17 February 2003 00:00 [Source: ACN]
From stories supplied by the CNI and ACN teams. See www.cnionline.com . For exclusive news and analysis, see the rest of ACN
31 January. BP’s purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plant in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, China, was completed on schedule in mid-January. Although it is up and running, it will not be launched officially until later in H1 2003, a company source said.
The 350 000 tonne/year plant is owned by Amoco Zhuhai Chemical, which is 80% owned by BP. The Fuhua Group holds 15% of the company, and China National Chemical Fibre the remaining 5%.
31 January. Shell Eastern Chemicals (Singapore) has declared force majeure on propylene supplies to its customers, including its joint venture Ellba Eastern, following a similar declaration by Shell Refining Company Malaysia (SRC), a Shell Eastern spokesman said today.
Shell Eastern markets propylene on behalf of SRC, which declared force majeure on propylene on 29 January after problems at its Port Dickson refinery earlier in the week. SRC has a 100 000 tonne/year propylene capacity at its 156 000 bbl/day refinery site.
31 January. Nippon Petrochemicals has resumed full paraxylene (PX) production at its 400 000 tonne/year plant in Mizushima, Okayama, Japan, after restarting one of its two lines at the site yesterday, a company source said today.
One of its two 200 000 tonne/year PX lines was shut down on 26 January after a power outage.
31 January. Methanex today announced an Asian contract price of US$252/tonne cfr Asia for methanol for February, US$22/tonne higher than its January contract price.
The price increase reflects the strong growth in methanol demand in Asia, and also the surge in Asian, US and European prices, a Methanex source said.
31 January. Reliance Industries’ profit from its petrochemicals business rose by 38% to Rs25.47bn (US$532m) in the first nine months of its 2002–03 financial year, compared with the same period of 2001–02. Group operating profit in the first nine months rose by 9% to Rs70.22bn, while net profit was up 25% to Rs30.03bn.
3 February. Methanex Australia has signed native title agreements with the Western Australian government and aboriginal title parties to ensure access to the site for the company’s proposed 2m tonne/year methanol project on the Burrup Peninsula in the state’s far northwest.
3 February. Nippon Steel Chemical restarted its two styrene plants in Oita, Japan, yesterday after an unscheduled week-long shutdown, a company spokesman said.
The plants were shut down on 26 January after a power outage. They have capacities of 240 000 tonne/year and 200 000 tonne/year.
3 February. National Petrochemical Co (NPC) has signed a 50:50 joint-venture agreement with Sasol to construct and operate the No9 olefins complex at the Pars Special Economic/Energy zone in Assaluyeh, Iran.
The facility will produce 1m tonne/year of ethylene, 300 000 tonne/year of lldPE/hdPE/mdPE and 300 000 tonne/year of ldPE.
3 February. Fitch Ratings lowered its recommendation on Dow Chemical by one notch today from ‘A’ to ‘A-’ on fears of a weak pricing environment and continued weak margins in the industry.
3 February. Sumitomo Corp reported a 4% growth in its consolidated operating profit for the nine-month period to 31 December 2002 due to decreased sales caused by weak domestic demand and the company’s continued withdrawal from less profitable businesses.
The operating profit rose to Yen57.52bn (US$478m) from Yen55.12bn in the corresponding period of the previous year. Sales fell by 6% to Yen6540bn from Yen6980bn. Net profit showed a 24% increase to Yen36.61bn from Yen29.43bn.
5 February. Teijin has revised its 2002–03 financial forecast to a net loss of Yen18bn (US$150m) from an earlier net-profit projection of Yen7bn. It cited, as major reasons for the revised forecast, rising raw material costs due to increasing oil prices and the uncertainty in the Middle East.
The company forecast that its operating profit will decline by 6% to Yen32bn for the full year to 31 March 2003, from Yen34bn in 2001–02 on sales that are expected to dip to Yen890bn from Yen900bn.
5 February. Optimal Olefins shut down its 600 000 tonne/year cracker and downstream units over the weekend at its complex in Kerteh, Malaysia, for a routine 33-day turnaround and repairs on a faulty heat exchanger in its propylene unit, chief executive Jim Fitterling said today.
