Plastics Manufacturing

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by babydot94513, Oct 27, 2002.

  1. babydot94513

    babydot94513 Member in training

    I have seen manufactures that use plastic pellets that are delivered by covered hoppers. However, I have never seen where they make the actual plastic pellets.

    Does anyone know how the actual plastic pellets are made? I am assuming that whomever manufacturers pellets, that they receive their raw product by tank car - assuming they use liquid petrochemical product to make pellets? Shipping out by covered hopper is a given.
  2. rockislandmike

    rockislandmike Active Member

    Hey Jeff, can't answer myself, but I did post your query on the yahoo group Ry-ops-industrialSIG. These people are pure geniuses when it comes to questions like this.
  3. babydot94513

    babydot94513 Member in training

    I put this out on Calrailfans and The Guage but forgot about that group.

    I am looking at a way of adding another industry to my layout and this question has puzzled me for several months now.
  4. Rusty Stumps

    Rusty Stumps Member

    Hi Jeff, I've done some training at a plastics manufacturing site down in Arkansas. They wouldn't let me out in the production area which is mainly outside unless I did a one day safety training. Actually there was a whole farm of these companies together along the river just outside Little Rock.

    Anyway, they are a typical type of peto chemical facility with many verticle tanks, lots and lots of piping. This one had an underground command center. They did pellets, and materials for fiber optics. So plan on a large front office building in the front with lots of vert. tanks and such with miles of piping between them all in the back (all fenced in). The tanks ranged in size from around 10 foot dia. to maybe 20 foot. and anywhere from 20 feet tall to around 100. What I noticed is they were grouped somewhat and there a numbers of small control buildings mixed in around.

    The big thing I was told is "if you see people runing out be one of them!" I did hear a conversation about a contractor not "locking out" a unit he was working on. He was escorted off the site and told never to come back.

    I'm certain if you go to the Little Rock Chamber Of Commerce website they will have overhead shots of a number of these plants in there area.

    Hope this helps,
  5. marty w.

    marty w. Member

    Many plastics are by-products of the gasoline refineries. Raw materials that are used are coal, air, water, petroleum, natural gas, limestone, salt and sulfur. I would search the internet to find pic's of the facilities. As Walt said, they look like a petro chemical plant and are very large.

    Another plastics industry would be a compounder. They take plastic in pellet form and add additives to it. Some of the additives are glass fibers, color, flame retardant agents, pitch black and talc. This would be a very large bulding with tanks and piping. They would receive the plastic pellets, talc and pitch black in covered hoppers. The flame retardant agents would come in tank cars. Shipping out is again by covered hoppers.

    Some plastic producers are Dupont, Shell, General Electric, Allied Corp., Dow Chemical and Huntsman Chemical.

    Some compounders are LNP Corp., Comalloy International and RTP Corp.

    Hope this helps.

  6. rockislandmike

    rockislandmike Active Member

    Two replies so far on Ry-ops-industrialSIG . . . .


    Plastic are made in the major petrochemical plants around the country. The Texas Gulf Coast being a prime area. The chemical plants look like an oil refinery to the untrained eye. I'm sure the knowledgeable person can spot the differences.

    The inbound commodity may be by tank car or more likely, pipline or possibly by ship. Those big plants use a LOT of feedstock. Baytown, Freeport, Channelview, Pasedena, Texas City, Port Arthur, Orange, Bloomington, Seadrift all in Texas are big chemical areas.

    Dave Husman


    Plastic pellets are made using a process called polymerization, which essentially means that hydrocarbon chains are introduced into a reactor under conditions that will allow them to combine, or polymerize. This is usually accomplished by introducing an initiator (usually a peroxide compound, if memory serves me correctly), but can be done by other means as well. Polymers are usually made from short-chain organic molecules that have double electrochemical bonds between carbon atoms, and the initiator forces that double bond to break and form a single bond with a neighboring carbon chain. The resulting chains can grow to be huge (at least relative to other molecules), hundreds or thousands of carbon atoms long.

    The resulting polymer can then be removed from the mixture, and formed into pellets, which are of course loaded into covered hoppers for sale to a customer. As Dave said earlier, plastic manufacturers are usually located in or near oil refineries to save on transportation costs of the raw materials (ethylene, propylene, etc...). Epsilon, a subsidiary of Sunoco, produces dozens of carloads of polypropylene each day in Marcus Hook, PA and is adjacent to the Sunoco refinery there. Their facility is easily discerned from the rest of the plant by the four large stainless steel silos sitting on top of their loading shed.

