Although standard logic has pointed to the Middle East as the likely start point for most new polyolefin capacity, due to suppliers’ ability to there get ‘close to the wellhead’ for petroleum, the building block for many thermoplastics, there have been recent announcements indicating that some established suppliers think investment in Western Europe still offers plenty of opportunity.
Plastics supplier Borealis (Vienna, Austria; www.borealisgroup.com) inaugurated the expansion of its Berghausen, Germany site on September 10 with a gala event and hundreds of guests. The expansion was a huge one for Western Europe, increasing the supplier’s capacity by 80% to 745,000 tonnes/yr, of which 570,000 tonnes/yr is slated for polypropylene and the remained for polyethylene.
Mark Garrett, CEO at Borealis, said the firm is able to invest in a high-cost area such as Western Europe because its new Borstar PP 2G polymerization technology gives it multi-modal flexibility to produce plastics cost competitively and with better properties than competing materials made via other polymerization techniques. Target markets for the increased output primarily are packaging and medical applications in Germany, Italy and Eastern Europe. Garrett highlighted PP demand as especially strong at an AAGR of about 5% globally.
More recently, Porugal’s Repsol (www.repsolypf.com) announced it will expand its Sines Petrochemical Complex with a more than €1 billion investment, with plans for new lineal polyethylene and polypropylene units that will triple the current out put at the site and will increase the current cracker capacity there by 40%, reaching a production of 570,000 tonness of ethylene a year.
Polyethylene and polypropylene capacity each will exceed 300,000 tonnes/year once completed. Adding these new polyolefin plants is a significant change in strategy for Repsol, which to now sells about 30% of the ethylene and 100% of the propylene produced at the site. It will instead now use all of both precursors to make its own plastics, which it will market.