14 February 2011 00:00 [Source: ICB]
ENTERPRISE PRODUCTS FIRE BURNING OUT
The fire at US natural gas processor Enterprise Products' west storage facility in Mont Belvieu, Texas, US is burning itself out, sources said last Wednesday. Market sources said that early on Wednesday, the flames were minimal compared with Tuesday, although the company said small hot spots remained. Enterprise spokesman Rick Rainey said pipelines near the fire were not near capacity, so the fire would not burn as long as it would if they were full, according to news reports. The company noted that its main facilities at Mont Belvieu were not damaged and remained operational, including its natural gas liquids (NGL) fractionators, propylene fractionators, butane isomerization units and octane enhancement facility.
PETROLOGISTICS PLANS PROPYLENE RESTART
US-based Petrologistics expected to restart its propylene plant last week, following two weeks of planned maintenance. The 544,000 tonne/year unit in Houston, Texas, US, was taken off line on January 24. The plant produces chemical (CGP) and polymer grade propylene (PGP) through propane dehydrogenation (PDH), and is the only facility of its kind in the US.
MITSUI CONFIRMS CHIBA CRACKER TURNAROUND
Japan's Mitsui Chemicals has confirmed that it will shut its 617,000 tonne/year naphtha cracker in Ichihara, Chiba prefecture, for a turnaround from July 1-27, said a company source. He added that the cracker was operating at close to 100% after it was taken off line last month because of mechanical issues.
PTT TO SHUT TWO CRACKERS FOR MAINTENANCE IN 2011
Thailand's PTT Chemical plans to shut two of its four crackers for scheduled maintenance in 2011, a company source said. The 400,000 tonne/year I-4 No. 2 ethane cracker at Mab Ta Phut industrial complex in Thailand's Rayong province is expected to be taken off line from April 25 to June 12. Another 1m tonne/year ethane cracker at the same site is scheduled for turnaround from June 22 to July 31. The source said the larger cracker was running at low rates of around 40% owing to ongoing maintenance at an upstream 145,000 barrels/day (bbl/day) refinery.
BMS CALLS FORCE MAJEURE ON NORTH AMERICAN PC
Bayer MaterialScience has declared force majeure (FM) on polycarbonates (PC) and bisphenol A (BPA) for North America, effective February 2. The FM is a result of difficulties from severe winter weather at Bayer's 260,000 tonne/year PC plant in Baytown, Texas, US, as well as problems obtaining feedstock materials phenol and BPA. Supply of cumene, the feedstock for phenol, has become extremely tight because of turnarounds from major producers CITGO, Flint Hills Resources and Georgia Gulf. This resulting tightness hit the phenol market.
BP RESTARTS BELGIUM PTA PLANT, AIMS TO LIFT FM
UK-based energy and chemical major BP restarted its purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plant at Geel, Belgium, over the weekend of February 5-6, and aims to run it steadily before it can consider lifting its declaration of force majeure (FM). "So it depends on how the unit performs, safe and steady, before we can make a decision," a company source said. BP's PTA 3 unit, which forms part of its 3.3m tonne/year PTA plant at Geel, has been on 40% allocation and FM since January because of a mechanical problem. This follows two other FM declarations in December and January on BP's PTA 2 unit at Geel.
INEOS BIO BREAKS GROUND ON $130M US BIOREFINERY
INEOS Bio and US-based New Planet Energy have started construction on their $130m (€95m) joint-venture biorefinery in Vera Beach, Florida, US. After starting up in mid-2012, the biorefinery is expected to produce 8m gals/year (24,000 tonnes/year) of advanced biofuels from yard and household wastes, the first US facility to do so on a commercial scale, INEOS Bio said. The firm is part of Switzerland-headquartered INEOS.