Optimal Glycol’s 385 000 tonne/year ethylene oxide (EO) facility and 380 000 tonne/year monoethylene glycol plant will also undergo routine turnarounds during the same period.
5 February. Hyundai Petrochemical returned to profit in its last full year as an independent company, after being in the red for the previous five years, a source with the company said today.
Based on unaudited results for 2002, the company recorded net profit of Won100bn (US$85.4m) last year, up from a loss of Won211bn in 2001.
The company’s operating profit was Won200bn, up sharply from Won9bn a year earlier, while sales rose to Won2000bn, up from Won1980bn in 2001.
6 February. US Secretary of State Colin Powell failed to persuade key UN Security Council members to back an early war in Iraq as attention shifted to a weekend trip to Baghdad by the top UN arms inspectors.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told Europe 1 radio today that the time was not right to discuss a new UN resolution opening the way for a US-led war to rid Iraq of any hidden weapons of mass destruction.
After Powell’s highly technical 80-minute address yesterday, nearly every council member agreed that the Iraqi government fell far short of compliance with UN resolutions, but few made the leap to suggesting Iraq presented a big enough threat to warrant war.
6 February. Shell Refining Co Malaysia (SRC) expects to bring the 100 000 tonne/year propylene unit at its 156 000 bbl/day refinery in Port Dickson, Malaysia, back onstream in the next few days, a spokesman said today.
SRC declared force majeure on propylene on 29 January.
6 February. LG-Caltex Oil has shut its 350 000 tonne/year No2 paraxylene (PX) unit at Yosu, Chonnam province, South Korea, for 15-20 days to fix mechanical problems, a company source said today.
He said the company expects to lose 1000 tonne/day of PX during the shutdown, with losses of benzene and toluene totalling around 10 000 tonne for the whole period of the shutdown.
6 February. Petlin Malaysia has shut its 255000 tonne/ year ldPE plant in Kerteh, Terengganu, for a 33-day routine turnaround to coincide with the turnaround of neighbouring Optimal Olefins' cracker, a company spokesman said.
He said no debottlenecking is planned during the shutdown, which started on 1 February.
Petlin Malaysia is a joint venture between Petronas, Sasol and Sabic.
6 February. Mitsui & Co has reported a 17.5% growth year-on-year in its consolidated operating profit for the nine months to 31 December 2002. The operating profit rose to Yen75.46bn (US$628m) from Yen64.20bn, lifted by a 2% increase in consolidated sales to Yen9610bn from Yen9390bn.
6 February. Asahi Kasei has finished building its 1300 tonne/year polyurethane (PU) elastic-fibre plant in the Hangzhou Economic and Technological Development Zone in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China, a company spokesman said.
The company will begin conducting trial runs soon and is on track for the targeted startup date of April 2003, which will mark the end of the first phase of the project. The second phase will see the plant's capacity being expanded to 5000 tonne/year.
6 February. Formosa Petrochemical will begin a scheduled 45- to 50-day turnaround of its No2 cracker in Mailiao, Taiwan, tomorrow, a source at the company said today.
It rescheduled the turnaround of its 900 000 tonne/year No2 cracker in December to take advantage of strong prices, particularly for PE and PVC. It had initially planned to hold the turnaround from 15 January.
6 February. Mitsubishi Corp's consolidated operating profit for the nine months to 31 December 2002 rose by 52.6% year-on-year to Yen75.09bn (US$625m) from Yen49.21bn. It attributed the rise to better revenues resulting from business expansion through M&As as well as a consolidation of its subsidiaries.
Its consolidated sales fell by 3% to Yen9680bn from Yen9970bn, but gross profit was up by 13.2% to Yen533.9bn from Yen471.5bn. Consolidated net profit rose by 34% to Yen70.17bn from Yen52.37bn.
6 February. National Petrochemical Co (NPC) has received a US$108m export credit from HSBC for the construction of a 600 000 tonne/year styrene project in Assaluyeh, Iran, HSBC said today.
Planned downstream of NPC's Olefins No9 project, the styrene project will make use of Polimeri Europa's technology. Snamprogetti and local firm Sazeh Consultants have been selected as the engineering contractors for the styrene project.
