21 March 2005 00:01 [Source: ACN]
From stories supplied by the CNI and ACN teams.
11 March. SK Chemicals was faced with a technical glitch during the first week of production at the new 120 000 tonne/year polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plant in Wloclawek, Poland, delaying supply of C-PET.
‘Resolving the solid state polymerisation process could take about a month,’ a company spokesman said. ‘C-PET will therefore not be supplied until the process is running smoothly.’
However, ‘the melt-state polymerisation process is working well, and A-PET will be available for customers from 10 March, according to schedule’.
11 March. Shell Chemical said it intended to increase the selling price of acetone by US$176/tonne effective 1 April.
It was not clear if customers would accept the proposed increases.
The company said in a statement to customers that acetone shipments in March would be held to contract levels.
11 March. Zhejiang Cifu Chemical Fibre Group has delayed by about six weeks the start up of its new 200 000 tonne/year biaxially oriented polyethylene terephthalate (Bopet) film project in Shaoxing, Zhejiang, a company source said.
The line was originally supposed to come onstream in the middle of February, but the company decided to push back the start-up date to end-March owing to poor economics in the polyethylene terephthalate and downstream markets.
The company produces 300 000 tonne/year of filament yarn, including partially oriented yarn and fully drawn yarn, at the same site.
11 March. SK Corp’s shareholders voted overwhelmingly to accept all recommendations made by its board of directors, including the reappointment of chairman Chey Tae-Won at its annual general meeting today, the company said.
It said the endorsement by shareholders of the long-term growth strategy set by Chey would pave the way for the conglomerate to ‘continue on its path of outstanding growth and earnings’.
The group’s strong performance led to new profit records in fiscal year 2004, along with significantly improved corporate governance, it added.
11 March. Reliance Industries plans to debottleneck the mothballed 80 000 tonne/year monoethylene glycol (MEG) plant it acquired recently from SM Dyechem, by 25 000 tonne/year by the end of this year, a senior Reliance official said.
The plant, located near Pune, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, has been shut since 1996, owing to financial problems faced by its former owner.
11 March. Far Eastern Textile Shanghai (FET) has changed the start-up date for its 50 000 tonne/year polyester staple fibre (PSF) plant in Shanghai again, bringing it forward to early May from end-2005, a company official said.
A source close to the company said last week that the plant’s start-up would be pushed back to end-2005 from May owing to weak margins for polyester makers.
However, in a meeting last week, FET’s top management reversed that decision and chose to commission the plant in early May in time for the late-May shipments, said the official.
This would allow the company to capture a share of the market, even if the plant ran at a loss initially.
11 March. Turkey’s Sabanci announced that it had changed the name of its polyester unit, formerly DuPont Sabanci Polyester Europe (DuPontSA), to Advansa.
Sabanci acquired DuPont’s 50% holding in the DuPont Sabanci joint venture in December 2004. The polyester fibres and polyethylene terephthalate resin joint venture was valued at Euro174m (US$230m) at that time.
11 March. Uncertainty prevailed in the Indian polypropylene (PP) market this week, with little activity detected as traders and consumers awaited the implementation of the value-added tax (VAT) from 1 April.
The aim of the VAT system is to reduce the duplication of sales taxes in India. Currently, different local state taxes and inter-state taxes frequently result in multiple taxation on trades. If a product changes hand three times, for instance, it is subject to sales tax on three occasions, with no VAT benefits available to the buyer.
The Indian government has proposed three levels of VAT rates at 4%, 8%, and 12%. However, industry concerns that sales taxes on March business may not be eligible after 1 April for offset led to several buyers and traders keeping a low profile in the market. Offset involves claiming back sales tax.
11 March. Shanghai Secco Petrochemical Co (Secco) plans to start up all eight basic upstream and downstream plants by the end of March, a company spokesman said.
The eight basic units include ethylene, aromatics, butadiene, polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), styrene, acrylonitrile, and polystyrene. Secco was conducting trial runs, and commercial production at these plants was expected to start at the end of June, he said.
The petrochemical complex will include two PE plants with a combined capacity of 600 000 tonne/year, and a metathesis unit which will produce 590 000 tonne/year of propylene.
