This week's world news

09 August 2010 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Shell's Singapore cracker suffers outage
UK-based Shell's new 800,000 tonne/year mixed-feed cracker in Singapore suffered an outage and was shut last Tuesday, market sources said. "The flare system at Shell's Pulau Bukom manufacturing site was activated in the afternoon of August 3, 2010 due to an unplanned disruption to a process unit," said a Shell spokesperson. "The rest of the operations [were] not affected." Commissioned in March, the cracker has the capacity to produce 450,000 tonnes/year of propylene and 230,000 tonnes/year of benzene.

Total/INEOS PP plant to restart at end of August
France's Total Petrochemicals and UK-based INEOS's 300,000 tonne/year joint-venture polypropylene (PP) plant at Lavera, France, is due back up at the end of August, said an INEOS source. The source confirmed that force majeure was in place, as reported by PP customers of the plant at the end of July.

Huntsman to buy amines business of Laffans
US-based chemical major Huntsman has agreed to acquire the chemical business of India-based Laffans Petrochemicals. The business manufactures amines and surfactants and has sales of about $45m/year (€35m/year). The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2011.

Dow swings to profit of $659m as sales rise 20%
US major Dow Chemical swung to a net profit of $659m (€501m) in the second quarter, compared with a loss of $332m in the same period last year, on stronger volumes and price gains. Sales rose 20% year on year to $13.6bn. Excluding acquisitions and divestitures, Dow said its sales were up by 26% year on year, driven by price gains of 19% and volume growth of 7%. However, adjusted earnings per share of 54 cents fell short of consensus estimates by 2 cents. Shares of Dow dived by $2.83, or 10%, to $25.50 on the shortfall. Looking ahead, CEO ­Andrew Liveris expressed confidence that momentum was building. He expects a sustained global recovery led by Asia, which will be "slowly helped by the US recovery, but with Europe lagging."

Outages cost Dow $350m in lost sales in Q2
US major Dow Chemical lost about $350m (€266m) in potential second-quarter sales as a result of outages at its phenol and methyl methacrylate (MMA) plants in the US and its polyethylene (PE) plant in Argentina, said CEO Andrew Liveris on the company's Q2 conference call. "These are one-time events; they are over with; we fixed them," he said. "The plants are running safely." Dow's PE plant in Argentina was down for a month because it could not get water, Liveris said. Dow's phenol plant in Freeport, Texas, went down because of a problem with the heat exchanger. Dow also had an unusually high number of planned turnarounds during the quarter - about 120 out of Dow's estimated 600 plants, Liveris said.

Westlake's Q2 net profit surges on olefins
US-based Westlake Chemical's Q2 net profit rose to $56.9m (€43.2m) from a comparable $16.9m in the same period of 2009 on stronger olefin margins. Q2 sales were up by 42.4% year on year at $818.4m. Stronger integrated olefins margins helped lift its operating profit to $99.5m, from $36.2m. They were partially offset by lower polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin and pipe margins. "The olefins segment benefited from strong domestic and export demand for polyethylene and lower feedstock costs," said CEO Albert Chao. "Our natural gas-based production of ethylene continues to have a cost advantage over naphtha-based ethylene."

Westlake: construction, infrastructure to lag
The US economy will continue to grow gradually, but commercial construction and infrastructure - key vinyl end-markets - will lag behind, Westlake Chemical CEO Albert Chao said on the company's Q2 conference call. The vinyls business had an operating loss of $10.9m (€8.3m) during Q2, improving from a $14.9m loss in Q1. Caustic soda price rises of $80/tonne began to take effect in Q2, with the full amount likely to be implemented in Q3, he said. An extra $50/tonne price hike was announced for Q3. Chao hinted at an upturn in PVC prices, citing an increase in feedstock ethylene spot prices owing to higher naphtha and ethane/propane costs.

