The massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 has disrupted production of some plastic materials and products.
More than 5,000 deaths and 2,000 injuries had been reported from the 9.0 magnitude quake as of March 17. The epicenter of the quake was located about 80 miles off the east coast of northern Japan, roughly 200 miles away from Tokyo.
Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont Co. has closed its engineering resin plant and research center in Utsunomiya after the plant suffered earthquake-related damage, the firm said in a news release. No injuries were reported. Dow officials said the site will remain closed until damage assessments are completed.
Shin-Etsu Inc. halted production at its PVC plant in Kamisu. In a March 17 news release, officials with Tokyo-based Shin-Etsu said that some damages have been found at the plant, and that electric power and water supply there have been disrupted.
They said it is unclear when the plant will be able to restart. The site is being affected by rolling blackouts enforced by Japanese utility companies.
In Ibaraki, a polyester films plant operated by the Teijin DuPont Films Ltd. joint venture also has suspended operations. Tokyo-based Teijin Group said in a March 14 news release that it is making every effort to determine the extent of damage and prospects for resuming operations as quickly as possible.
Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp. of Tokyo has closed a large petrochemicals complex in Kashima that makes ethylene, styrene, phenol and other plastics feedstocks, according to a report from Houston consulting firm Chemical Market Resources Inc. JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp. also has closed a refinery in Sendai that makes numerous petrochemicals, including plastics feedstocks propylene and benzene, the report said.
A major petrochemicals hub in Chiba also has been affected, according to CMR. A fire at a refinery operated there by Cosmo Oil Co. Ltd. has led to the temporary closing of the site, which has annual capacity of about 150 million pounds of propylene, a plastics feedstock. Maruzen Petrochemical Co. Ltd. also has closed an ethylene cracker in Chiba, and similar crackers operated by Mitsui Chemicals Inc., Sumitomo Chemical Co. Ltd., Keiyo Ethylene Co. and Idemitsu Group have reduced their operating rates by 60-80 percent, the CMR report said.
Other plastics material and processing firms with operations throughout Japan include Toray Industries Inc. and Ube Industries Ltd. It is unclear if any of Toray's plants have been impacted by the earthquake. Most of Ube's operations are in the southern part of the country, away from where the quake and tsunami struck.
The quake and tsunami should have a secondary impact, not a primary one on Japan's plastics and petrochemicals industry, according to CMR President Balaji Singh. That's because northern Japan is sparsely populated and sparsely industrialized when compared with the central and southern parts of the country, Singh said March 17 by phone.
There will be a bigger impact on logistics, he said.
Plastics and petrochemical makers in China, Taiwan and South Korea could benefit from quake-related outages in Japan, CMR researchers said in the report. Korean petrochemical firms in particular may be able to command higher prices for their products in the short-term because of the situation in Japan, the report said.
CMR researchers also said it could take as long as six months for Japanese petrochemical firms to restore their operating levels.