Firm that bought Sunoco's Marcus Hook factory to fight to keep refinery open

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Sunoco’s Marcus Hook refinery is closing. The plastics plant next door depends on it for raw materials. (Michael S. Wirtz / Staff Photographer)

The Brazilian company that bought Sunoco Inc.'s polypropylene factory in Marcus Hook, and relies on Sunoco's refinery next door to supply raw materials, said Friday it will pursue "all legal actions and remedies available" to keep its plant running.

Braskem S.A., a large plastics resin producer based in Sao Paulo, bought three Sunoco polypropylene plants in 2010 with the goal of becoming one of the top five petrochemical companies in the world.

With Sunoco's announcement Thursday that it would shut its Marcus Hook refinery immediately, ahead of a July 1 deadline, Braskem said it was consulting with legal counsel and evaluating options to keep its business running.

Does that mean Braskem might sue Sunoco to keep the refinery open longer, or to guarantee continued material supply under a long-term agreement?

Braskem declined to elaborate beyond a company statement:

"Braskem is going to pursue both short and long term options to continue to operate our Marcus Hook polypropylene plant, including the use of all legal actions and remedies available," the company said.

"As the largest producer of polypropylene in the United States and the Americas, we remain focused on minimizing any impact of Sunoco's actions to our customers by utilizing our global asset base," the statement said.

"Braskem remains fully committed to our Marcus Hook polypropylene facility and to its continuing operations and we want to reinforce such commitment to our employees and stakeholders."

Sunoco spokesman Thomas Golembeski said, "We are working closely with Braskem on the situation."

Luiz de Mendonça, CEO of Braskem America, told The Inquirer in October that he was confident he could find material from other Northeast refineries to keep the plant open, even if the Sunoco refinery closed.

When the $350 million sale was announced in February 2010, Braskem said the Sunoco chemical subsidiary had attractive margins and gave the Brazilian company a foothold from which it could expand in the United States.

About 100 employees work at the Marcus Hook facility, which produces 770 million pounds of polypropylene a year.

Sunoco sold the chemical unit, which was the fourth-largest U.S. supplier of polypropylene, as part of a broad effort to improve earnings, which were hammered in the recession. The sale included manufacturing facilities in La Porte, Texas, and Neal, W.Va.

Polypropylene plastic is used in cups, containers, bottle caps, automotive parts and pipes, fiber in carpet and upholstery, and plastic films for tapes and labels.

 


Contact staff writer Linda Loyd at 215-854-2831 or lloyd@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Joseph DiStefano contributed to this article.