6 February. Mitsui & Co's chemicals business recorded an 8.5% rise in operating profit for the nine months ending 31 December 2002, the company said today.
The operating profit rose to Yen9.49bn (US$79m) from Yen8.76bn a year earlier, as sales rose to Yen42.92bn from Yen40.08bn. A spokesman said the division benefited from improved prices for olefins and other chemical products, such as PVC and ammonia.
However, the division's net losses swelled to Yen3.07bn from Yen564m a year earlier, owing to restructuring and the devaluation of assets.
6 February. Profits in Shell's chemicals division increased more than five-fold in Q4 2002, benefiting from lower costs, margin improvements and increased volumes, the company said today.
Adjusted current cost of supplies earnings rose to US$180m, compared with US$33m in Q4 2001.
Net sales, which exclude proceeds from chemical trading operations, rose 38% to US$3.21bn, with increases reported in all geographical regions.
6 February. Yangtze River Acetyls Co (Yaraco) has awarded Aker Kvaerner the front-end engineering design phase of a project to expand acetic acid production at its Chongqing, China, plant from 200 000 tonne/year to 350000 tonne/ year. The extra capacity is expected onstream in the second half of 2004.
7 February. Hanwha Chemical is preparing to shut down its chlor-alkali plant in Yeochun, South Korea, over the weekend for a 45-day routine turnaround, a company spokesman said today.
The plant comprises a 120 000 tonne/year chlorine unit and a 135 000 tonne/year caustic soda plant.
7 February. Asahi Kasei plans to start up its fire-ravaged 33000 tonne/year nylon-6,6 fibre plant in Nobeoka, Miyazaki, Japan, by April, a company spokesman said today.
The company will finish restoring and rebuilding the plant by mid-March. An accidental fire on 12 March 2002 had destroyed the plant. The company spent Yen12bn (US$100m) to rebuild the plant, the spokesman said.
7 February. The US said it was ready for any contingency after North Korea issued threats of pre-emptive attack and suggested that it was poised to restart an atomic reactor central to its suspected drive for nuclear arms.
But as Washington warned Pyongyang that it was only isolating itself with its sabre-rattling, there were growing signs that the US was moving towards talks over the second nuclear crisis provoked by the communist state in a decade.
North Korea's state media kept up a stream of alarmist statements today after a senior diplomat told British reporters in Pyongyang that 'pre-emptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the US'.
Pyongyang portrayed US contingency plans to beef up forces in the western Pacific during any Iraq hostilities as actual deployments that foreshadowed an attack.
'If the US moves to bolster aggression troops are unchecked, the whole land of Korea will be reduced to ashes and the Koreans will not escape horrible nuclear disasters,' said the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland.
7 February. National Organic Chemicals Industries Ltd (Nocil) is close to clinching a debt-restructuring deal with lenders and continues to hold discussions with a prospective buyer for its closed naphtha cracker at Thane in Maharashtra, India, company sources said today.
The Reliance group is believed to be the prospective buyer of Nocil's petrochemicals division/naphtha cracker, although Reliance Industries has repeatedly refused to confirm or deny reports about its negotiations with Nocil.
The company's total debt stood at Rs3.48bn (US$72.9m) as of 31 March 2002.
7 February. Mitsui Chemicals has shut its 455 000 tonne/ year cracker in Takaishi, Osaka, Japan, because of a problem with its furnace, a company spokesman said today.
The cracker is expected to remain shut for the next couple of weeks at least, he added.
7 February. Asahi Kasei will begin trial runs at its 1300 tonne/year polyurethane (PU) elastic-fibre plant in the Hangzhou Economic and Technological Development Zone in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China, in March, with startup targeted for mid-April, a company spokesman said today.
7 February. Sam Nam Petrochemical will complete the expansion of its 1.1m tonne/year purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plant in Yeochun, South Korea, on schedule this quarter and expects to start production in April, a spokesman for Mitsubishi Chemical said today.
The expansion will raise the PTA capacity by 400000 tonne to 1.5m tonne. The company's output is sold mainly within South Korea.
