Specialty plastic plant to compete with steel opened in Houston area

Fuel Fix:
Brazil-based Braskem petrochemical company this month will start up its second, Houston-area plastics plant in La Porte.

The plant, which is launching after completing construction in October, gives Latin America’s largest petrochemical company an expanded Texas presence after buying plants from Sunoco and Dow Chemical beginning in 2010.

This is the first time Braskem will produce its “UTEC” ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene in the U.S., said Chris Gee, Braskem’s global business director. The plastic is a stronger, specialty version of the world’s most common plastic, polyethylene, to serve more industrial purposes and compete with steel.

“It’s a big deal because Braskem has largely been a regional player,” said Gee, who’s based out of Philadelphia. “It’s one of Braskem’s ambitions to keep growing in the U.S.”

Like many other petrochemical companies, Braskem looked to expand in the Houston area because of the easy access to cheap natural gas and to the Houston Ship Channel, he said.
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While the story suggests that this product will be mainly for industrial use, I could see it being used in transportation products because it is probably much lighter than steel.  Cars trucks and other forms of transportation understand that you can increase mileage and performance by reducing weight.

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