Hemlock to shut Tennessee poly plant

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Polysilicon producer Hemlock Semiconductor is to close its facility in Clarksville, Tennessee, due to what it said were ongoing adverse market conditions and problems stemming from international trade disputes.

The company’s US$1.2 billion plant has never fully opened, having been mothballed since last January, and will now close altogether.

The company said some of the site’s approximately 50 staff would either be offered other opportunities with Hemlock or its parent firm, Dow Corning, or receive severance packages.

Although recent successive quarterly results had painted a picture of recovering sales and revenue for Hemlock, the company said that under current market conditions it was unable to justify keeping the site open.

“As difficult as this is, the continued market adversity and complex political conditions have left no economically viable options for Hemlock Semiconductor to operate the site,” said Denise Beachy, president of Hemlock Semiconductor. “It is unfortunate for both the company and the community that these conditions have forced us to take this action.”

One factor that appears to have hit Hemlock particularly hard is the trade dispute with China that saw the Asian country last year hand down punitive duties on US and South Korean polysilicon imports. Over the summer the Chinese government also revealed plans to close a loophole in the import rules that allowed silicon used for products, such as solar modules, destined for export to avoid the higher tariffs.

Hemlock was one of the companies affected by the action, with a tariff of 53.3%. Significantly its rival, Wacker Chemie, was able to escape the worst impacts of the duties as it had been able to negotiate an exclusion from the duties.

Hemlock Semiconductor said it would continue to operate its site in the state of Michigan, which has been in operation for more than 53 years.

“Hemlock Semiconductor will continue to advance polysilicon technology, which has enabled the era of high-tech innovation that we're in today,” said Beachy. “Our nearly 1,000 employees will play an important role in helping our customers power the next generation of electronics and solar products.”

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