CEFIC REJECTS EC'S CDM CREDITS BAN
European chemical trade group Cefic rejected the European Commission's move for a unilateral ban on access to credits from certain Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects after 2013, and urged that credits should instead be granted for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction projects that are additional to global baselines. "Our approach of using global baselines for access to emission credits guarantees that the CDM helps firms and countries to cost-efficiently reach global GHG reduction goals," Cefic said. "It would foster greater availability for businesses to freely access new technologies and promote greater exchange of efficiency best practices."
RHODIA TO EXPAND SOUTH KOREA NYLON 6,6 PLANT
France-based chemical firm Rhodia plans to expand the capacity of its 40,000 tonne/year nylon 6,6 (or polyamide 6,6) plant at Onsen, South Korea, to 50,000 tonnes/year in April. A source with Rhodia said the expanded unit would consume 25,000 tonnes/year of the feedstock adipic acid, while 75,000 tonnes/year of acid will be available for sale.
INEOS DECLARES FORCE MAJEURE ON LILLO HDPE
Switzerland-based chemical firm INEOS has declared force majeure (FM) on supplies of high density polyethylene (HDPE) from its facility at Lillo, Belgium, a company source said. INEOS declared FM on the evening of February 8. The company already has FM in place on HDPE supplies from its 240,000 tonne/year plant at Lavera, France. The exact status of the Lillo HDPE plant was not known as of last Wednesday, but INEOS had been experiencing some major production issues throughout January.
CHINESE MANUFACTURING ACTIVITY EXPECTED TO SLOW
China may be looking at slower manufacturing activities in the coming months, as the country's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) in January declined for the second consecutive month, an analyst said. The January PMI at 52.9 was a full point lower than December's, based on official data. China PMI is a barometer of production activities in factories across the country. While remaining in expansionary mode, as readings had remained above 50%, the pace of growth has been cooling down. However, the purchasing index in January rose by 2.6 points to 69.3. "These trends suggest that China will suffer from the combination of slower growth and rising inflation, at least in the near term, and is likely to intensify some market participants' fear of stagflation," said Jun Ma, chief economist of Deutsche Bank.
INDORAMA CONSORTIUM TO TAKE OVER TREVIRA
A consortium led by Thai polyester major Indorama Ventures has agreed to take over Germany's fiber and filament firm Trevira. Indorama Ventures will, through a joint venture with Italian polyester firm Sinterama, acquire 75% of Trevira, with Sinterama acquiring the remaining 25%. Financial details were not disclosed. Trevira filed for insolvency in 2009 amid the global economic crisis. An attempt to sell it to a group of German investors failed in late 2009.
MODERATE GROWTH FOR GERMANY CONSTRUCTION
Germany's building and construction industry expects only modest growth in 2011, even as Europe's largest economy is expected to continue strengthening, said construction trade group Zentralverband des Deutschen Baugewerbes (ZDB). It forecasts sales growth of 1.1% to €82.7bn ($113.3bn) in 2011, as increased private and commercial building is partially offset by an expected decline in the public building and construction market. The outlook for Germany's building and construction sector compares with the government's forecast of 2.3% GDP growth this year. In the chemical industry, production is expected to grow 2.5% from 2010.
HK PETROCHEMICAL TO SHUT PS UNIT
Hong Kong Petrochemical will start a scheduled turnaround at its 140,000 tonne/year polystyrene (PS) plant in Yuen Long, New Territories, this week, said a company source. The unit, which can produce general-purpose (GP) PS and high-impact (HI) PS, will be shut for 10-14 days. "The supply of PS in the market remains adequate and the shutdown of Hong Kong Petrochemical's unit would likely have limited impact," said a trader in Hong Kong.
OUTAGES HIT FCCS AT TWO TEXAS REFINERIES
CITGO and Flint Hills Resources (FHR) had outages of fluid catalytic crackers (FCC) at their Corpus Christi refineries in Texas, US last Wednesday, according to market sources. Sources said CITGO's outage of its 12,800 barrels/day (bbl/day) FCC was to repair a leak in a joint expansion. The refinery's larger 70,000 bbl/day FCC has been down for turnaround since mid January. Market sources at FHR's 290,078 bbl/day refinery said an FCC was down as well.
