09 May 2005 00:01 [Source: ACN]
29 April. ExxonMobil reported record 2005 first-quarter earnings of US$1.3bn from its chemicals operations on ‘improved market conditions’.
Its earnings excluded a US$150m gain from the sale of the company’s shares in Sinopec.
In a statement, ExxonMobil chairman Lee Raymond said Q1 2005 chemical earnings rose by US$718m from Q1 2004 earnings of US$564m, ‘reflecting higher margins’.
29 April. Dow Chemical’s first-quarter net income rose nearly threefold to US$1.3bn from US$469m in the year-ago quarter on strong pricing.
Earnings per share for the quarter ended 31 March rose to US$1.39 from 50 cents in the year-ago quarter, Dow reported. Q1 2005 net sales rose to US$11.6bn from US$9.3bn in Q1 2004.
‘Compared with the same period in 2004, Dow achieved significant price increases across all geographic areas and in most of its businesses,’ Dow said. ‘Volume was down by 1% owing to the negative impact on volume of the divestiture of certain businesses during 2004.’
The company’s chemicals segment reported earnings before interest, income taxes and minority interests for the quarter of US$428m, almost 150% higher than the US$173m reported for the same quarter of 2004. It said Q1 2005 sales in its chemicals segment climbed by 16% to US$1.5bn from US$1.3bn in Q1 2004.
29 April. Methanex said its Q1 2005 net income rose by 15% to US$76m over last year’s first-quarter net income of US$66.1m on strong pricing.
The company said its Q1 earnings per share rose to 63 cents. It was 38 cents in Q1 2004.
29 April. US crude-oil prices dropped through the US$50/bbl level the previous day, continuing a decline triggered by high inventory reports.
After starting trade at US$50.60, values fell below the US$50 barrier just before midday.
That marked the first time since 22 February that the price for the US benchmark West Texas Intermediate had been less than US$50.
The stay was short-lived, however, as buyers pushed prices into the US$50.20-50.40 range.
In addition to higher stock levels, other reports indicated oil shipments from Opec producing countries had risen for the fifth consecutive week.
29 April. Sabic confirmed that its European operations have, from 29 April, been renamed Sabic Europe from Sabic EuroPetrochemicals.
The chairman of Sabic Europe, Frans Noteborn, said the new name was a more accurate reflection of the company’s now more diverse product slate.
‘Besides the four million tonne we produce and sell in Europe, we now import and sell another two million tonne of products from Sabic’s plants in Saudi Arabia,’ he explained.
‘This means that our portfolio has come to comprise a good deal more than petrochemical activities. Thus, the term ‘petrochemicals’ no longer adequately applies.’
The new name follows a number of intra-group mergers among Sabic’s European operating companies; Sabic Polypropylenes, Sabic Polyethylenes, Sabic Hydrocarbons and StaMax having merged into Sabic Petrochemicals. Concurrently, the names of some other European Sabic companies have changed: Sabic Petrochemicals Limburg, the Netherland-based operation, has been changed to Sabic Limburg and Sabic Europe has become Sabic Holding Europe.
29 April. As many as five explosions occurred during the 23 March accident that killed 15 people at BP’s Texas City refinery, a member of the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, John Bresland, said.
He said: ‘The debris pattern at the site is complex and is not indicative of a single vapour cloud explosion. We believe that there were a number of distinct explosions in rapid succession, possibly as many as five.’
He added the board’s investigation was continuing to focus on major safety issues raised by the case, including the proximity of trailers to an operating unit.
29 April. Methanex said it anticipated making the first product at its 840 000 tonne/year Chile IV methanol plant ‘within two weeks’. First customer shipments are expected later in the second quarter.
Chief executive Bruce Aitken said during the company’s first quarter conference call that Chile IV construction was ‘essentially complete’. Utilities had been commissioned, and Methanex was loading catalysts.
Methanex had previously expected to commission Chile IV in early 2005, but Aitken said his company was ‘a little frustrated by late design changes’ by the plant’s technology provider. He did not provide further details.
