This week's world news

04 April 2011 00:00  [Source: ICB]

NPRA 2011: INEOS MAY START BUILDING US EO
INEOS Oxide could start construction on an ethylene oxide (EO) plant and its derivative units in 2015 if the company's board approves the project. The group - part of Swiss headquartered INEOS - should have more specific plans about the scope of the project by the end of 2011, said Hans Casier, CEO of INEOS Oxide. Casier made his comments on the sidelines of the International Petrochemical Conference (IPC), hosted by the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) in San Antonio, Texas, US. The project is centered on a 500,000 tonne/year EO unit plus derivatives.

SABIC WEIGHS SECOND SAUDI KAYAN HDPE PLANT
Saudi Arabia-based petrochemical major SABIC is considering building another 300,000 tonne/year high density polyethylene (HDPE) plant at the Saudi Kayan complex in Al-Jubail. The project, if approved, will feed expanding demand from downstream industries in the region - as well as exports - and will double SABIC's HDPE capacity at the site to 600,000 tonnes/year, according to Khaled al-Mana, the company's executive vice president for polymers. "We are in the planning process and have no date [for start-up]," Al-Mana said, adding that SABIC expects to decide later this year whether to proceed.

NPRA 2011: BRENNTAG PLANS ACQUISITIONS – CEO
Brenntag plans to make further acquisitions this year as the business continues to grow following record profits in 2010, newly appointed CEO Steve Holland said last week. "We have a great track record for delivering on acquisitions and I would expect to see more in 2011," he said. Holland, who takes over as CEO at the Germany-based international chemicals distributor on 22 June, said there was €150m-200m ($211m-282m) set aside for merger and acquisition activity this year. He did not give details of any targets, but said "the pipeline is pretty much full."

NPRA 2011: NOVA PLANS TO UPGRADE CRACKER
Canada's NOVA Chemicals plans to spend more than $100m (€71m) to upgrade its Corunna ethylene facility so it can take 100% light feedstock, a top company executive said last week. Speaking on the sidelines of the International Petrochemical Conference (IPC) in Houston, NOVA president of olefins and feedstocks Grant Thomson said the upgrade is part of the company's objective for its Corunna cracker to access 40,000 bbl/day of ethane from the Marcellus Shale reserves in the US via pipeline by late 2013.

BAYER MATERIALSCIENCE PLANS CHINA COATINGS
Germany-based polymers and plastics major Bayer Material­Science is planning to invest €65m ($91.5m) in a worldscale production facility for coating raw materials in Shanghai, China. The new production facility for the coating raw material isophorone di-isocyanate will be built at Bayer MaterialScience's integrated site in Shanghai. The inauguration of the plant is scheduled for 2015. The project is part of the company's €1bn expansion plans for its production capacities in China, and the addition of the new plant will mean the total investment by Bayer MaterialScience in China will have increased to €3bn.

BASF, PETRONAS CONSIDER SUPERABSORBENT FACILITY
German chemical major BASF and Malaysian state energy company PETRONAS are planning a feasibility study for a superabsorbent polymers plant in Malaysia. The plant would be part of their BASF PETRONAS Chemicals joint venture, which operates an integrated petrochemicals complex, producing acrylic monomers, oxo products and butanediol (BDO) in the Gebeng industrial zone in Pahang. The companies are also examining the expansion of existing capacities. "With this capacity expansion and extension into superabsorbent polymers we extract further potential of our acrylics value chain in BASF PETRONAS Chemicals," said Martin Brudermuller, BASF executive board member.

BRAZIL'S PETROBRAS TO BUY ARGENTINA'S INNOVA
Brazilian energy giant Petrobras plans to purchase Innova, a second-generation petrochemical company owned by Petrobras Argentina. The operation was approved by the company's board on March 25. However, official figures for the deal were not released. Innova operates within the Triunfo petrochemical complex, in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. The company was acquired by Petrobras Argentina in 2000 and will be operated by Brazil's petrochemical arm after the purchase.

