Chicago — Sasol Ltd. and the Braskem Idesa joint venture soon will be offering new polyethylene resin to the highest bidder.
Braskem Idesa's new petrochemicals site in Coatzacolacos, Mexico, is 98 percent complete and should be starting production in December, business development director Cleantho Leite Filho said at the Global Plastics Summit 2015, held Oct. 29-30 in Chicago.
“It will be a Christmas gift to all of our customers who are eagerly awaiting our product,” he added. Braskem Idesa is a JV between Brazilian petrochemicals leader Braskem SA and Mexican firm Grupo Idesa.
The projects will have annual capacities of more than 2 billion pounds of both PE and ethylene feedstock. The PE capacity will be the first new addition to the North American PE market since the early 2000s.
Construction at the site employed 17,000 at its peak. The site will have 500 permanent employees. Leite Filho said the project has faced numerous challenges, including relocating indigenous plants and animals such as snakes and turtles.
Material made at the new site will be aimed at the Mexican market, but around 40 percent of its output will be exported “for the first few years,” he explained. The new resin can be shipped to Mobile, Ala., within two days and can be brought in to the United States via rail at Laredo, Texas.
Sasol — based in Johannesburg, South Africa — is developing a new high density PE unit in Laporte, Texas, through a JV with Ineos Group and is building its own low and linear low density PE units in Lake Charles, La.
The HDPE unit is set to begin production in the fourth quarter of 2016, while the LDPE/LLDPE units will come on by the end of 2017, Polymers Vice President Adriaan van Rensburg said at GPS 2015.
The three units will have combined annual capacity of more than 2 billion pounds. The new capacity is needed partly because half of existing North American PE units were built before 1983, he added. On a historical basis, van Rensburg said, new resin capacity has led demand to grow in excess of gross domestic product rates.
Sasol will be a new entrant to the North American PE market, but the firm has been making the material in South Africa since 1965. Globally, Sasol employs 31,000 and has annual sales of just over $16 billion.
The firm will spend almost $9 billion in its U.S. projects. “This is a long-term commitment we're making,” van Rensburg said. “We're focused on polyethylene, but polypropylene also is on our radar screen.”