Octal Holding & Co. SAOC's $300 million integrated PET resin and sheet plant in Oman is coming on stream this month, making the firm a major supplier of amorphous PET sheet to thermoforming customers.
Octal launched APET sheet production in December 2006, in clear and limited colors using a pilot line with capacity of 44 million pounds per year. The plant boosted capacity to 66 million pounds in September 2007.
Chief Operating Officer Joe Barenberg said the pilot plant was used to ``seed the market, to discuss the material with customers and to give them pilot rolls.''
The full-scale complex, in the Salahah Free Zone in Oman, will dwarf the pilot line.
Initially, it will have capacity to produce about 396 million pounds of APET sheet and 330 million pounds of its own PET resin. Octal claims that will represent nearly 20 percent of the total global APET sheet output, and will be ``five times higher than that of the next-largest merchant APET producer.''
By 2010, the firm's total investment in the site will reach $1 billion, with another 1.1 billion pounds of capacity. That will raise the plant's PET resin capacity to 1.3 billion pounds.
The result will be an increase in the value of its annual export capacity from $500 million at the end of 2008, to $1.1 billion in 2010, once the plant reaches its full capacity in May 2010.
The investment is in line with plans for Octal to become the ``largest and lowest-cost polyester company in the Middle East and the largest polyester manufacturer outside China on a single site,'' Barenberg said in an interview at the Interpack trade show in Dusseldorf. And it positions the firm to target soft drink and bottled-water markets in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, he added.
But there are particular benefits in having the APET sheet operation integrated with PET resin production, according to Barenberg, who is based at Octal's U.S. site in Plano, Texas.
``There is only one heat history, drying is eliminated, as are risks of black specks caused by hot spots in screws and barrels, as the material goes straight from the reactor to the die, and there is also no rebuilding of moisture content,'' Barenberg pointed out.
Also, he said sheet quality is enhanced through elimination of ``fisheyes,'' there is no cloudiness and, ``you can't get dirt through as steel pipe.''
``As most APET is used in food packaging, we have solved a whole host of problems,'' Barenberg said.
Barenberg said Octal will be able to achieve thickness tolerances below 1 percent. That tolerance will allow thermoformers to save money by downgauging Barenberg claimed thermoformers typically run sheet that is 2-3 percent too heavy. Downgauging will spur APET growth and demand, taking a larger market share ``people are going to ask for APET,'' he said.
Barenberg identified three global market trends that are ``changing the face of packaging'' and will bring opportunities for the company's APET sheet.
The sheet material's clarity will provide opportunities in product visibility and protection, he said. Requirements for greater display flexibility can be met easily with displays on hooks, shelf stacking, multipacks and tray packing.
And finally, APET sheet will benefit from the ``newest trend'' ``the move toward single material packaging.'' Barenberg gave the example of printed APET eliminating the need for cardboard inserts within unprinted packages.