It will also produce 500 000 tonne/year of styrene, 250 000 tonne/year of PP, 260 000 tonne/year of acrylonitrile, and 500 000 tonne/year of aromatics.
The complex will centre on a 900 000 tonne/year naphtha cracker, which is expected to be commissioned on 18 March.
11 March. The European Commission (EC) has started an in-depth investigation into the proposed purchase of Canadian chemicals company Acetex by US-based merchant banking firm Blackstone, which controls Celanese.
The EC said its initial investigation found the deal ‘may create significant competition problems given the parties’ horizontal overlaps in the markets of acetic acid, vinyl acetate monomer, and acetic anhydride’.
It was worried about the merchant market for these products, where the Commission said the firms had ‘very significant shares’.
11 March. A spokesman for Orien PET, a subsidiary of India’s Indorama Group, said plans to open a 200 000 tonne/year polyethylene terephthalate (PET) chip plant in Klaipeda, Lithuania, were in place for January 2006.
The site is being built in a special economic zone devised by the Lithuanian government under EU regulations to promote industry in the region.
Benefits include good tax rates, cheaper land and ‘excellent infrastructure for export business’, said the spokesman, ‘with easy access to rail, road, and sea’.
The company plans to source raw materials, monoethylene glycol and purified terephthalic acid within Europe.
12 March. A drought in Thailand could affect economic growth this year, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said.
‘It will have an impact on GDP growth. The drought is extremely severe this year. If the May rains arrive late, we could see greater damage,’ he said.
The drought is hitting most of the country – with water in many dams declining significantly.
The drought hit fourth-quarter economic results by significantly affecting output in the agricultural sector.
The prime minister said the government remained hopeful the economy would grow by 5.5 to 6.5% in 2005 after 6.1% growth in 2004.
The country cut its economic growth forecast in December to account for the effect of the tsunami, which hit six Thai tourist provinces.
12 March. Rohm & Haas (R&H) said the expansion of its plant in Marl, Germany, would yield another 59 000 tonne/year of acrylic acid.
The plant, which has a capacity of 181 000 tonne/year, would become one of the largest acrylic acid plants in Europe. It is operated by StoHaas, a 50:50 joint venture between R&H and Degussa.
R&H also confirmed that start-up was expected in July 2006.
12 March. Indorama plans to invest Real 840m (US$311m) in a polyester fibres plant in Camacari, Bahia in northeast Brazil, the Bahia state government said.
A spokesman for the industry, commerce, and mining secretariat said Indorama intended to invest Real 280m in the first stage of the five-year project.
Some 1200 jobs would be created over the five-year period, of which 650 would be created in the first stage. Capacity details were not disclosed.
Indorama’s project is part of plans by a pool of companies in the chemicals and textiles sectors to invest some US$530m in an integrated textiles complex in Camacari, some 45 km from Salvador.
Braskem is a key player in the negotiations. The Brazilian chemicals giant said the textiles complex was expected to include production of purified terephthalic acid and polyethylene terephthalate, as well as polyester fibre.
12 March. Basell said it was buying the 50% of Argentina’s Petroken Petroquimica Ensenada currently held by Repsol, its partner in the joint venture.
The purchase price was not disclosed. Petroken is the largest polypropylene (PP) producer in Argentina. It operates a 180 000 tonne/year PP plant, a 20 000 tonne/year compounding facility, and a propylene splitter in Ensenada. Basell said the acquisition would have no impact on Petroken’s operations, its leadership or its staffing.
14 March. China’s legislature has passed a law giving it the legal right to use force against Taiwan if the island declares formal independence from the mainland.
The National People’s Congress voted in favour after President Hu Jintao told the army to be prepared for war.
China sees Taiwan as its territory and says it reserves the right to use force if ‘peaceful re-unification’ fails.
The Congress was also expected to pass a further significant increase in Chinese military spending.
14 March. Formosa Chemical and Fibre Corp (FCFC) is raising the capacity of its purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plant in Loong-der, Ilan, Taiwan, to 700 000 tonne/year from 500 000 tonne/year.
