Total to shut polystyrene plant in El Prat, Spain by end of 2019

Author: Ciaran Tyler


LONDON (ICIS)--Total is planning to shut its 110,000 tonne/year polystyrene (PS) plant in El Prat, Spain, according to sources.

PS containerOne line is expected to be closed by the end of June and the second one by the end of the year, one source added.

The closure would represent a reduction of roughly one quarter of Total’s European PS capacity.

Total confirmed on Friday afternoon its intention to close its PS plant in El Prat, adding it could affect up to 56 employees.

It said it aimed to have an "open dialogue" with the plant's workers' representatives to plan for the closure.

"In a mature and very competitive polystyrene market, El Prat site suffers from a lack of critical size and integration in terms of raw material sourcing," the company said.

A spokesperson for Total did not respond to questions about PS' low recyclability and if that had been a factor in the closure, nor questions about current supply and demand patterns in Europe for the material.

Another source in Spain added that the measure was almost final, adding that while dates for the closure are still being discussed with the workers' representatives, it would be "difficult" to revert the decision due to PS' own market dynamics and falling demand.

“The problem with this plant is its size – it is not enough to compete in a mature market like PS,” the Spanish source said.

“Moreover, its recyclability problems make PS a challenge – even some US states are banning it for fast food packaging. Globally, PS is a tainted plastic and its applications are set to decrease.”

In mid-2018, INEOS announced they would be converting a PS line into an acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) line at its Wingles plant in France.

PS popularity in Europe has been diminishing in recent years as regulations and consumer sentiment has shifted towards promoting plastic alternatives or more widely recycled polymers for single-use applications.

“[The decision] makes sense… It’s a declining market [there’s] too much PS...” one producer in the upstream styrene market commented.

Pictured: PS-made food packaging. Picture source: Photoalto/REX/Shutterstock

Additional reporting by Jonathan Lopez and Helena Strathearn

(Update: Adds paragraphs 4, 5, 6 and 7)