Web Date: August 28, 2007
Thai Firm To Build Big U.S. PET Plant
Thailand's Indorama Polymers plans to build what it says will be North America's largest polyethylene terephthalate plant. Set to open in Decatur, Ala., in 2009, the $140 million facility will add 430,000 metric tons of annual capacity for the plastic to the growing U.S. market.
Although not a well-known name in the chemical enterprise, Indorama already operates PET plants in the U.S., Europe, and Thailand. The company claims to be the world's eighth largest PET producer and that it will rocket to number three following the construction of the new plant and expansion of existing ones.
The world's number one producer, Italy's Mossi & Ghisolfi Group, announced its own North American expansion plans in July. The company said it will build an 800,000-metric-ton facility somewhere in the U.S. while expanding existing facilities in West Virginia and Mexico.
Meanwhile, the number two producer, Eastman Chemical, opened a 350,000-metric-ton PET plant in South Carolina earlier this year, although it announced plans to close an equal amount of older capacity.
According to Indorama CEO Aloke Lohia, the world needs more PET production capacity to serve growing carbonated soft drink, water, and custom container markets. "We see a looming PET shortage in 2009 as each region in the world heads towards self-sufficiency," he says. Indorama notes that it is currently importing PET from Asia to meet demand on the U.S. West Coast.
The Thai company says its plant, to be called AlphaPet, will be located adjacent to a BP facility in Decatur that produces purified terephthalic acid, a key PET raw material. Indorama will employ new technology from the engineering firm Uhde Inventa-Fischer that allows it to skip a production step known as solid stating in which PET's viscosity is increased to facilitate molding into containers.??????
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