Barrancabermeja.
Propilco, formed in 1989, operates two PP plants at a petrochemicals complex in Cartagena, Colombia, with combined annual capacity of 838 million pounds. Propilco, also of Bogota, has annual sales of $600 million.
Ecopetrol plans to add petrochemicals capacity, giving it the critical mass to compete with global petrochemical groups. The firm also wants to expand its higher-added-value product portfolio.
``This acquisition has enormous strategic value for Ecopetrol, because it will take advantage of the synergies between exploration, production, refining and the rest of the petrochemical chain,'' said President Javier Gutierrez in a news release.
Ecopetrol is following the lead of Brazilian state oil concern Petrobras SA of Rio de Janeiro. Last year Petrobras bought Brazilian firms Suzano Petroquímica of Sao Paulo and Ipiranga Petroquímica SA of Porto Alegre.
Propilco also owns Compounding and Masterbatching Industry Ltda., known as Comai, with 53 million pounds of capacity at Cartagena.
Teknor Apex exiting compounds with lead
PAWTUCKET, R.I. - In its latest move to replace lead, Teknor Apex Co. will stop producing lead-stabilized PVC compounds for wire and cable uses by July 31.
Production of wire and cable compounds that already have nonlead-stabilized versions will end immediately, officials with Pawtucket-based Teknor said in a Jan. 7 news release.
The move includes precolored compounds for which Teknor has created NLS versions that meet European regulations. Customers that haven't already initiated a changeover to NLS compounds are urged to do so as soon as possible, said Teknor wire and cable industry manager Mike Patel.
``New stabilizers alone were no magic solution to the problem of eliminating lead,'' Patel added. ``The challenge ... was to develop formulations in which the new stabilizers function in concert with all the other ingredients that make up so complex a compound as PVC for wire and cable.''
Teknor has made lead-stabilized compounds at all four of its U.S. production sites. Although nonlead versions already make up a majority of Teknor's PVC wire and cable output, the remaining lead-stabilized products still account for ``millions of pounds'' of production, according to vinyl business vice president Lou Cappucci.