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Improving demand prompts restarts

Elastomers units in Louisiana remains shut

Houston — Dow Chemical restarted three polyethylene plants it shut in April on improving demand after widespread economic shocks in April and May, a company spokeswoman confirmed July 23.

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"Based on current demand, the polyethylene production units have restarted," spokeswoman Ashley Mendoza said in an email.

The company confirmed in late April it had shut PE units in Freeport and Seadrift, Texas, and another in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, as well as two elastomers units in Plaquemine, Louisiana, in response to lower demand amid the global spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The shutdowns represented about 10% of the company's global capacity for packaging and specialty plastics.

RELATED: Dow Chemical sees recovery starting for durable plastics amid pandemic

The elastomers units, which produce more durable materials for which demand remains sluggish, have yet to restart.

"Dow continues to monitor the demand in automotive and other durable sectors and as conditions improve in those markets, is bringing those units online where needed," Mendoza said.

Dow CEO Jim Fitterling said during the company's second-quarter 2020 earnings call on July 23 that the unit shutdowns, as well as reduced operating rates across systems, sought to keep inventories in check when pandemic fallout siphoned demand.

He said Dow expects to see a gradual improvement in sectors that use durable plastics such as the automotive, construction and electronics segments as well as continued consumer-driven demand for non-durable items like food packaging, health and hygiene uses.