Braskem SA will spend $50 million by the end of 2011 to upgrade its U.S. polypropylene business.
More than $35 million of that amount will be spent to improve the firm's PP manufacturing assets in La Porte, Texas; Marcus Hook, Pa.; and Neal, W. Va.; officials with the firm's Braskem America office in Houston said in a Sept. 22 news release.
Of the $35 million, $15 million will be spent in La Porte, where Braskem will idle its slurry-type PP production line while increasing capacity on a line that uses more modern Spheripol-brand technology, officials said. Production of resins previously made on the slurry line will be transferred to the Spheripol line and to the two other PP sites.
These moves will allow Braskem America to improve efficiencies and reliability, Braskem America CEO Carlos Fadigas said in the release.
Braskem of São Paulo bought the three plants along with a research and development center in Pittsburgh from Sunoco Inc. for $350 million in February. The plants have combined capacity of 2.1 billion pounds of PP, ranking them fourth among North American PP makers.
Braskem officials were unavailable to confirm if the La Porte plant's total PP capacity will be up or down after the new wave of investment. Part of the investment also will be used to upgrade computer systems that involve the PP operations, a company spokesman said.
The Neal PP plant continues to operate in spite of an ongoing strike by union workers there. A contract between Braskem and 72 employees belonging to United Steelworkers Local 721 expired June 28. The plant is being operated by non-union management staff.
Braskem also made a splash last month when it confirmed that consumer products giant Procter & Gamble Co. of Cincinnati would use its soon-to-be-commercialized green polyethylene resins in packaging for cosmetic products sold under the Pantene, Max Factor and Cover Girl brand names. Braskem's green PE resins use sugar cane ethanol, a renewable resource, as feedstock. Those materials are expected to be commercially available by the end of the month from a 450 million-pound-capacity PE unit in Triunfo, Brazil, that Braskem has converted to ethanol use.
Braskem, South America's largest resin maker, posted second-quarter sales of 6.5 billion Brazilian reais ($3.8 billion) an increase of 4 percent from the first quarter even though its quarterly resin volume sales fell 2 percent to just over 2.7 billion pounds in the same comparison.