Aitken added that Chile IV would offset Methanex’s reduced capacity in New Zealand which would be down to 530 000 tonne this year, from 1.1m tonne in 2004.
29 April. Members of a US Senate committee say they are convinced that bipartisan federal legislation is necessary to establish nationwide standards for security at chemical facilities.
After a hearing on the vulnerability of the chemical industry to a terrorist attack, Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman Susan Collins said she was committed to drafting legislation and moving it forward.
‘Based on the testimony we have received, it appears that federal legislation is needed to better secure our nation’s chemical facilities, and to better prepare in case of a successful terrorist attack,’ Collins said.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are at least 15 000 facilities across the country that use, make, or store large quantities of hazardous chemicals. The Department of Homeland Security has identified 297 chemical facilities where a toxic release could potentially affect 50 000 or more people.
29 April. Formosa Petrochemical Corp (FPCC) and Chinese Petroleum Corp (CPC) have reconfigured their propylene pricing formula for 2005 again after making two changes since late last year, industry sources said.
Previously, FPCC and CPC sold all their domestic propylene supply based on a formula that included South Korean quarterly pricing.
However, the South Koreans ditched quarterly pricing in favour of monthly deals in January because of the volatile spot market. In addition, there will be no collective settlements but rather individual deals between producers and buyers.The new formula comprises European quarterly term prices and US term prices, each contributing 20% towards settlements, and monthly prices from Tecnon OrbiChem and DeWitt, contributing a combined 35%. The remaining 25% reflect Asian spot prices.
Last year, the Taiwanese formula comprised European quarterly term prices, and US and South Korean term prices, each contributing 30% towards settlements. The remaining 10% reflected Asian spot prices.
29 April. Henan Yuhang Chemical has completed 70% of its polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and chlor-alkali expansion project in Jiaozuo, Henan, a company source said.
Yuhang Chemical, which produces 130 000 tonne/year each of PVC and caustic soda, is increasing the capacity of each product by 50 000 tonne/year.
The source said the expansion project was to be completed at end-May. Trial runs would start on 15 June.
29 April. Shanghai Secco Petrochemical Co (Secco) delivered its first acrylonitrile cargo recently after starting up its two new lines in March, traders said.
Some 12 000 tonne of acrylonitrile had apparently been contracted each month to acrylic fibre producers in China, sources said.
Secco operates two acrylonitrile lines with a combined capacity of 260 000 tonne/year. Despite earlier rumours that the plant had intermittent operating problems and the operating rate averaged around 50%, the current market talk is that the operating rate has been ramped up to 60-70%. Secco declined to comment on the operating rate.
29 April. PTT Pcl has secured approval from its board of directors to buy a 31.5% stake in Thai Petrochemical Industry (TPI), the country’s biggest corporate debtor, for around Baht20.2bn (US$511.3m), PTT said in a statement to the Stock Exchange of Thailand.
PTT intends to subscribe to about 6142.5m shares of TPI at a price of Baht3.30/share.
The company expects to complete the terms and conditions of the share purchase agreement by May 2005, and pay for the shares no later than 4 November 2005, in accordance with the deadline specified in TPI’s rehabilitation plan.
30 April. The consortium spearheading Canada’s Mackenzie Delta gas and natural gas liquids pipeline project has halted all project execution work owing to regulatory delays and huge financial demands from aboriginal groups, officials said.
The vice-president of Imperial Oil, Michael Yeager, said in a conference call that the project was months behind schedule because the regulatory process remained unclear. Imperial is leading the consortium to build the Can$7.7bn (US$6bn) pipeline.
Furthermore, Imperial and its partners were facing ‘enormous’ financial requests from aboriginal groups through whose land the pipeline would be routed. These demands were ‘well beyond the direct responsibility of the project… in the hundreds of millions of dollars.’
Yeager said the consortium was being asked to fund things of a socio-economic nature that were the responsibility of government.
Also, the consortium was struggling to respond to the 1200 formal requests for more information it has received since last October when it first applied for project permits.
