LyondellBasell Industries is on track to open a major new plant making high density polyethylene resin.
Houston-based LBI will open the new plant sometime in 2019 in LaPorte, Texas, executive Paul Augustowski said in a May 3 interview with Plastics News. Augustowski serves as senior vice president of Americas olefins and polyoelfins for the firm.
The new HDPE plant will have 1.1 billion pounds of annual production capacity and will be the first world-scale plant to use the firm's proprietary Hyperzone-brand technology.
Hyperzone has been used at a pilot plant in Europe. The technology "allows a broad spectrum of HDPE to be made in one plant," said Augustowski, who began his career in 1990 with LBI predecessor Himont USA.
The new line's main extruder and pelletizer were delivered and installed in April. Both sections of its multizone reactor will be installed this month. Its gas-phase reactor will be delivered and installed in June.
HDPE made via Hyperzone has "a good balance of properties," including toughness and chemical resistance, which can benefit large-part and small-part blow molding, film extrusion, injection molding and pipe production, Augustowski added.
"We play in all markets, and we're trying to hit all markets," he said.
Massive amounts of new PE capacity being added in North America — by LBI and other producers who are making use of shale-based feedstocks — which means that some of the new capacity "will find its way overseas."
"The current wave is outpacing domestic sales growth," Augustowski said. "We're building for the global market and have sales channels in all regions."
He added, however, that a good deal of the PE expansions have been focused on low density and linear low density PE, while HDPE projects "actually at this moment are underannounced."
The $725 million LaPorte project is one of several projects on tap for LBI. The firm is also working on a major propylene oxide project and is adding ethylene capacity. Potential projects in the 2022-2025 time frame include more PE production in North America and additional polypropylene capacity in both North America and Europe.
"We'd like to get into a regular cadence of major capital projects," Augustowski said. "We want to be competitive long-term on a global basis and keep all options open." He added that there's "growing confidence" in shale gas and oil as a feedstock.
In addition to his role at LBI, Augustowski is a board member at Indelpro, LBI's PP joint venture in Mexico. He also serves as a board member for the Plastics Industry Association and as vice chairman of the plastics operating committee for the American Chemistry Council.
Outside of expansions from LBI and other materials makers, many of LBI's U.S. customers "are expanding here because of raw material availability." On the resin production side, although there are "pockets of surpluses," capacity utilization "is holding up well," he added.