Westlake Mulls Expansion In Louisiana

GEISMAR, La. (AP) -- Westlake Chemical Corp. says it has sold $100 million in bonds and still is considering a major expansion at its Geismar plant.

Houston-based Westlake announced in 2008 that it would build a chlor-alkali plant that could double production of polyvinyl chloride. PVC is used in such products as pipe, windows, fencing a decking.

But the expansion, which could yield up to 100 more full-time jobs with an additional $7 million in annual payroll, has been on hold because of the economic downturn.

Westlake senior vice president David Hansen told The Advocate that the $100 million in recently sold Gulf Opportunity Zone bonds still might go to the Geismar expansion. But he also says the money can be used to pay for efficiency upgrades at Geismar and at Westlake's Lake Charles-area plant -- with a portion set aside for the expansion.

The company still hasn't make a firm decision on the future of the proposed expansion and continues to monitor customer demand for PVC products, Hansen said.

"I think we're seeing some recovery, but clearly the recession lingers on -- the housing industry continues to struggle and because a lot of our products go into construction and related markets, it's still challenging." Hansen said.

Westlake also produces ethylene and other petroleum-based chemicals at its Lake Charles-area plant. Those products supply the Geismar operation as well as outside customers. The efficiency projects would not produce additional permanent jobs.

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