Sam Nam is a joint venture between Samyang Corp (40%), Mitsubishi Chemical (40%) and LG-Caltex Oil (20%).
7 February. Marubeni Corp's chemical division's net profits rose about 2.6 times in the nine months to 31 December 2002 as it benefited from improved petrochemical prices during the period, the company reported.
The company said the division's net profit was Yen3.46bn (US$28.8m) for the period, up from Yen1.31bn a year earlier. Gross trading profit was Yen22.86bn, up from Yen21.61bn.
A spokesman said prices for PVC, purified terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol were up about 30% year-on-year during the period.
10 February. Mitsubishi Gas Chemical (MGC) has shut its 250 000 tonne/year paraxylene (PX) plant in Mizushima, Japan, for a one-month turnaround, a company spokesman said today.
MGC will conduct routine maintenance during the shutdown, which started on 6 February and will continue until around 9 March.
10 February. Mitsui Chemicals has reduced operating rates at all the plants downstream of its 455 000 tonne/ year cracker at Takaishi, Osaka, Japan, which was shut on 7 February because of a problem with a furnace, a company spokesman said today.
Mitsui's downstream facilities in Osaka include PE, PP, ethylene oxide, phenol and isophthalic acid plants. These plants had already been running at reduced rates since H2 last year because of poor markets.
10 February. KP Chemical switched production at its 250000 tonne/year No1 swing plant in Ulsan, South Korea, to purified terephthalic acid (PTA) from isophthalic acid (IPA) last week, a company source said today.
The company had switched production in early December. The source said the company's production cycle usually lasts 45 days, but this time the PTA cycle will be reduced to 30 days before KP Chemical switches back to IPA in March.
10 February. The Korea Stock Exchange (KSE) has closed its investigation into alleged illegal insider trading by LG Petrochemical and two other LG Group affiliates after finding no evidence of wrongdoing, a KSE spokesman said.
The spokesman said the KSE was unable to prove that the three companies - LG Petrochemical, LG Micron and LG Innotek - had exploited inside information about troubles at another group affiliate, LG Investment & Securities, to their own benefit and added that there was not enough evidence available to merit a criminal investigation.
The three companies sold all of their shares in LG Investment, worth a combined Won86.6bn (US$72.6m), on 17 December ahead of the securities firm's announcement to the KSE and government regulators that its Hong Kong branch had suffered losses due to fraud by institutional investors.
The LG Investment shares fell sharply after the company made the announcement and raised suspicions that the LG Group affiliates had sold the shares in advance to avoid losses.
10 February. Iraq's UN envoy said today that Baghdad had accepted U-2 surveillance flights unconditionally and would soon issue a law banning arms of mass destruction - key demands of UN weapons inspectors.
The concessions were made by Iraq in the face of a massive military build-up in the region by the US, and amid US splits with allies France and Germany as well as Russia and China, which are trying to delay any move to war.
Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri told reporters he had delivered a letter to chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix stating Iraq's acceptance of the flights over all parts of the country.
Baghdad had previously resisted the U-2 flights, saying it could not guarantee their safety in the self-declared US-British no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq.
10 February. Moody's Investors Service said today it has downgraded the credit rating of Qatar's Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Co because of concerns about insurance cover for terrorism and sabotage.
The rating has been lowered from Baa2 to Baa3; the outlook on the rating is stable.
Ras Laffan recently took out a new insurance policy that gives onshore insurance cover for terrorist-related business interruption and property damage of only US$100m, said Moody's. This compares with a book value for the onshore assets which Moody's estimates at US$1.6bn, although the estimated maximum loss is much smaller. The offshore assets are covered against all risks, including terrorism.
10 February. Siam Cement may shut down its PE and PP plants in March for week-long unscheduled maintenance turnarounds if it faces a shortage in supplies of ethylene and propylene feedstock, a company source said today.
Siam Cement had originally not planned any maintenance shutdowns at its polyolefins plants this year. The total capacity of the plants exceeds 1m tonne/year.
10 February. Taiwan Styrene Monomer Corp (TSMC) is considering the construction of a styrene plant but has not yet made a final decision on its possible capacity or location, a spokesman said today.