    Sunoco also sells some ethylene and propylene to other industries, and ships the chemicals out of Marcus Hook in appropriate tankcars. Plastic producers usually need to operate as high-volume producers, so it is logistically not very feasible to bring in lots of inbound monomer by rail. Inbound plastic monomer is not likely brought in by ship, because the raw feeds that plastic producers use must first be separated out of crude oil. In addition to that, ethylene is a gaseous material at normal temperature and atmospheric pressure, and must be transported at a refrigerated temperature and under pressure (conditions that force it into the liquid state, making the most out of an
    ethylene tankcar's capacity), so transportation by ship is highly unlikely. Moving propylene by ship also probably doesn't happen, though I wouldn't rule it out just because I've never heard of it happening.

    Sean McDonnell
  7. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    propylene oxide

    Some years ago I spotted a 68' propylene oxide tank car in the yards in Waukegan Il.(C&NW). the car was built in 1974, and I assumed that propylene oxide was used in the plastics manufacture industry. My interest was in building models of modern tank cars. This one was bashed from two MDC 50' kits, and custom lettered according to the prototype. This might be one type of rolling stock found at an industry site.

    Attached Files:

  8. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    You know.....I work in a plastic bottle manufacturer here in Connecticut, I've always wondered where the material came from. Our high density is supplied by Dow/Union Carbide, which makes me think chemical plant. Unfortunatly being in a industrial park with no rail service our material is trucked in.
  9. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    I thought I'd read something about the plastics industry on the Walther's site and sure enough I found this. It's from the description of a kit for plastic pellet storage.

    "Derived from crude oil, plastics are first formed into tiny pellets which become the raw materials for everything from soda bottles to model railroad equipment. Lightweight and easily handled by pneumatic systems, the pellets are shipped in bulk by train and stored on-site in vertical storage tanks. Large air compressors power these facilities, which feature a number of delivery pipes and control valves."

    Pictured below for reference. Also, here's a link to an awesome scratchbuilt rayon processing plant that may give you some ideas.


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  10. rockislandmike

    rockislandmike Active Member

    That's the route I'm going for my layout, Val. The structure you noted is on my wishlist, and is going to be included somewhere on the MOPAC main line. I've already got a couple plastic pellet hoppers decorated for my fictional company (using the same name as an online research company I help my dad out with).
  11. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    I've got that plastic pellet kit. Of course working in the plastic industry, I had to have one on my layout. The brown building is my "bottle " manufacturer, you can see the silos peeking up.

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  12. marty w.

    marty w. Member

    Pete and eightyeightfan1 - Nice work.
    BTW - I know of one plastic injection molder who does not have silo's. They use the material right out of the hopper. They seem to get a new car every 2 weeks.
    Another plastic molder paints their silo's a different color for the different materials. Pink for styrene, Blue for polypropylene and Green for polyethylene. This would add some color to your layout.
  13. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    Since we were on the subject, and I've been planning this for months now, I finally got around to doing it. Started yesterday and thats only 'cause you have to let the decal spray dry overnight. Its a 64' plastic pellet car with the company's name I work for on it.

    Attached Files:

  14. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    88fan, Your structures and the hopper are very nice. Val, you are right, that model is awesome. And Pete, nice tank car! This has been a very informative thread. Any thought s on 50s era facilities?

  15. rockislandmike

    rockislandmike Active Member

    Hhhmmmm....mine are 63 ft. I was trying to see, what reporting mark did you use - did you make up your own ???? Or do these cars actually exist ???

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  16. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

  17. marty w.

    marty w. Member

    I have no idea when plastic pellets started to ship by railcar. The plastics industry has changed over the years with upgraded equipment . However the basics are the same.
    BTW - the first phenolic plastic part was molded in Boonton, NJ by Tech-Art Plastics Co. in 1906!
  18. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Actually, back in the 50's Boonton was famous for productionn of Boonton Ware, plastic dishes. They are collectable now, go figure. I doubt if pellets were used back then, but I was curious just what type of equipment was used to transport the raw materials. Thanks for the input. Perhaps I can find something at the Boonton Museum, but the one time I was there it seemed they didn't have much other than histories of some of the early settlers. But worth another try!

  19. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    Sorry I took awhile to get back to you Mike, Worked the last two nights, got the next two off. Three day workend though, because the company I work for goes 24/7 with four shifts. Something about it takes too long to get the heats up and that costs money(Can't have that now can we). To answer your question: Its a "Off the shelf, outta the box" RTR Walthers. I made the Custom Bottle decal my self on VitaCal paper.

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