Dow Chemical Co.'s Dow Elastomers unit is moving forward on its new plant that will make Nordel-brand EPDM using the firm's proprietary catalyst technology.
The Dow business said it will break ground soon on the facility at a site it has chosen in Plaquemine, La. Dow had announced the project a year ago and released more details on it during an event at the ACS Rubber Division's International Elastomer Conference, held in Cleveland Oct. 7-10.
The factory is expected to open in 2016, and the new technology will enable the materials supplier to make prod-ucts with high Mooney viscosity, according to the company. No projected cost on the EPDM plant was released, but company officials said it will leverage Dow's $4 billion investment to serve its downstream businesses through increased ethylene and propylene production in the U.S. Gulf Coast.
"The planned Nordel facility will position Dow as the only advanced post-metallocene producer globally, enabling a broader range of EPDM solutions for our customers, while also meeting increasing global demand for our current EPDM applications," said Kim Ann Mink, president of Dow Elastomers' electrical and telecommunications business.
Two major factors drove the site selection, according to Bart Bowser, Dow Elastomers global product and asset director for electrical and telecommunications. First is the shale gas boom, and Dow's investments in that sector that will help drive growth in the company's EPDM business. Secondly, Dow has existing infrastructure at Plaquemine that will benefit the new rubber operation.
"Basically, shale gas is the starting point for the cheap energy," Bowser said. "We take this natural gas, which gets converted into ethane. From there the ethane is cracked, which is what we do, into ethylene. The U.S. shale gas and the abundance of it give us an advantaged position in ethane."
He called the shale gas boom a "blessing" for the nation's manufacturing sector. "I think there's nothing but upside for the petrochemical industry, for the nation, for downstream jobs and for the rejuvenation of the manufacturing base," Bowser said.