UNIPETROL TO SHUT FACILITIES IN SEPTEMBER
Czech Republic-based Unipetrol's petrochemical plants at Litvinov, in the north of the country, will be shut down for 30 days starting in September. The shutdowns, for maintenance and as yet unspecified upgrades, take place every four years. Unipetrol will shut down a 544,000 tonne/year ethylene steam cracker; a 320,000 tonne/year polyethylene (PE) unit; a 275,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) plant; a 350,000 tonne/year ammonia unit and a 200,000 tonne/year urea facility.
ARTLANT PTA IS NEW NAME FOR ARTENIUS SINES
Artlant PTA is the new name of Artenius Sines, the Portugal-based purified terephthalic acid (PTA) producer said. A 700,000 tonne/year PTA plant being built at Artlant PTA's site in Sines, Portugal, is due for completion in the fourth quarter of 2011. As part of its restructuring, La Seda de Barcelona (LSB) sold 59% of its stake in Artenius Sines to three Portuguese investment funds in September 2010. LSB began building the Sines PTA plant in March 2008 with an investment of more than €400m ($548m), including €100m of aid from EU funds.
LG CHEM TO SHUT 760,000 TONNE/YEAR CRACKER
South Korea's LG Chem will shut its 760,000 tonne/year naphtha cracker in Daesan for turnaround and expansion from March 15, a company source said. The cracker is expected to be taken off line for a month and its ethylene capacity increased to about 900,000 tonnes/year after debottlenecking work. LG Chem also runs a 1m tonne/year naphtha cracker in Yeosu.
FMC SWINGS TO $53.5M Q4 LOSS ON RESTRUCTURING
US-based chemical firm FMC posted a net loss of $53.5m (€39m) in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2010 - down from a $62.1m profit in the same period the previous year amid restructuring charges related to the shutdown of the company's phosphates business in Spain. Sales for FMC were $810.5m, up by 12% year on year. Revenue in FMC's industrial chemicals segment increased by 5% to $273.1m as volumes grew within soda ash, particularly for export. FMC expects industrial earnings to rise 10% year on year in Q1 2011, driven by volume growth and higher selling prices.
POSSIBLE BUYERS MULLED FOR BP US ASSETS
US-based PBF Energy, private equity groups and foreign refiners have been considered top candidates for buying the US assets BP put on the market at the start of February, including the Texas City refinery, refining sources said. Such foreign refiners could be India's Reliance Industries and Brazil's Petrobras, sources said. BP is selling its 475,000 bbl/day Texas City refinery and its 265,000 bbl/day Carson refinery in California, along with marketing properties in southern California, Arizona and Nevada. BP aims to complete the sales by the end of 2012.
DOW RESTARTS TERNEUZEN NO. 2 CRACKER
US-based Dow Chemical has restarted its No. 2 cracker at Terneuzen, in the Netherlands, and is currently ramping up operating rates after a late-planned maintenance stop, a source close to the company said. The cracker restarted over February 5-6. The cracker has the capacity to produce 590,000 tonnes/year of ethylene (C2) and 295,000 tonnes/year of propylene (C3), according to ICIS data. A planned six-week turnaround at the No. 1 cracker is due to start in mid-March.
FORMER DOW SCIENTIST CONVICTED OF STEALING
A former US-based research scientist for Dow Chemical was convicted of stealing trade secrets related to its chlorinated polyethylene (CPE) Tyrin and selling them to China, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said. The department said 74-year-old Wen Chyu Liu, also known as David W. Liou, was found guilty by a federal trial jury in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, US, and faces up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $250,000 (€183,000). Liu retired from Dow in 1992 after 27 years at the company. "The evidence at trial established that Liou conspired with at least four current and former employees of Dow's facilities in Plaquemine, US, and Stade, Germany, to misappropriate those trade secrets in an effort to develop and market CPE process design packages to various Chinese companies," according to the DOJ.