Yeager stressed that ‘the project is “do”able’. The consortium was ‘not giving up’, and it would continue working on the regulatory process. However, it had decided to halt all ‘project execution activities’ until the regulatory and financial issues were clarified. This included geotechnical data-gathering programmes and detailed engineering work on contracting for construction.
30 April. Terra Industries said it had mothballed its 500 000 tonne/year Donaldsonville, Louisiana, US, ammonia plant indefinitely, and had agreed to purchase ammonia for its Donaldsonville facilities from International ammonia manufacturer Yara.
In a statement, it said the Donaldsonville ammonia plant last operated on 23 December 2004.
Company officials were not immediately available to respond to questions.
Terra president and chief executive Michael Bennett said in a statement that ‘high and volatile natural-gas prices made it uneconomical to keep the Donaldsonville ammonia plant on standby’.
2 May. An inquiry has been launched into tsunami compensation on India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands that villagers dismissed as ‘paltry’.
The islands’ administration reacted in anger over payments as low as two rupees for tsunami damage.
Tribal spokesmen said the government kept victims waiting for three months, then gave ‘joke’ compensation.
Thousands of islanders were killed in the Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December, and many survivors were made homeless.
India’s central government promised millions of dollars worth of aid to the Andamans after the tsunami.
3 May. Gail (India) has boosted the profit before interest and tax (PBIT) of its petrochemicals business by 124% to Rs8.11bn (US$186.95m) in the financial year ended 31 March 2005, the company has announced.
The company boosted petrochemicals sales by 46% to Rs18.49bn, from Rs12.65bn. The sale of polymers increased by 17%, from 273 000 tonne to 319 000 tonne.
3 May. LG Chem will take the first step towards attaining its goal of increasing its polyvinyl chloride (PVC) capacity in China in the second half of this year, industry sources said.
An industry source said LG Chem would, in the second half of this year, start expansion work at its 340 000 tonne/year PVC plant in Tianjin, raising its capacity by 160 000 tonne/year. He said the new capacity would come onstream in H2 2006.
The plant would be further expanded by 50 000 tonne/year in 2008. This will give it a total capacity of 550 000 tonne/year.
The plant is operated by Tianjin LG Dagu Chemical, 75% of which is owned by LG Chem and the rest by local Chinese companies.
3 May. After making a bid for Qenos, Reliance Industries could turn its eyes on investment opportunities in China and the Middle East in its attempt to become a truly global petrochemical company, industry sources said.
A source said the company had held preliminary talks with companies in both areas, and firmer details should emerge in the second half of 2005. He added that the company was looking at downstream investments in China and upstream operations in several Middle Eastern countries.
‘There are more emerging opportunities for upstream investments in the Middle East. There is ample feedstock, and the markets are getting better with easier access to the Western European and Indian markets,’ said the source.
‘In China, it will be tough to get into upstream markets as they are going to be dominated by local companies in the coming years. But there are likely to be plenty of opportunities in downstream markets such as polymers. That is what Reliance is interested in,’ he said.
3 May. Oman Oil Co (OOC) is to build a worldscale aromatics complex in Sohar, Oman, a source close to the project said.
The proposed complex would produce 815 000 tonne/year of paraxylene and 210 000 tonne/year of benzene, he added. Construction was scheduled to start in January 2006 and mechanical completion was due in the third quarter of 2008.
Part of the naphtha feedstock for the project would come from Sohar Refinery Co (SRC) and the rest would be imported, said the source. SRC is building a 75 000 bbl/day refinery in Sohar, Oman, which will come onstream in September 2006.
The project will be based on Axens’ technology.
3 May. Orica increased its net profit for the first six months of the 2004-2005 fiscal year ending 30 September by 7% from a year ago to Aus$131m (US$101.57m), the company said.
The strong results were supported by a 16% increase in sales revenues and an 8% rise in earnings per share to 48 cent/share.
Orica said record results in mining services and chemicals also contributed to the higher profit.