A company source said the plant was being debottlenecked, and that the extra capacity could come onstream in the second week of April. ‘The original plans were for a new capacity of 640 000 tonne/year. But preliminary engineering works in early March showed that a nameplate capacity of around 680 000 tonne/year was possible, so we decided to produce up to 700 000 tonne/year.’
With the extra capacity, FCFC would be able to produce up to a total of 1.65m tonne/year of PTA. The company operates two other PTA units with a combined capacity of 950 000 tonne/year in Mailiao, in the south of Taiwan.
14 March. An international consultancy appointed by the Chinese government will soon conduct a series of three tests to determine whether toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) should be categorised as a ‘hyper toxic’ chemical and a ban on its transportation along the Yangtze River extended, industry sources said.
Once the tests have been completed, the government will produce an environment-impact report on the chemical.
On 1 June 2004, China banned the transportation of TDI and acrylonitrile along the busy Yangtze waterway and imposed a US$10/tonne surcharge for their ground transportation owing to environmental concerns.
14 March. Indian Oil Corp (IOC) could buy paraxylene (PX) feedstock on the spot market for its new 525 000 tonne/year purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plant, should there be a delay in the completion of its 362 000 tonne/year PX plant, industry sources said.
They added that a decision would be made by July, when the outlook for the completion of the PX-PTA project in Panipat, Haryana, India, was completed.
Delays have led to a revision of the project’s target completion date to November 2005 from August 2005, with commercial production to start in February 2006. The original target date for the project was March 2003, and this was later revised to August 2004.
A major cause for concern is a possible delay in the delivery of certain pipes from Germany for the PX unit. The pipes were ordered in December 2004 and they have to be delivered by end-July 2005, but it is unclear if the target date will be met.
14 March. Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizer Co (GNFC) plans to raise its methanol production capacity by 100 tonne/day to 650 tonne/day from May 2005, a company official said.
The company’s 200 000 tonne/year methanol plant in Narmada Nagar, Gujarat, India, will have a 7-10 day shutdown from 20 April 2005 to facilitate a catalyst change, with the equipment and technology provided by Uhde.
The plant’s capacity will be increased to 260 000 tonne/year after the shutdown.
14 March. Shares Sasol rallied to a record high today on speculation that an unnamed US petrochemicals firm might bid for the company.
Sasol shares gained 3.3% on the JSE Securities Exchange in Johannesburg, South Africa, to Rand154 (US$26.10) after South Africa’s Business Day newspaper reported that there was growing speculation of a bid for the company, Africa’s biggest chemicals producer.
Sasol, which has a market capitalisation of US$18bn, played down the report: ‘It simply is a rumour with no substance at all,’ said spokesman Johann van Rheede.
Any bid for the firm, which has a New York listing, would need approval from the South African government.
14 March. BP has revealed that its Olefins & Derivatives (O&D) business lost US$1.064bn last year.
No comparable figure for 2003 was immediately available.
The company reported in February that its petrochemicals operations, which include O&D and its aromatics and acetyls businesses, had lost US$900m in 2004 after a charge of US$1.8bn.
BP revealed the O&D loss among changes to its accounts following the adoption of IFRS accounting rules. The re-stated figures for replacement-cost operating profit reflect the move of financial results for O&D and the Grangemouth, UK, and Lavera, France, refineries into the ‘other businesses and corporate’ reporting segment. BP confirmed that it expected eventually to divest O&D probably after an initial public offering later this year.
14 March. Borealis said it had appointed UK Ultrapolymers as its distribution partner for its range of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) rotomoulding resins in Europe.
The companies were unavailable for comment on the length and the value of the agreement, which took effect today.
15 March. India’s petrochemical and chemical industries are expected to benefit from a major drive to increase the country’s imports of natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG), a leading Indian energy authority said.
The chairman of the Indian University of Petroleum & Energy Studies and former permanent secretary at the country’s ministry of petroleum and natural gas, TNR Rao, said his country was launching a wide-ranging effort to boost gas imports by pipeline and LNG terminals with investments of up to US$20bn over the next five years.
Rao said those investments would have to increase to as much as US$110bn over the next 25 years as India strove to meet energy needs for anticipated annual growth of 6-7% in the country’s gross domestic product.