PERSTORP LIFTS TDI FM; KEEPS CHLOR-ALKALI FM
Sweden-based chemical company Perstorp lifted its declaration of force majeure on supplies of toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) from its site at Pont-de-Claix, France, on February 1, but the force majeure on chlor-alkali products remains in place, a company source said. Perstorp brought the TDI unit fully back on stream after repair work, which had resulted in reduced operating rates for a few weeks during January. The source added it would take approximately one month to return to normal inventories for TDI. The force majeure remains in place for Perstorp's chlor-alkali products from the site because of ongoing downstream difficulties with caustic soda, the source said. The site has nameplate chlorine capacity of 170,000 tonnes/year and TDI capacity of 126,000 tonnes/year.
PORT OF ROTTERDAM BIOFUEL TRAFFIC FALLS
The Port of Rotterdam's total biofuels throughput in 2010 fell by 12% year on year to 4.6m tonnes, according to The Port of Rotterdam Authority. Reported figures were distorted by a large influx of subsidized biodiesel from the US at the start of 2009. At the segment level, figures showed biodiesel throughput in 2010 declined by 35% from 2009 to 1.5m tonnes. Bioethanol throughput in 2010 remained stable at 2.2m tonnes. Inbound trade declined from 1.5m tonnes to 1.4m tonnes, while bioethanol imports from Brazil fell sharply, to just over 10% of the total on limited availability of ethanol in Brazil that matched EU specifications.
BASF TO CLOSE PAPER DYES PLANT IN LUDWIGSHAFEN
German chemical major BASF will close its Basazol paper dyes production facility in Ludwigshafen, Germany, as part of a strategic restructuring of its paper chemicals division. BASF said it would serve European demand for paper dyes from its two global production sites in Ankleshwar, India, and Altamira, Mexico. "With this decision, we are adjusting our production structures to the changing conditions on the worldwide market," said Fred Baumgartner, president of the paper chemicals division.
ZAT CEO POSITIVE ON POLAND PROSPECTS
The newly installed CEO of Poland's expanded Zaklady Azoty Tarnow (ZAT) group is predicting bright growth prospects for Polish chemical companies emerging from the economic downturn. Jerzy Marciniak - now at the helm of subsidiary Zaklady Azotowe Kedzierzyn (ZAK), as well as ZAT - is hoping for 2011 annual group revenue of more than zlotych 3.5bn ($1.22bn, €902m). That figure, roughly 15% up on analysts' estimated 2010 combined revenue figure for ZAT and ZAK, might see the group edge ahead of the Ciech Group to become Poland's largest chemical producer based on revenue. "The Tarnow group is now active in fertilizers, caprolactam (capro) and oxo-alcohols, and in all spheres we see upward movement," Marciniak said.
LANXESS TO SHIFT INDIA PRODUCTION TO JHAGADIA
Germany-based chemical company LANXESS is shifting its Indian production plants from Madurai, in Tamil Nadu state, to its site in Jhagadia, in Gujarat state. LANXESS plans to complete the relocation, which would affect facilities that make leather chemicals and material protection products, as well as products from the group's subsidiary, Rhein Chemie, by the end of 2011. LANXESS has invested about €60m ($82m) in the 13ha (32 acre) Jhagadia site. Production at an ion-exchange resins facility and a rubber chemicals plant began at Jhagadia in 2010, while new plastic compounding facilities are expected to start up in 2012.
AKZONOBEL OPENS NEW COATINGS PLANT IN INDIA
Netherlands-based paints and coatings company AkzoNobel opened its industrial coatings plant near Bangalore, India. The facility is capable of manufacturing up to 18m liters/year of coil and specialty plastic coatings, with scope for further expansion. The plant is in Hoskote on an AkzoNobel site that already manufactures marine and protective coatings, automotive coatings and powder coatings. "Increasing our capacity in India is important because local demand is growing," said Conrad Keijzer, managing director of AkzoNobel's industrial coatings division.
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