By Shell Polymers on Jul 26, 2021
The plastics world has been hit with a near constant stream of supply disruptors. Heightened health regulations from the COVID-19 pandemic, the petrochemical epicenter in the Gulf freezing over, record-high raw material prices, and hiring challenges are just a few of the curveballs thrown at plastics converters and resin manufacturers this year. And, that doesn’t include disruptions such as hurricanes and rail congestion that can unexpectedly impact supply chains.
In particular, the winter storms that hit Texas back in February 2021 rocked the plastics industry to its core. Pipes froze, machines shut down, plants closed, force majeure contract clauses were enacted, and the long-term, nation-wide effects of the global plastic shortage hit grocery store shelves even weeks later, and is still being felt to this day. The winter storms were a new experience for most plastics professionals, and while no one can fully control the weather and its impacts, we certainly learned a lot from it. In previous articles, we dove into what the Texas winter storms taught us about risk mitigation strategies and the importance of a strategic plant infrastructure. This article goes a level deeper to address the unique opportunity that Shell Polymers has to proactively equip our plant with weather-resistant features to minimize disruption impacts.
As the “new kid on the block” in the polymer industry, Shell Polymers has the opportunity to build the business from the ground up… literally. Rather than retrofitting an existing facility, the Shell Polymers plant is being built from scratch with the latest technology and designed to circumvent supply disruptors such as weather.
Two Built-In Features of Our Weather-Resistant Resin Manufacturing Plant
1. Raised Site Defends Against River Flooding
Historically, hurricanes and floods contribute to 50% and 20% of total economic losses since the turn of the century.1 This is especially true for polyethylene converters. In the event of flooding, we’ve built the plant at a higher elevation to help operations safely continue. The lowest elevation for the plant is 14 feet above the 100-year flood stage for the Ohio River, with the majority of the plant being 80-100 feet above. The flood stage is the height at which rises in the water’s surface create a hazard at a given location, so staying above that line is critical to protecting property and employees.
2. Heat Tracing System Maintains Pipe Temperatures
Winter weather conditions have historically presented major challenges to polyethylene converters, both within the production environment and in ensuring timely delivery. Because the plant is being built in Pennsylvania, Shell Polymers is no stranger to winter weather and is prepared year-round for it. On average, the state experiences below freezing temperature lows for approximately three months of the calendar year.2 To help ensure consistency of supply to our customers, we designed our resin manufacturing plant with a strong focus on maintaining operations through all seasons, including in harsh winter conditions. The plant’s electric heat tracing is designed for minimum ambient air temperatures of -25°C (-13°F).
Northeast Polyethylene Plant Enhances Supply Reliability
Strategically placed in the Northeast, the Shell Polymers resin manufacturing plant further reduces the risk of supply disruption from weather. In Monaca, PA, the polyethylene plant sits outside of hurricane territory and is located within 700 miles to the majority of polyethylene buyers in North America. In fact, Pennsylvania has experienced fewer hurricanes than any East Coast or Gulf Coast state.3 Our proximity to customers and transport options enables us to be a flexible supplier to plastics converters and to respond to their last-minute requests.
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