WORKERS at the mothballed Artenius plant on Teesside are hoping to hear news this week of a deal to rescue the plastics maker from administration.
It is understood that talks have been continuing for some time to secure a buyer for the plant on the Wilton International site, near Redcar, which went into administration in July last year.
There are currently 41 people still employed to maintain the plant, which made Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), a chemical used by the food and drink packaging industry.
Although the Teesside plant was profitable, Spanish owners La Seda made losses of £564m last year and decided to pull out of the North East and sell five other sites in Europe. Industry analysts believe the parent company overstretched itself with an overly-aggressive growth strategy in the recession-hit market.
Administrator Deloitte has been trying to sell the Artenius plant since the summer and a number of potential buyers are understood to have been interested in the site.
The latest business to be linked to plant is Korean chemical giant KP Chemical.
Will Beacham, from global chemical intelligence service ICIS Chemical Business, said there were "strong market rumours" that the Korean group was keen to buy Artenius’ PTA [Purified Terephthalic Acid] and PET assets at Wilton.
He said: "For KP Chemical the move would give it a production base in Europe, allowing the company to be more responsive to customer requirements.
"It currently produces 955,000 tones/year of PTA and 446,000 tonnes/year of PET at it s South Korea plant based at Ulsan.
"Adding the Wilton plant’s production capacity would also improve its ranking amongst global PET producers. It currently claims to be number seven worldwide in PET."
If the latest speculation proves correct it will be a rare glimmer of hope for Teesside’s beleaguered chemicals industry.
Dow confirmed this month it is to close it ethylene oxide (EO) and glycol facility at Wilton, with the loss of 55 jobs after being unable to find a buyer.
The move will seal the fate of the nearby Croda surfactants plant, which was its main customer. Croda and Petroplus announced last year they intended to shut their plants at Wilton, with the loss of more than 300 jobs and fears of further redudancies in their supply chain.