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Dow keeps LaPorte MDI unit going—for now

By David Reed, UT EditorMidland, Michigan-The Dow Chemical Co is keeping its LaPorte, Texas plant for making MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate) on stream on a “month-by-month basis” until its new 160-ktpa unit in Freeport, Texas is running well. But it will certainly close no later than 31 May, a spokesman said.Already delayed, the latter unit came on stream in early December, “at a reduced rate,” the spokesman said, and it then was subject to “a planned shutdown to allow for operator training.” It is now restarting, the spokesman said in a 2 Feb interview, indicating that keeping the LaPorte unit going was a difficult task since basic raw material contracts had been terminated and personnel had been redeployed.With a force majeure situation in Europe, following problems at its Stade, Germany, MDI plant, Dow has been struggling to supply customers, so LaPorte is being kept going “to try to recoup losses due to the delay of Freeport [start-up] and outages,” the spokesman said. Continuing growth in demand is exacerbating the situation, he continued, adding that “the extremely high demand and tight supply, means that price rises are to come, soon.”We appreciate the difficulty this is causing customers,” the spokesman continued.When asked why not keep the LaPorte unit going for, say, another year, the spokesman cited the reasons given above: “the constraint is raw material supply, and there are workforce issues,” he said, pointing out that the original closure decision was announced back in 2001.Whatever happens, LaPorte “will begin ramping down in May,” he concluded.”

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