15 March. Sterling Chemicals said it was contemplating closing its acrylonitrile facilities in Texas City, Texas, US – which the company shut in February – because of shortages of propylene.
Alternatively, the company said it would consider reducing its acrylonitrile capacity from 335 753 tonne/year to 240 471 tonne/year.
Sterling said its acrylonitrile and derivatives business sustained gross losses of US$28m in 2004 and US$36m in 2003. The recurring losses and the problems in secure feedstock propylene had forced the company to re-evaluate its options, it added.
15 March. A contractor was killed in an accident at Sasol’s plant in Secunda, South Africa, today, adding to the pressure for Sasol to improve its safety record.
The contractor worked for Fluor Corp, which is carrying out refurbishment of the 160 000 barrels/day Secunda plant. The unit converts coal into synfuels such as petrol and chemical feedstocks. The accident happened at a pipe-fabricating facility operated by Fluor in the Secunda complex.
Ten workers died at Secunda last September when an ethylene cracker exploded.
15 March. BP and Sinopec/ Yangzi Petrochemical Corp (YPC) have signed a 50:50 joint-venture contract to build a 500 000 tonne/year acetic acid plant in Nanjing, Jiangsu, China.
The worldscale plant is expected to start up in the second half of 2007. The plant will incorporate BP’s Cativa technology. Sinopec’s investment will be through YPC, in which Sinopec holds the majority stake.
16 March. Three pirate attacks on two tugboats and an oil tanker in the Malacca Straits were reported over the past two weeks, according to the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said: ‘Following the tsunami of 26 December, there was a welcome decrease in piracy in the region. However, in the past two weeks, there have been at least three violent attacks in these waters.’
On 28 February, a tugboat towing a barge carrying coal to the Lumut power station was attacked off Penang, northwest Malaysia. A gang of pirates abducted the captain and chief officer and held them for ransom. In the second incident, on 12 March, 35 armed pirates attacked a fully loaded oil tanker en route from Samarinda to Belawan in Indonesia. The captain and chief engineer were kidnapped and are still missing. The vessel proceeded to Dumai, Indonesia.
On 14 March, Idaten, a Japanese tugboat, was attacked roughly 70 miles southwest of Penang while towing Kuroshio, a construction barge, from Batam, Indonesia to Myanmar. Armed pirates abducted one Filipino and two Japanese crew members, whose whereabouts are still unknown.
16 March. India’s National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange aims to launch its polymer futures contracts in May after an eight-month delay, an official with the exchange said.
The Indian commodity exchange had planned to launch its polymers contracts in October 2005 before the London Metals Exchange (LME) started similar futures trading. The LME plans to launch trading in futures contracts for linear low-density polyethylene and polypropylene on 27 May.
16 March. Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) agreed to raise its oil production by 500 000 bbl/day to 27.5m bbl/day from 1 April.
Delegates attending the cartel’s meeting in Isfahan, Iran, said Opec had also agreed to sanction another half a million barrels a day increase later in the second quarter if crude prices remained at current levels.
Brent crude-oil futures for May delivery fell by just over 40 cents/bbl to US$53.19/bbl on the International Petroleum Exchange in initial reaction to the Opec decision.
16 March. PetroChina recorded a 15.7% year-on-year operating profit increase for its chemicals segment to Rmb7.66bn (US$925.5m) in 2004, the company said.
The company’s output of key chemical products in 2004 rose by 4.5% from the previous year to 12.39m tonne. It produced a total of 1.85m tonne of ethylene, 2.53m tonne of synthetic resin, 1.26m tonne of synthetic-fibre raw materials and polymers, 286 000 tonne of synthetic rubber, and 3.65m tonne of urea.
Total sales of chemical products rose by 10.6% in 2004 to 13.05m tonne, and net profit in 2004 surged by 47.9% to Rmb102.93bn.
17 March. Indorama Polymer will increase the capacity of its US polyethylene terephthalate (PET) chip plant by 40% to 112 000 tonne/year by May 2005, a company official said.
In the first phase of the expansion, the plant’s capacity was raised by 10 000 tonne/year to 80 000 tonne/year in January 2005. The official was unable to say how much the expansion work would cost.
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