Explosion May Have Ripped Hole in Plastics Industry's World Prices
The explosion at the Phillips Petroleum Co. plastics plant killed at least two people and injured 124. Another 22 employees remained missing Tuesday.
Bartlesville-based Phillips, which supplies up to 19 percent of a common plastic base, has been leading a pack of companies building factories along the Texas Gulf Coast. Company officials said Phillips supplies about a third of the world's plastics and its polyethylene plant No. 5 represented a large chunk of their production power.
Analysts said if the plant is destroyed or shut down for a while, manufacturers of plastic products like milk jugs and grocery bags could be scrambling for plastic at higher prices.
``If the whole thing goes down, there are going to be shortages all over the place,'' analyst Bill Kuhlke of DeWitt & Co., a Houston-based chemical consulting firm, said.
Phillips bought the 800-acre Pasadena plant in 1948 and has made it a huge complex employing more than 900 people. It turns out more than 2 billion pounds of plastics per year - three-quarters of it polyethylene.
But Phillips spokesman Dave Dryden of the company's Bartlesville headquarters said it was unclear what the loss of the plant would do.
``It's hard to say what the effect might be on the industry,'' he said. ``We're very early in the assessment (of damages).
``There are thousands of different plastics,'' Dryden said. ``About a third of the world's plastics are made by Phillips or its contractors.''
At a plant in Sweeny, which makes ethylene gas for the Pasadena plant, the company is spending $300 million to add 1. …