TSMC, which produces a total of 340 000 tonne year of styrene at its Kaohsiung facility, said that it has not yet decided whether it will build a new plant in Taiwan or in China.
10 February. China has imposed formal antidumping duties ranging from 2% to 48% on imports of polyester staple fibre (PSF) from South Korea to protect the local industry, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation (Moftec) announced today.
The tariffs took effect on 3 February and will be in place for five years. Moftec began its antidumping probe in August 2001 and took temporary antidumping measures in October 2002.
10 February. China's Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation said today that it has imposed formal antidumping duties, ranging from 5% to 52%, on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) chips imported from South Korea.
The new tariffs came into effect on 3 February.
10 February. Canadian National (CN) railroad crews and emergency response teams continued working today to secure the site of a 22-car chemical train derailment in Tamaroa, Illinois, the US, while some 800 residents of the town remain evacuated.
A spokesman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), Dennis Miner, said CN crews and local firefighters are attempting to offload a cargo of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) from one of the derailed tankers. But he added the IEMA could not say when the town's residents might be able to return to their homes.
The northbound CN freight train derailed for unknown reasons yesterday. In addition to VCM, the derailed tankers carried hydrochloric acid, methyl alcohol and formaldehyde. There are no reported injuries among the train's crew, townspeople or the response teams, Miner said.
11 February. Chinese Petrochemical Corp (CPC) will shut its 500 000 tonne/year No5 cracker in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, for around two weeks in April to fix a mechanical problem, a source at the company said today.
CPC has been operating the unit at 90-95% from late October last year owing to compressor vibrations.
11 February. KP Chemical hopes to conclude the sale of its phthalic anhydride (PA) and dioctyl phthalate (DOP) plants in Ulsan, South Korea, to Tong Yang Chemical by next week, a source for KP Chemical's sister company, Kohap Corp, said today.
The two companies are in the midst of finalising the deal, settling the terms of feedstock supply and an employee transfer accord.
KP Chemical has received approval from South Korea's Fair Trade Commission for the sale, the source said.
11 February. Gail (India) has had limited success in sourcing ldPE from major producers in its bid to diversify and expand its share in the Indian market.
Titan Petrochemical & Polymers of Malaysia is the only company that has so far agreed in principle to supply 1500 tonne/month of ldPE to Gail, against the Indian major's requirement of 4000-5000 tonne/month. The two companies are expected to complete the marketing tie-up in New Delhi on 16 February.
Gail said it has contacted all major ldPE producers in South Korea and the Middle East and has learned that most of them prefer to export to China rather than to India because they can get higher prices in the Chinese market.
11 February. Formosa Plastics has shut its PE, ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) and PVC plants in Mailiao, Taiwan, for turnarounds following the recent shutdown of Formosa Petrochemical's (FPCC) major cracker at the site, a spokesman said today.
The turnarounds at Formosa Plastics' plants will co-incide with the turnaround of FPCC's 900 000 tonne/year No2 cracker at the site, he said. FPCC started the scheduled 45- to 50-day turnaround of its No2 cracker on 7 February.
11 February. Hanwha Chemical shut its chlor-alkali plant in Yeochun, South Korea, yesterday for a 45-day routine maintenance turnaround, a company spokesman said.
The plant includes a 120 000 tonne/year chlorine unit and a 135 000 tonne/year caustic soda unit.
11 February. Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) has agreed in principle that Chinese Petroleum Corp's (CPC) Taoyuan refinery be moved, following protests by residents in the area, a CPC spokesman said today.
In light of the MOEA move, the spokesman said CPC was studying possible new locations for the refinery and was conducting a feasibility study on moving the plant. However, he added that any final decision to move the refinery would probably lie with the Taiwanese parliament.
11 February. Daelim Industrial plans to shut its 380 000 tonne/year hdPE plant in Yeochun, South Korea, for a month-long turnaround from 30 March, a company source said.
He added that Daelim would have liked to postpone the turnaround to take advantage of the current high prices for hdPE, but decided not to do so as its feedstock supplier, Yeochun NCC, plans to shut its 465 000 tonne/year No1 ethylene cracker on 21 March for a 30-day turnaround.
