Israel's Carmel Olefins shuts Haifa plants

Source: ICIS News

2006/07/20

LONDON (ICIS news)--Olefins and polyolefins producer Carmel Olefins has closed its petrochemicals plants at Haifa, Israel to safeguard its workers in the missile-hit city and expects financial results to be affected, the company’s chairman said on Thursday.

“We shut down about five days ago to protect our workers,” said David Federman.

“At this stage it is not a major issue as it has just been a week. But it could be if it were to last for a long time.”

The outage would have an impact on the company’s financial results, he said, adding that it was too early to estimate the precise cost.

Federman's statement on the plant closure contradicted earlier remarks from a Carmel spokesman that operations were unaffected by the fighting between Israeli military forces and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. He said, however, that Carmel continued to supply internal customers from stocks.

Carmel has nameplate capacities of 185,000 tonnes/year of ethylene, 120,000 tonnes/year of propylene, 165,000 tonnes/year of low density polyethylene (ldPE) and 200,000 tonnes/year of polypropylene (PP) at Haifa.

The polyethylene and polypropylene plants were shut down before the conflict started for a debottlenecking outage, and were not expected to restart before October.

Federman said taking workers out of the plant would not have caused any significant delays to the project so far.

Dangerous materials have been removed from the site as a precaution.

An update on the situation at the port of Haifa and from Gadiv Petrochemical Industries, which also has a petrochemicals complex in the city, was expected later on Thursday.

Hezbollah rocket attacks continued in Haifa, Israel's third largest city, on Thursday morning, as Israeli air raids struck areas controlled by the Shi'ite militant group in Lebanon for the ninth day.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the military campaign could continue as long as necessary to free captured soldiers and ensure Hezbollah, which on Sunday threatened to attack petrochemical facilities, would not be a threat.

Syria and Russia have called for a ceasefire, while France has been trying to get a UN resolution passed which would urge a ceasefire. Hezbollah, which is backed by the Syrian and Iranian governments, has not yet been involved in any formal discussions about a possible solution to the conflict.

The fighting has killed about 300 people in Lebanon and 29 in Israel. It has forced closure of the port of Haifa, involved blockades of key ports in Lebanon and disrupted chemical shipping activities in the eastern Mediterranean. Middle East polymers and solvents trade has been hit, with traders and suppliers saying they were uncertain about vessel availability and the direction of demand.