Dow seeks more chlor-alkali Joint ventures...
US major Dow Chemical will pursue more chlor-alkali joint ventures (JV) similar to one it recently struck with Mitsui & Co., CEO Andrew Liveris said on the firm's Q2 conference call. Under that deal, the JV will build an 800,000 tonne/year chlor-alkali plant at Dow's complex in Free-port, Texas. The JV directed about 70% of Dow's chlorine footprint to serve the company's downstream businesses, said Liveris. Regarding the remaining 30%, "you can expect to see us find answers to that in an asset-light, equity-light construct," Liveris said. Such a deal could involve Dow's assets in North America and in Europe, he added.

...and PLANS TO raise elastomers capacity
US-based Dow Chemical will increase its polyolefin elastomers capacity at production facilities in Freeport, Texas, US, and Tarragona, Spain, to meet growing demand. The expansions, combined with an under-construction specialty elastomers plant in Thailand from the SCG-Dow Group joint venture, will result in a net increase of 550m lbs (250,000 tonnes) of capacity. Overall, Dow's global capacity for polyolefin elastomers will reach nearly 2bn lbs, according to the firm. Dow did not disclose costs or a timetable for the projects.

Dow/Saudi Aramco confirm JV at Jubail
US-based Dow Chemical and Saudi Aramco have chosen Jubail Industrial City as the location for their planned petrochemicals project in Saudi Arabia. Progress is being made with the project, with front-end engineering and design work expected to be completed by mid-2011, they said in a statement. No details were given of the scale or scope of the updated project, which will be moved from an earlier proposed site at Ras Tanura. "It's really going to be one of the last large complexes [in the Middle East]," said Dow CEO Andrew Liveris on the company's Q2 conference call. "At the end of the day, ­competitive-priced gas, and therefore ethane, in the Middle East has a very short time frame. That's why our Aramco joint venture is so important."

INEOS to sell films unit to Bilcare for €100m
INEOS has entered into a binding agreement for the sale of its global films business to India-based pharma and healthcare solutions provider Bilcare for around €100m ($129.9m). The deal, ­expected to be completed at the end of August, comprises INEOS' films operations in North America, Europe and Asia. "Whilst ­performing well, the INEOS Films business is no longer core to the INEOS Group as the company focuses its attention on its large-scale petrochemicals businesses," said Iain Hogan, CEO of INEOS Films.

Eastman to expand resins production
US-based Eastman Chemical plans to expand production of hydrogenated hydrocarbon resins in the Netherlands and the US. Eastman said it will expand production at its Middelburg, Netherlands, plant and at its plant at Longview, Texas, US. Production of Eastman's Regalite hydrogenated aliphatic hydrocarbon resins at its Middelburg facility will increase 20% when the expansion is completed in the second half of 2011. In Texas, Eastman will increase capacity of its Eastotac ­hydrogenated aliphatic hydrocarbon resins by 10% by early 2011. Hydrogenated hydrocarbon resins are used as raw materials in hot-melt and pressure sensitive adhesives, and as binders in ­nonwoven products such as ­disposable diapers. They are also used in plastics and rubber ­modification.

Brenntag buys unit from Houghton for $7.1m
Germany-based chemical distributor Brenntag has acquired US-based Houghton Chemical's industrial chemical distribution businesses for $7.1m (€5.5m). The assets, which are expected to generate sales of more than $30m in 2010, distribute products in the US northeast in ­industries ­including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, adhesives, coatings, elastomers and sealants.

Formosa's Mailiao expansion to face delays
Taiwanese producer Formosa Petrochemical Corp. may have to wait longer to secure government approval for its planned expansion in Mailiao, after two fires broke out at the complex last month, industry sources said. The company plans to beef up its ethylene capacity by 300,000 tonnes/year and increase the capacity of its refinery to 580,000 bbl/day. "The expansion permit was supposed to be given to them by the end of the third quarter, but because of the fires last month this could be pushed back by half a year," said Danny Ho, a Taipei-based petroanalyst at Yuanta ­Securities.


By: Joseph Chang
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