25 April 2005 00:01 [Source: ACN]
From stories supplied by the CNI and ACN teams.
15 April. Several chemical plants in the village of Huaxi in Dongyang city, Zhejiang province, China, have been shut after demonstrations against chemical pollution turned ugly, government sources said.
According to one local report, the riots started after a vehicle crushed an elderly woman to death during the protest. Witnesses reportedly saw protesters overturn police cars and public buses, smash windows, and attack police officers who used tear gas in an attempt to restore calm.
Unconfirmed reports said up to 60 000 people – many from outside Huaxi – turned up to protest, especially against Dongnong Chemical Co. Outnumbered police officers reportedly fled after removing their uniforms.
Villagers blocked a road leading to the 500ha Zhuxi Chemical Industry Park, where over 10 companies, including Dongnong Chemical, had set up factories.
Friends of Nature (FoN), an environmental group based in Beijing, said some of the companies had polluted the water and ground in the area around them. Poisonous fumes have led to deformed babies being born in the village, with residents also fearing for the safety of children in two schools that are less than 100m away from the park.
FoN added that the worst culprit was Dongnong Chemical, which produces herbicides, fungicides, and benzotrichloride.
15 April. Kolon Industries is hoping to slash its operating loss in 2005 after introducing cost-saving measures, a source close to the company said.
Kolon suffered from financial losses for two consecutive years from 2003 to 2004. It posted a loss of Won27bn (US$26.3m) in the first nine months of 2004, after a full-year net loss of Won68bn in 2003.
One measure taken was to cut its huge labour cost, estimated at Won100bn. The company saved Won40bn when it laid off 974 workers in February.
15 April. Yeochun Naphtha Cracker Centre (YNCC) will need an extra 1m tonne/year of naphtha after the completion of its No 1 cracker’s debottlenecking project, a source close to the company said.
‘YNCC will buy the bulk of its new naphtha requirements for the expanded capacity from GS-Caltex, which will start up a new condensate splitter in the second quarter of this year,’ he said.
Currently, YNCC buys 70% of its naphtha from the term market and the remaining 30% from spot sellers.
18 April. Honam Petrochemical has picked monoethylene glycol (MEG) as the product with the best investment potential in China.
The company had been studying the possibility of investing in China in the past three years, but it had yet to make an investment in the rapidly growing Chinese market, a source close to the company said.
This was despite Honam setting up a high-density polyethylene marketing joint venture in Shandong province in March 2004. Honam has a 25% share in that US$30m joint venture.
18 April. A senior Chinese official said relations with Japan were at their most difficult since diplomatic ties were established more than 30 years ago.
He spoke in the wake of a series of anti-Japan protests in Chinese cities sparked, in part, by Tokyo’s approval of controversial new history textbooks.
Japan’s foreign minister has expressed disappointment at China’s refusal to apologise for the violent protests.
But his Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing, said Beijing had nothing to apologise for. He said the real issue was Japan’s failure to accept its wartime record.
Chinese protesters were angry about new Japanese school textbooks, which they said glossed over Japan’s wartime atrocities. They were also opposed to Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
18 April. Yongsan Chemicals is considering plans to double its maleic anhydride (MA) capacity, a source close to the company said.
Yongsan, a joint venture between Yongsan International and Mitsui Chemicals, currently operates a 28 000 tonne/year MA plant in Ulsan.
About 18 000 tonne/year of the plant’s total capacity relies on benzene as a feedstock, and the remaining 20 000 tonne/year capacity uses butane.
18 April. China has launched an antidumping investigation on imports of polyurethane (PU) from Singapore, Japan, South Korea, the US, and Taiwan, according to a statement from the Ministry of Commerce.
The investigation, which was started at the request of a few local producers, will examine imports from 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2004. It will also assess whether the domestic industry was hurt by the imports from 1 January 2001 to 31 December 2004.
The inquiry is expected to be completed on 12 April 2006, but this could be extended to 12 October 2006.
18 April. Yangzi Petrochemical plans to exchange naphtha for crude C4s from BASF-YPC Co, according to a Yangzi source.
Yangzi plans to extract butadiene from the crude C4s to feed a styrene butadiene rubber project, which will be a joint venture with a local private company, GPRO Group.
18 April. Madhya Pradesh Industrial Development Corp Ltd has invited companies to submit expressions of interest (EOIs) to build a petrochemical complex in Madhya Pradesh state, officials said.
The EOIs for the complex, which would be located near a proposed refinery in Bina, India, have to be submitted by 15 May. The state government has secured the right to use 336 000 tonne/year of naphtha from the refinery for the project.
The selected bidder will have to undertake a feasibility study on the capacity and on the cost of the proposed complex.
18 April. Finolex Industries Ltd (FIL) recorded a slight 6.38% increase in net profit to Rs959.17m (US$21.93m) in the financial year that ended 31 March 2005, up from Rs901.62m in the previous year, the company said.
The growth in net profit was slowed by a steep fall in investment-related other income, the company revealed in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange.
Its gross sales increased by 20% to Rs9.82bn, expenditure grew 21.1% to Rs8.09bn, and operating profit was 14.75% higher at Rs1.71bn.
19 April. Technip has signed a letter of intent to build a 1.3m tonne/year ethylene plant in Qatar.
The letter of intent was signed with Qatar Petroleum, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, Qatar Petrochemical Company (Qapco), and Total Petrochemicals. Technip will provide engineering, procurement, and construction services for the project in Ras Laffan Industrial City.
The plant, which will cost more than US$800m, is scheduled for completion in 2008. The project will be carried out on a lump-sum turnkey basis.
