MIDLAND, Mich.—It was a Merry Christmas for Dow Chemical Co., as the firm re-started production of ethylene at a plant in Louisiana on Dec. 25.
Dow's St. Charles plant in Hahnville, La., had not made ethylene for almost four years after being taken offline in January 2009. The start-up "represents the first major milestone within our U.S. Gulf Coast investment strategy," said Brian Ames, president of olefins, aromatics and alternatives for Midland-based Dow.
Company officials said resuming production also is part of Dow's investment plan to further connect its U.S. operations with cost-advantaged feedstocks from increasing supplies of U.S. shale gas.
In addition to the St. Charles restart, Dow has announced plans to build a new ethylene cracker in Freeport, Texas, and to enhance existing feedstock plants there and in Plaquemine, La.
To date, officials have not announced plans to increase polyethylene capacity, although other North American competitors are doing so. Dow also plans to build a plant making on-purpose supplies of plastic feedstock propylene in Freeport.
When the St. Charles restart was announced in late 2011, officials said restarting ethylene and propylene production there would cost $250 million and create 35 full-time jobs and several hundred temporary construction jobs. A propylene restart wasn't mentioned.
The announced restart is expected to add $150 million to Dow's pretax profits in 2013, officials said.