3 May. China has announced a series of goodwill gestures towards Taiwan, including the gift of two giant pandas.
Pandas are considered China’s ultimate diplomatic gesture, though Taiwan might not accept the offer. China is also preparing to lift a ban on its tourists visiting the island and to ease restrictions on some agricultural products.
The offer came on the final day of a visit to the mainland by Taiwanese opposition leader, Lien Chan. Lien is the first Nationalist leader to make the trip since the party was driven off the Chinese mainland in 1949 by the Communist Party after the Chinese civil war.
3 May. Total confirmed that it was under investigation by the EU’s anti-trust authorities over alleged price fixing in the market for paraffin waxes.
A spokesman for the company said it had been notified formally of the investigation. But she declined to make any further comment other than to say that Total was cooperating with the investigating authorities.
The probe is being carried out by officials from the EC’s Competition Directorate.
Earlier, Sasol said its activities in the paraffin-waxes market were being investigated by the EC. Sasol has also been subpoenaed.
3 May. Reliance Industries issued a statement strongly refuting allegations in the Indian media against executive director Nikhil Meswani.
The allegations were related to the ownership dispute between Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani and his brother and vice-chairman Anil Ambani.
According to the latest media reports, Anil Ambani, through a spokesman, claimed that Meswani was misleading the media and investors on a family issue. The spokesman was reported to have said that strong regulatory action was required to protect the interests of the company’s shareholders.
Reliance said in the statement that all allegations against Meswani were baseless.
3 May. The Moscow Arbitration court has ordered Yukos’ major petrochemicals subsidiary, Angarsk Petrochemical Company (APC), to pay Rouble9.94bn (US$358m) in alleged debts.
A Liechtenstein-registered firm, New Century Securities Management Anstalt, filed a suit through the Moscow court to collect the debt, which dated back to 1996.
APC said in a statement it would appeal the court’s ruling.
4 May. Fluor has been awarded a contract to provide engineering and project management services at two chemical plants in Pernis and Moerdijk, the Netherlands, the company announced.
The three-year pay-for-performance contract with Shell Nederland Chemie includes an option for a two-year extension, Fluor said.
The value of the contract was not disclosed.
4 May. Acknowledging slower economic growth owing to higher energy prices, the US Federal Reserve raised the key federal funds interest rate by 25 basis points from 2.75% to 3%.
The increase – the eighth since last June by the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) – was not a surprise, economic analysts said.
In a statement, the FOMC said it believed that ‘the stance of monetary policy remains accommodative and coupled with robust underlying growth in productivity is providing ongoing support to economic activity’.
Recent data suggested that the solid pace of spending growth had slowed somewhat in response to increases in energy prices, the Fed said.
It added: ‘Labour-market conditions, however, apparently continue to improve gradually. Pressures on inflation have picked up in recent months and pricing power is more evident.’
The Fed said it perceived that, with appropriate monetary policy action, ‘the upside and downside risks to the attainment of both sustainable growth and price stability should be kept roughly equal’.
4 May. A US federal court of appeal has sided with the chemical and railway industries, overturning a lower court ruling that would have allowed the District of Columbia (DC) to temporarily ban rail shipments of hazardous materials (hazmat) through the city.
The US Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia Circuit granted an injunction sought by freight rail hauler CSX Transportation, with support from the American Chemistry Council and the Justice Department.
The prohibition on hazmat shipments within 2.2 miles of the US Capitol building had been scheduled to take effect on 20 April, but was delayed while the legal issues were considered.
CSX argued that it is required by federal law to carry potentially dangerous chemicals, and the DC law conflicts with federal provisions governing interstate commerce.
4 May. PTT will go ahead with a plan to construct its sixth gas-separation unit after receiving approval from its board of directors, the company said.
The unit with a capacity of 600m-650m ft3/day will supply ethane to PTT’s new 1m tonne/year cracker in Mab Ta Phut, Thailand. Besides ethane, the unit will produce 830 000 tonne/year of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and 171 000 tonne/year of natural gas liquids.
