Braskem America, the Philadelphia thermoplastics producer, has started up a new ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene production plant at its La Porte, Texas, site, in the industrial zone known as the Houston Ship Channel.

Braskem, which acquired Sunoco Chemical in 2010, previously produced the plastic only in Brazil. The material, which Braskem sells under the trade name UTEC, is eight times lighter than steel and lasts 10 times longer than high-density polyethylene, and can be used in a wide array of industries.

Braskem did not disclose the cost of the new production unit or its capacity, but a 2014 article in Plastics News estimated its price at $34 million.

The project was directed by Christopher Gee, Braskem global business director for UTEC. Gee is a Drexel University engineering graduate.