01 February 2013 15:45 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (ICIS)--Belgium-based polystyrene (PS) producer Total Petrochemicals, one of the four major suppliers of the polymer in Europe, is understood to be planning the closure of its UK plant at Stalybridge, near Manchester, industry sources said on Friday.
The company is understood to be in consultation with representatives of the work force on shutting down the facility in the north of England.
Total declined to confirm that it had decided to cease output at the 65,000 tonnes/year site, which is the last remaining source of PS production in the UK following closures of LinPac's plant in 2006.
Total had already reduced the capacity of the Stalybridge unit in 2004, which had been capable of supplying 110,000 tonnes of polymer up to that time.
If the closure should go ahead, this would represent a further reduction in European PS productive capacity, coming rapidly in the wake of closure last October of the 200,000 tonne plant operated by Styrolution in Marl, Germany.
Total had already reduced its own capacity by converting one of its lines in Feluy, Belgium from PS to expandable polystyrene (EPS).
These previous closures had been undertaken by European producers in recognition of overcapacity in the region and as a response to extremely poor profitability.
Since the Marl shutdown, producers have claimed that the market has become much better balanced between available supply and demand, with the consequence that they have been better placed to implement pricing strategies that have modestly restored margins in the industry.
News of the possible Stalybridge closure came too late on Friday to obtain reaction from other producers.
However, shortly beforehand, an executive at Styron informed ICIS that one of its two lines at Tessenderlo in Belgium had been down since 26 January, adding that technical difficulties affecting the unit were expected to be resolved next week.
This would cause an interruption of approximately 10 days' output of general purpose polystyrene (GPPS) from the 265,000 tonne/year plant.
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