Honam Oil Refinery Co. has begun commercial start-up of a new 77,000-metric- ton s-a-year Unipol Process polypropylene plant at Yocheon City, South Korea, according to Union Carbide Corp. officials.

The announcement was made here at Union Carbide's International Training Center for Unipol licensees, where a group of Honam Oil operators were trained.The Korean PP market is firming due to increased demand for automotive, electric and electronic applications. The market is primarily for general use homopolymer grades, with specialty random and impact copolymers accounting for about 10 percent of the market.

Plans for the Honam complex at Yocheon include an aromatics complex and production of benzene, toluene, xylene and para-xylene.

According to Honam Oil officials, the plant - the second world-scale Unipol PP production facility, which was contracted in February 1986 - was completed in record time and its start-up was virtually trouble-free.

Honam Oil's polypropylene plant manager, C.N. Son, said plant construction was completed in just seven months. The start-up of the plant was very smooth and quicker than expected, he added. the polymerization reaction began 20 minutes after catalyst injection and we could raise production to design values within two hours.

Compared with a conventional slurry process, the (gas-phase) Unipol PP Process has proven to be stable and simple when it comes to resin property control, Mr. Son said.

Honam Oil was the second licensee of the Union Carbide/Shell Oil (USA) Unipol PP Process. According to C.G. Bang, director of Honam's Oil Petrochemical Planning division. Honam's selection of the PP process over competing polypropylene processes, was based on our judgement that it would have the flexibility to produce a broad range of polypropylene products with good properties, would cost less to build and operate, and would be easier to operate, as well.

According to Mr. Bang, products from the new plant are already receiving high marks from Honam's customers. The plant has been in operation for two months and has already produced five grades of homopolymer, he noted.

This plant is indicative of Honam Oil Refinery's intention to diversify and our willingness to venture into the petrochemical business, Mr. Bang pointed out. We will continue to develop petrochemical projects as part of our goal to become an integrated energy and feedstock company. An aromatics complex project, now under design, is further evidence of our intentions in that regard, he added.

Honam Oil was established in 1976 through a joint venture between Lucky- Gold Star Group of South Korea and Caltex of the United States.

Another unrelated Korean company recently licensed a PP plant by a competitor, Himont Inc. The company signed an agreement with South Korea-based Honam Petrochemical Corp. granting Honam a license for Himont's Sheripol process for a new 80,000-metric-ton-a-year polypropylene plant to be constructed at Yocheon City.