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Only 70% of Europe mercury-based chlor-alkali units to convert - Arkema

June 23/2011

(ICIS) -- Arkema expects only 70% of European mercury-based chlor-alkali plant capacity to be converted to the membrane-cell method by 2020, Pascal Maureta, of the French-based petrochemical producer, said on Thursday. European regulations require all plants to switch to the more energy efficient membrane-cell method of production by 2020.

However, Maureta, business manager for caustic soda at Arkema, said because the European caustic soda markets are mature and the cost of conversion high, only 70% of mercury-based chlor-alkali plants will switch to the new method of production. Chlor-alkali plants produce caustic soda and chlorine as co-products.

Maureta also said European caustic soda exports were likely to remain uncompetitive in regions such as Asia because of high energy costs, freight rates and raw material costs compared with other regions.

European chlor-alkali producers say the timing of the costly conversion to membrane-cell technology could not be worse.

According to the latest Eurostat figures, March 2011 construction output fell by 4.9% in the eurozone compared with the previous year. Slovenia, Portugal and Bulgaria registered the largest reductions.

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