Braskem SA is on track to open its new ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) plant in La Porte, Texas, by the end of the year.
Braskem — based in São Paulo, with North American headquarters in Philadelphia — now is wrapping up functional tests and process control tests at the site in order to verify performance of controls and integrated safety systems, officials said in an Oct. 13 news release.
Braskem already ranks as one of the world's largest makers of UHMWPE, which it sells under the UTEC brand name. The new plant “is another step in bringing Braskem closer to our clients with advanced engineered polymers as well as creating additional high-quality engineering and production jobs in La Porte,” UTEC global business director Christopher Gee said in the release.
Company officials said that UTEC is eight times lighter than steel and lasts 10 times longer than high density PE. It's used in many applications in automotive and transportation, electronics, fibers and textiles, industrial and heavy equipment and other markets.
Braskem first announced plans for the $34 million plant in mid-2014. It will be the firm's first UHMWPE site outside of Brazil. Earlier this year, Braskem enhanced its R&D capabilities for UTEC at the company's Innovation and Technology Center in Pittsburgh. These new capabilities enable Braskem to expand its technical leadership in UHMWPE by providing instrumentation for testing, application development, and new product research, officials said.
Braskem ranks as South America's largest resin maker and as North America's largest polypropylene producer, including almost 900 million pounds of existing PP capacity in La Porte. The firm — partly owned by Brazilian national oil firm Petrobras SA — employs more than 8,000 and has annual sales of more than $20 billion.