To provide enough gas supply for its No 6 unit, PTT has adjusted its third offshore gas pipeline from the Gulf of Thailand from 1700m ft3/day to 1860m ft3/day.
Construction work on the No 6 unit will take 27 months, with start-up set for the fourth quarter of 2008.
PTT said it could obtain more value from natural gas by producing LPG and feedstock for petrochemicals, which were in high demand.
4 May. The recent steep falls in Chinese purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and monoethylene glycol (MEG) spot prices have prompted suppliers to sell their product to other parts of Asia, and even to the US and Europe, traders said.
In the past month, PTA prices have fallen as much as US$90/tonne to the previous week’s US$750-755/tonne cfr China. MEG prices have plunged around US$200/tonne to the previous week’s US$780-790/tonne cfr China in the same time period.
But in the US, PTA prices are hovering above US$900/tonne on a delivered basis, while MEG spot prices are as high as US$1100/tonne on a delivered basis. European prices have suffered more from the negative influence from Asia, but both PTA and MEG prices in Europe are still at least US$100-150/tonne higher than in Asia.
Some traders with long positions were heard to trying to move cargoes to less active Asian markets, such as India, Indonesia, Thailand and even Australia. But high freight rates have so far blocked the cargo flow to those countries.
4 May. KP Chemical restarted its 350 000 tonne/year No 2 purified terephthalic acid (PTA) line the previous day after shutting it in February because of a fire, a company official said.
The No 2 line, along with its 250 000 tonne/year No 1 line, was shut on 24 February after a fire that was caused by an oil leak in the No 2 line’s reactor.
The No 1 plant was restarted on 28 February. The No 2 line resumed operations after the necessary repair work was completed. The official said the plant’s operating rate was ramped up to 100% of capacity on the same day.
4 May. Century Enka Ltd (CEL) has recorded a 7.78% decline in its net profit to Rs525.6m (US$12.07m) in the financial year to 31 March 2005, from Rs570m in the previous year, the company said.
The downslide was triggered by a higher growth in expenditure over net sales, resulting in a squeeze on polyester margins.
However, the decline in net profit was slowed by the increase in investment-related other income, decline in interest paid on loans, and write-back (addition to pre-tax profit) of certain anticipated contingencies amounting to Rs55m provided in the earlier years.
CEL increased its net sales by 17.58% to Rs9551.3m from Rs8123.1m. Expenditure grew by 24.32% to Rs8639.6m fromRs6949.3m, and operating profit fell by 22.32% to Rs911.7m from Rs1173.8m.
CEL has plants in Pune and Mahad in Maharashtra, and in Brauch in Gujarat, with a total polyester capacity of over 110 000 tonne/year and a nylon tyre cord fabric capacity of 18 000 tonne/year, and a nylon filament yarn capacity 3000 tonne/year.
4 May. Linde announced a 13% rise in first-quarter operating profit to Euro165m (US$213m) on strong performances in the gas and engineering segments.
Linde retained its earlier forecast of higher sales and profits this year compared with 2004. However, it said the increase in earnings was expected to be a little lower than that achieved last year.
First-quarter pre-tax profit soared by 25% to Euro135m from Euro108m in Q1 2004 on sales up by 6.9% to Euro2.12bn. Net income rose by 9% to Euro85m.
Linde Engineering’s earnings before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA) were up threefold to Euro16m from Euro5m in the first quarter of last year. Sales increased by 23.1% to Euro357m, while incoming orders rose by 12.3% to Euro465m.
The improved results were due mainly to the air-separation plant and hydrogen plant segments, although the order position was also good for natural-gas and olefin plants, Linde said. Sales and EBITA in the business unit for 2005 were expected to reach at least the same level as in 2004, it added.
4 May. First-quarter operating profit from Total’s chemicals business almost trebled to Euro555m (US$716m) from Euro200m in Q1 last year, the French energy giant announced.