12 February. The US and Britain are on their guard against attacks by al-Qaeda, with anti-aircraft missiles and fighter jets on high alert in the US capital and troops patrolling London's main airport.
As the Bush administration denounced an 'unholy partnership' between Osama bin Laden's shadowy network and Iraq, soldiers joined police today at likely targets, with tanks and armoured cars deployed at London's Heathrow airport.
US defence officials said jeep-borne Stinger anti-aircraft missiles had been deployed around Washington this week after reported threats from sources with ties to al-Qaeda triggered an orange alert, the second-highest level.
12 February. Gail (India) Ltd has proposed a radical debt-restructuring of cash-strapped Haldia Petrochemicals (HPL) as a pre-condition to making an equity investment of Rs2bn (US$41.9m) in the company, as well as demanding a substantial say in its management.
The debt restructuring proposed by Gail is more wide-ranging than the draft plan mooted by HPL in September 2002 to the Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI). The IDBI has accepted the draft package in principle.
Gail has now proposed converting debt of Rs12.5bn-Rs15bn into zero-coupon bonds or preference shares with token dividends, and converting additional debt of Rs6.50-7.50bn into equity at par.
12 February. Mitsui Chemicals plans to restart its 455 000 tonne/year cracker in Takaishi, Osaka, Japan, around 23 February, a company spokesman said today. The cracker was shut on 7 February owing to a problem with a furnace.
12 February. Shell Refining Co Malaysia (SRC) has brought the propylene unit at its Port Dickson, Malaysia, refinery back onstream and will lift force majeure on propylene towards the end of this week, a spokesman for the company said today.
SRC declared force majeure on 29 January after problems at its refinery a few days earlier.
12 February. Showa Denko has ramped up to 100% the operating rate its 650 000 tonne/year cracker in Oita, Japan, a company spokesman said today.
The cracker was restarted on 29 January after shutting down three days earlier owing to a utilities problem that caused an interruption to the cracker's supply of steam and electricity.
12 February. Yunnan Yuntianhua has completed the expansion of its ammonia and urea plants in Shuifu, Yunnan, China, a company source said today.
The expansion, which was completed last month, raised the company's ammonia capacity to 500 000 tonne/year from 380 000 tonne/year and its urea output to 760 000 tonne/year from 570 000 tonne/year.
12 February. Bangkok Synthetics will shut down its 140000 tonne/year butadiene plant in Mab Ta Phut, Thailand, for one week from 20 February, a company source said today. The company wants to test some new maintenance equipment on the plant.
12 February. Hanwha Chemical has started a 45-day expansion of its chlorine and caustic soda output in Yeochun, South Korea, a source at the company said today.
The source said Hanwha will expand its total chlorine capacity at Yeochun to 610 000 tonne/year from 550 000 tonne/year, while its caustic soda output will increase to 660 000 tonne/year from 600 000 tonne/year. The company, which shut its plants on 10 February, will complete the expansion by 26 March.
13 February. Nova Chemicals has predicted that the global PE cycle will peak in late 2003 or early 2004, driven by tight supplies and high demand, particularly from China.
According to Nova president and chief executive officer Jeff Lipton, the compounded annual growth rate for PE demand through 2005 is 5.7%, while new global PE capacity will increase by less than half that rate. Five announced PE projects in Iran and Saudi Arabia are not likely to start up by 2005, he noted.
He said PE demand China is expected to grow by about 8.5%/year through 2005.
13 February. ExxonMobil has shortlisted seven potential project-management consultants for its 800 000 tonne/ year cracker complex in Quangang Petrochemical City, Quanzhou, Fujian, China, sources said today.
The candidates are Kellogg Brown & Root, Foster Wheeler, Fluor Daniel, ABB Lummus, Aker Kvaerner, Bechtel and Amec. They said a decision on the successful bidder is likely to be made in April-May.
They added that ExxonMobil was still deciding whether to select an engineering, procurement and construction contractor or an engineering and procurement contractor. If it chooses the latter course of action, construction work would be done by a Chinese company. Tender documents could be issued in early 2004.
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