Chevron Phillips said the cracker would provide ethylene feedstock via pipeline to derivative units planned for development in Mesaieed. The cracker venture will be owned by Qapco and Total Petrochemicals, through their Qatofin joint venture, and Qatar Petroleum with Chevron Phillips Chemical Company through their Q-Chem II joint venture.
19 April. China’s GPRO Group is to set up a joint-venture company with Yangzi Petrochemical for their styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) project in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, at the end of May or in early June, a GPRO source said.
The source added that the project would be a 60:40 joint venture between Yangzi and GPRO, a domestic private company.
The companies plan to build a 200 000 tonne/year facility in two phases. The source said each phase would have a capacity of 100 000 tonne/year.
19 April. The Moscow Arbitration Court has agreed to freeze the remaining key assets of troubled oil and petrochemicals firm Yukos.
Its ruling, which follows earlier court decisions to impound Yukos’ assets, was made after a Rouble163bn (US$5.8bn) claim by Russia’s state-owned oil firm Rosneft on behalf of Yuganskneftegaz, the former Yukos oil production company that it acquired recently.
The court banned all transactions with Yukos’ stakes in petrochemical and refinery companies. They include OAO Angarsk Petrochemical Company, OAO Achinsk refinery, OAO Tomskneft, OAO Samarneftegaz, OAO Syzran refinery, ZAO Irkutsknefteproduct, and ZAO Tambovnefteproduct.
19 April. Showa Denko (SDK) has withdrawn completely from the ferroalloy business, part of its inorganic-materials sector. This is through the sale of its 20.7% interest in Middelburg Technochrome (MTC) to joint-venture partner Samancor of South Africa.
MTC’s low-carbon ferrochrome plant in Middelburg, South Africa, has been operated by Samancor since the joint venture was established in 1995.
19 April. Sabic announced a first-quarter 2005 net profit of Riyal 5.08bn (US$1.35bn), an increase of 116% over the same period in 2004.
The company said that production from its affiliates during Q1 2005 reached 11.2m tonne, an increase of 12.4% over the same period last year. Sales were 8.3m tonne, an increase of 2% over Q1 2004.
20 April. The US International Trade Commission (USITC) has ruled that US producers of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resins are not ‘materially injured’ by PET imports from India, Indonesia and Thailand.
Consequently, provisional antidumping duties imposed by the US Department of Commerce (DoC) on PET imports from those nations will be lifted.
The USITC came to its decision despite the DoC having found that PET imports from India were subsidised and that PET resin sales in the US by all three countries were ‘at less than fair value’.
20 April. Implementation of Reach (registration, evaluation, and authorisation of chemicals) as drafted by the EU would lead to a wide-sweeping increase in consumer prices, the international auditing group KPMG said in a study conducted for European employers’ federation Unice.
According to the German newspaper Die Welt, the study – due to be published later this month – concludes that the cost of production of chemicals would rise by 20%. If the costs were passed on in the form of higher selling prices, this would trigger inflation.
20 April. SK Networks, the petrochemical trading and oil arm of SK Corp, has boosted its petrochemicals trading volume to the level before its accounting scandal in 2003, a company official said.
The company was released from mandatory joint management by SK Corp and a group of creditor banks in March, allowing it to raise its trading volume.
SK Networks was embroiled in an accounting scandal in 2003, leading to the local court assigning the joint management of the company. The scandal also led to the company reducing its oil, petrochemicals, and steel trading volumes.
The release from joint management in March was earlier than the original schedule of 2007 because of the company’s good performance and its strict compliance with the restrictions set by the court and banks.
The company is now trading about 150 000 tonne per month of petrochemicals, including 50 000 tonne per month of benzene, toluene, and xylene. The petrochemical trading operation was halted for about six months in 2003.
21 April. Ecuador’s president, Lucio Gutierrez, was ousted by Congress yesterday after a week of increasingly violent protests. He was accused of abusing his power by meddling with the country’s top court.
Gutierrez, the third president of the Andean nation to be toppled amid popular unrest in eight years, was replaced by his vice-president after escalating clashes between opposing protesters in which two people were reported killed.
A military helicopter flew Gutierrez from the presidential palace in colonial downtown Quito after 60 congressmen from the 100-seat chamber voted to fire him for ‘abandoning his post’.
Brazil’s foreign ministry said in a statement issued in Brasilia later that Gutierrez was in the Brazilian embassy in Quito.
Ecuador’s new president, Alfredo Palacio, has ordered Gutierrez’s arrest.
21 April. Indonesian state-owned fertiliser company Pupuk Iskandar Muda (PIM) could be forced to stop operations in May if it does not receive new supplies of gas feedstock soon, an industry source said.
PIM reduced the operating rate at its one of its two plants, which can produce 570 000 tonne/year of urea and 300 000 tonne/year of ammonia, at Lhokseumawe in Aceh province, Sumatra, to around 60% of capacity in March after getting less gas feedstock from ExxonMobil.
The source said ExxonMobil had reduced the amount of gas feedstock that it was supplying the plant, and was likely to stop the supply in May. He added that plans for Pertamina to supply gas to the plants had fallen through.
21 April. An international human rights group has accused the Myanmar army of using chemical weapons in an attack on rebel groups in the country. The incident is alleged to have taken place near Myanmar’s northwestern border with Thailand in February.
The attack left Karen fighters vomiting blood and unable to walk, Christian Solidarity Worldwide said.
The group said it had evidence which suggested that chemical weapons were responsible for the men’s injuries.
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