Chemical Producer to Expand its Lake Charles, La., Site

Expansion reflects 'confidence in the competitiveness of the U.S. petrochemicals industry.'

Sasol North America, a Houston-based producer of commodity and specialty chemicals, will expand its Lake Charles, La., manufacturing complex by constructing what it claims will be the world's first commercial ethylene tetramerization unit.

The unit, which will be located inside the Lake Charles facility, will utilize Sasol's proprietary technology to convert ethylene to 1-octene and 1-hexene. It will be capable of producing more than 100,000 metric tons per year of combined 1-octene and 1-hexene, according to the company.

The tetramerization unit will expand the facility's workforce by nearly 10%, employing an additional 36 full-time employees and 12 contract employees, according to Sasol.

Construction will begin in 2011, and the plant will reach "beneficial operation" in mid-2013, according to Sasol. During peak construction periods, up to 500 contract employees with skills in welding, pipefitting, carpentry, electrical and instrumentation, as well as laborers, will be needed.

"The additional capacity to be built at the Lake Charles Complex will help Sasol's global customer base achieve its long-term polymer and elastomer growth prospects, and the investment reflects our confidence in the competiveness of the U.S. petrochemicals industry," said Alan Field, managing director of Sasol Solvents.

The process of converting ethylene to 1-octene and 1-hexene was developed in Sasol's R&D laboratories in South Africa, and selectively produces alpha olefins required for the high-growth polymer markets, according to the company. Engineers and scientists from Sasol North America collaborated with an international team to design the unit, which will utilize the new technology on an industrial manufacturing scale.

"This tetramerization unit at our Lake Charles complex is supporting our strategy to further beneficiate our ethylene produced at the site and is in line with our view to develop our integrated multi-asset sites," said Fleetwood Grobler, managing director of Sasol Olefins & Surfactants, the international holding company of Sasol North America.

1-octene and 1-hexene are used in the manufacturing of linear low-density polyethylene, high-density polyethylene and elastomers. The products impart special characteristics of elasticity and strength in plastic used in consumer products such as food packaging, bags, toys and automotive interiors, according to Sasol.

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