Total said the huge increase was due mainly to an improvement in petrochemicals margins that began in the second half of 2004.
Sales in the chemicals business in Q1 2005 were Euro5.52bn, compared with Euro4.67bn in the same period in 2004. Net operating income ballooned by 175% to Euro391m.
Operating profit from base chemicals and polymers increased five-fold to Euro352m on sales up 35% at Euro2.59bn. Speciality chemicals operating profit, however, were down 3% at Euro116m despite a 7% rise to Euro1.57bn in sales.
4 May. Aker Kvaerner said it had won a US$900m contract from Qatar Petroleum, ExxonMobil, and Italy’s Edison for the construction of the Isola di Porto Levante liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal off Italy’s northeast coast.
The contract comprises engineering; procurement; and construction-management services of the concrete gravity-based structure; LNG storage tanks; and topside re-gasification facilities. The terminal will have an annual capacity of 8bn m3 and will meet growing demand for natural gas from the Italian energy sector.
The terminal will be located about 15km from the Veneto coast and will be positioned in about 30m of water. It will have a total storage capacity of 250 000m3 and will be equipped with a berthing/mooring system, designed to accommodate ships delivering up to 150 000m3 of LNG. Delivery frequency is estimated to be an average of two ships/week.
The gas for the project will be sourced from Qatar’s North Field, which has recoverable resources of more than 900 000bn ft3 of gas.
4 May. Huntsman Corporation reported a 2005 first-quarter loss of US$99.5m or 45 cent/share on special charges, down from a 2004 Q1 loss of US$106.7m or 48 cent/share.
The company said revenues for the three-month period ended 31 March rose by 27% to US$3.4bn.
It said its Q1 2005 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was US$241.2m, including US$246.6m in charges for the early extinguishment of debt and restructuring – up from Q1 2004 EBITDA of US$207.8m
5 May. The US State Department indicated it was concerned about the possible sale of polyolefins producer Basell to an Iranian state-owned company, but stopped short of saying it had tried to block the sale.
A key Iranian official said US pressure scuttled the possibility of a sale of Basell to the Iranian company.
State Department spokesman David Boucher declined to discuss the specifics of the Basell case, but added: ‘I guess I would say generally it’s no surprise that in this environment we might have some concerns about Iran’s acquisition of a multinational corporation with ties around the world and certain levels of technology, and that is a view that I think is well known to the Europeans.’
Shell and BASF subsequently signed a deal on 5 May to sell Basell to a consortium of US-based private finance companies Access Industries and The Chatterjee Group. The latter holds a controlling stake in India’s Haldia Petrochemicals.
The semi-official news agency ISNA (Iranian Students’ News Agency) had reportedly spoken to NPC managing director Mohammed Reza Nematzadeh, who said the NPC was told it could not buy Basell owing to US pressure.
5 May. A huge rise in tanker charter rates enabled Norwegian chemicals transportation company Odfjell to announce record quarterly profits and to forecast continued strong results in 2005.
Q1 operating profit (earnings before interest and tax – EBIT) was up 61% at US$58m year-on-year, thanks to an improvement of over 30% in time-charter rates over the same period in 2004.
The Q1 EBIT included a US$4m capital gain on assets and was, the company claimed, its ‘strongest ever’ quarter.
EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation) in the quarter were US$80m, up from US$57m last year.
Operating profit for parcel chemical tankers soared by 73% to US$45m, compared with US$26m in Q1 2004. Time-charter rates in dollar terms improved by 30% year-on-year and by around 15% over the fourth quarter of 2004.
The average cost of bunkers in Q1 2005 was a record high US$182/tonne, compared with US$153/tonne in the same period last year.
5 May. Thai Olefins Co (TOC) posted an increase of over 300% in its first-quarter profits to Baht2.5bn (US$63.3m), up from Baht739.3m a year before, the company announced.
This was due mainly to higher prices and capacity, driven by the high domestic and overseas demand for petrochemicals.
Earnings per share were Baht3.04, up from Baht0.90 in the first quarter of 2004.
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