Total to Shutter Carling Cracker and Focus Site on Resins

06.09.2013 -

As expected, French petrochemicals group Total has announced plans to close its loss-making steam cracker Carling, in northeastern France, in the second half of 2015. Employees of the petrochemicals group were informed at a meeting of the central works council on Sept. 4.

Some 210 jobs will be eliminated in a revamp of the site, where €160 million is to be invested up to 2016. However, Total said the downsizing is planned to be achieved through attrition and without layoffs. Of the current 554 jobs, some 344 will be kept and 110 added with new production facilities.

The Carling site will become a platform for hydrocarbon resins produced by subsidiary Cray Valley as well as the company's decision-making and R&D center. A production facility for C4 resins used in additives for touch-screen production, along with high-performance tires and lubricants, is to be part of the planned investment. An adhesives plant will be converted to produce transparent resins.

Carling is also planned to become a polystyrene production center for Total, which claims to supply about a quarter of the European PS market. As part of the investment, the French group will build a new polypropylene compounding unit to cater to the growing trend in automotive light-weighting. Polyethylene production at the site will be upgraded to meet demand for advanced plastics from the medical and cable sectors, Total said, without disclosing capacity plans.

By making Carling  the European center for the hydrocarbons resin business and investing in the polymers business there, Total's president for refining and chemicals, Patrick Pouyanné, said, "we are confirming our willingness to maintain sustainable industrial activities in France while investing in promising markets."

The French group said it will uphold its contractual commitments to customers and "will deploy the logistical investments required to ensure the development of ethylene and propylene." In addition to the Carling cracker, the only one of its four that is not back-integrated, Total operates three other crackers in France, at Gonfréville, Feyzin and Lavera.

Management said also that the petrochemicals group is "committed" to supporting partner companies affected by the restructuring process, without giving details. To increase the attractiveness of Carling, Total will offer shared services and encourage outside investment moving into the Lorraine region.

Earlier this year, Total said it would revamp its refinery and petrochemicals operations at Antwerp, Belgium and close a smaller steam cracker and PE plant at the site as part of its forward strategy to concentrate on large integrated platforms.