Braskem America on Wednesday agreed to take over some of the petrochemical operations at the old Sunoco Marcus Hook Industrial Complex south of Philadelphia with a $56 million infusion and another $15 million in state support that preserves more than 100 jobs and creates at least 28 more.
Sunoco Inc.’s refinery within the complex was shuttered last December and prospects for Braskem’s poplypropylene (PP) splitter operations unit, which was opened in 2010, were in doubt. Sunoco’s 175,000 b/d refinery had supplied feedstock for the PP unit. Local, state and national leaders have been scrambling since Sunoco closed the refinery’s doors to secure new tenants not only for Marcus Hook, but as part of a long-range plan to breathe new life into Pennsylvania’s reemerging petrochemical industry.
Last month IHS Inc., which had been commissioned by the Delaware County Council to evaluate the Marcus Hook facility, said the Marcellus reserves were one option that could spark life into the 110-year-old refinery complex (see Shale Daily, June 29).
Braskem America, whose parent is the largest petrochemical company in the Americas, plans to secure PP feedstock supply from “multiple sources.” The thermoplastic polymer is used in a variety of applications, including automotive, housewares, packaging and textiles.
“When Sunoco announced last year that it would be closing its Marcus Hook refinery, it affected more than the jobs at the refinery,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett. He estimated that more than 200 direct and indirect jobs were tied to the plant. “Braskem could have left Marcus Hook and consolidated its operations to one of the company’s existing plants in Texas or West Virginia, including its U.S. headquarters…This purchase will save manufacturing jobs and it secures the Philadelphia region’s standing as a center of the petrochemical industry.”
The acquisition of the splitter “reinforces” the subsidiary’s position as a PP leader in the United States and “ensures the future” of the Marcus Hook operations, said Braskem America CEO Fernando Musa.
American Chemistry Council CEO Cal Dooley said Braskem’s commitment “reflects the significant new U.S. investment being made across our industry.” He listed the company among the several huge corporations that recently have launched big investments in domestic chemical production, including Dow Chemical Co., Shell Chemical LP, ChevronPhillips Co. LP and ExxonMobil Corp.
Earlier this month The Carlyle Group LP and Sunoco Inc. formed a joint venture, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, to keep the doors open at the Sunoco Philadelphia refinery, the oldest continuously operating refinery on the East Coast (see Shale Daily, July 3). The new venture is eyeing growth from the Marcellus Shale surrounding the refinery and the oily Bakken Shale, which would provide up to 140,000 b/d of low-cost fuel supplies.
“Chemistry companies in Pennsylvania directly employ more than 43,000 people and indirectly contribute close to 280,000 jobs,” said Dooley. “For every chemistry industry job in Pennsylvania, an additional five jobs are created within the state’s economy.”
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