How Shell Polymers Can Provide Reliable Polyethylene Supply Through Strategic Resin Transport Options
Shell Polymers is leveraging both trucks and rails to proactively ensure converters receive an uninterrupted polyethylene (PE) supply when it matters most.
Multimodality Helps Converters Get Consistent Quality and Quantity
Consistent resin supply is critical for seamless plastics converting operations. This includes consistency not only in resin quality but also in its ability to arrive on time. While some scenarios are outside of a supplier’s control, the risk of in-transit disruptions can be mitigated with a multimodal logistics approach -- one that uses trucks and trains to maximize efficiencies in many different situations -- paired with advanced technologies and strategic locations.
Our nearby location and supply chain modality will mean unrivaled efficiencies that translate into reliable supply for your business:
- We can give truck and rail customers multiple options for when they need it, with the ability to proactively move from railcar to truck quickly if we see that customer’s pellets won’t get to them on time, for example.
- We also store rail cars ready to be released to help us move products quickly. Our state-of-the-art silo to top loading enables trucks to be loaded in 15-20 minutes, and prepared for shipments in under an hour.
- Plus, one of the biggest benefits is our location in the Northeast as our plant in Monaca, PA is located within 700 miles of most North American PE buyers.
Driving Railcar Efficiency to Streamline Deliveries
Railways have been a backbone of resin shipments between many Gulf Coast suppliers and converters concentrated in the Northeast. According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), freight rail accounts for around 40% of long-distance ton-miles, which is more than any other mode of transportation.1 A popular choice for chemical transport, freight railroads moved 2.3 million carloads of plastics and other chemicals in 2020.2 Potential challenges when moving resin from the Gulf Coast by rail include rail congestion and weather challenges like seasonal hurricanes and tropical storms.
Our facility was designed with rail at top of mind since it’s so critical in meeting converter needs:
- We hand-crafted the plant’s rail import/export area to agilely receive rail deliveries, store products, and ship them promptly to customers.
- We also implemented a modern railcar de-heeling and wash facility to reduce the risk of cross-contamination from prior cargo.
- Because we built our facility in Pennsylvania, we’re no stranger to winter weather and designed our transportation technology to be weather resilient, keeping us prepared year-round while helping to facilitate successful and safe deliveries with minimal disruptions.
- We also have the newest rail cars to provide for a more reliable supply chain experience.
Read More: What the Winter Storm in Texas Taught Us About Risk Mitigation in Polyethylene Supply Chains
Trucks Support Commitment to Uninterrupted Resin Supply
Trucking is the primary transportation mode used by the chemicals industry, representing an estimated 54% of overall industry shipments.3 Trucks allow for a shorter transit time with lower variability, which helps give the customer peace of mind.
Trucking can be a challenge however, and sometimes converters have to send trucks long distances because of rail congestion. Shell Polymers is willing to work with converters on their unexpected needs, and has this ability because of our location in the Northeast, Storage In Transit (SIT) yard, and industry-leading trucking capability.
Shorter distances between our location in Pennsylvania and many converters also gives us the ability to mitigate driver availability issues and the cost of longer hauls from other suppliers. An ongoing truck driver shortage is expected to grow to more than 100,000 drivers nationwide by 2023, up from about 60,000 in 2019.4
Rail congestion between legacy Gulf Coast suppliers and Northeast converters tends to happen approximately 4 times a year, which then causes converters to send their trucks to pick up resin and bring it back to their facilities. This predictable congestion can be mitigated via our multimodal SIT yard, meaning converters may be able to avoid some of the challenges with delayed shipments during these times.
Maximize Rail and Road Options With Our Northeast SIT Yard
Location matters when it comes to keeping converters responsive to opportunities. Our SIT yard is located only 25 miles from our plant, near Pittsburgh, and empowers efficiency through both design and operations. The SIT yard enables us to offer shorter lead times and direct rail routes to converters thanks to our facility ownership.
The SIT yard location gives Shell Polymers the flexibility to provide high volumes of products to customers quickly:
- We strategically chose our location because it is closer to converters, so it takes less time for them to get their supply.
- Our location is able to withstand harsh elements, which means customers won’t be scrambling for resin in case of weather-related issues, and our SIT yard is located between our site and the first interchange yard with CSX railroad.
- There is less of a need to store resin off-site as we’ll have materials produced and in storage, ready for converters, so they have a reduced need to order back stock.
Along the way, both Customer Relationship Coordinators (CRCs) and customers can use tech tools to monitor shipments, make changes, and offer input in real time to maximize efficiency. For example, CRCs will monitor customer accounts and act proactively if they spot any issues.
Whether by road or rail, Shell Polymers’ strategic location, resources, and options will empower converters to get what they need, when they need it.