Midland, Michigan – Dow Inc. has begun a process of restarting the plastics and elastomer plants it shuttered when demand for polymer materials fell as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The company recently restarted its polyethylene (PE) in Bahia Blanca, Argentina – having closed the unit along with PE plants in Freeport and Seadrift, Texas, and two elastomers plants in Plaqumine, Lousiana in early May.
A company spokeswoman said in an 8 July email that the decision to reopen in Argentina was "based on current demand for polyethylene."
The Texas units will restart "throughout the month of July," she added. "We will continue to monitor demand in automotive and other durable sectors, and as conditions improve in those markets, we expect to bring our two elastomer units back online as well."
In total, the five plants represent about 10% of Dow's global capacity for those materials. No layoffs were connected to the temporary closings.
Recent improvements in PE demand, particularly from the packaging market, allowed North American PE resin makers to increase prices by an average of 4 cents per pound in June. That move canceled out a 4-cent price drop that had hit the market in April as demand fell. Regional PE makers now are seeking a 5-cent price hike for July.
In a May 18 interview, Packaging and Specialty Plastics President Diego Donoso said that the idled PE plants "can be ready to go if June is better" and that the elastomer plants were likely to be closed for 30 days or more because of the condition of the automotive market.
"We expect to have a good second quarter, but discipline is still the name of the game," he added. Donoso also said that feedback from customers played a role in the decision to close the plants and also would play a role in restart decisions.