JAPAN DISASTER: KEIYO POLYETHYLENE TO RESTART
Japan's Keiyo Polyethylene is expected to restart its 63,000 tonne/year high density polyethylene (HDPE) plant at Chiba, Japan, in April when an upstream cracker operated by compatriot Maruzen Petrochemical resumes production next month, a source at Maruzen Petrochemical said last week. The HDPE plant was shut on March 11 when a fire broke out at a neighbouring refinery operated by Cosmo Oil in the wake of the earthquake, the source said. Keiyo Polyethylene is a joint venture between Maruzen Petrochemical and Chisso.

PETKIM BEGINS TRIAL PRODUCTION OF XLPE
Turkey's Petkim has begun trial production of cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE). Initial results from a plant that will eventually produce 30,000 tonnes/year of XLPE are encouraging, the company said. Petkim hopes to become the first Turkish supplier of XLPE to the domestic market. The creation of the plant is in line with Petkim's strategy of establishing new production units at its petrochemical "super site" - under construction on the Aliaga peninsula by the Aegean Sea, near Izmir, western Turkey. The plan could reduce Turkey's reliance on petrochemical imports.

EXXONMOBIL CHEMICAL LAUNCHES $90M CENTER
US group ExxonMobil Chemical is planning to increase development of new premium products for Asia by opening a $90m (€64m) technology center it completed over two years in fast-growing China. The Shanghai Technology Center (STC), inaugurated by ExxonMobil Chemical president Stephen Pryor, aims to help deliver innovative customer solutions. "We anticipate tremendous premium-product growth and this center will support that growth by delivering innovative customer solutions," Pryor said at the opening ceremony of the STC, located in Shanghai's Zizhu Science-based Industrial Park.

TOTAL CHINA EYES €30M LUBRICANT PLANT
Total China Investment is planning to invest €30m ($42m) to build a 200,000 tonne/year lubricant blending plant in Tianjin, a coastal city in northern China, the company - part of French energy group Total - said last week. Construction of the plant is expected to start in June and operations are scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2012. The plant, which will be one of Total's largest lubricant production units in Asia, will be wholly owned and operated by Total (Tianjin) Manufacturing.

NPRA 2011: PETCHEMS TOLD TO CONFRONT MEDIA
US petrochemical producers should speak up and confront news media, environmentalists and others who are hostile to business, a leading television news personality said. John Stossel, host of Fox Business television, told executives at the International Petrochemical Conference that capitalism and business are not celebrated "because we take for granted all that business and capitalism provide, and you don't sell your case very well." Stossel described widespread prejudice and even hatred for business among mainstream news media and liberals, arguing that they hate business because they see life as a zero-sum system.

NPRA 2011: OPTIMISM FOR JAPAN'S QUICK RECOVERY
Japan will not take too long to recover from the damage wrought by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami, which caused some disruption to petrochemical supply, industry figures said last week. "Not to make too light of the situation here, but it really is just a matter of time," Gary Adams, president of global consultancy CMAI told delegates at the International Petrochemical Conference. The Japanese economy is unlikely to suffer in the long term from the disasters, and the impact on its financial markets and on the supply chain is "transitory," he said.

NPRA 2011: ALBERTA PROMPTS ETHANE GROWTH
Alberta has identified additional sources of ethane that could help revitalize the province's petrochemicals industry, a provincial administration executive said last week. Volumes of ethane ­available from existing straddle plants, which feed the four worldscale crackers in the province have passed their peak. And the ­province is offering incentives to ­extract the valuable chemicals feedstock from oil sands ­processing off-gases and has ­pinpointed where additional ­volumes might be made available from existing sources.

CHEMCHINA GETS NOD FOR MERGER WITH MAKHTESHIM
China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) has received approval from China's top economic planning body to buy a controlling stake in Israeli crop protection chemicals major Makhteshim Agan. Makhteshim said the approval from the National Development and Reform Commission of China is part of the companies' merger agreement from January, under which ChemChina will acquire a 60% stake in Makhteshim. Under the deal, Makhteshim will become a private company owned jointly by ChemChina (60%) and Israel's Koor Industries (40%). Makhteshim added that approvals are also required from China's commerce ministry and from the foreign exchange.

ZHEJIANG HENGYI TO START UP SHANGHAI POLYESTER
China's Zhejiang Hengyi Group plans to start production at its new 600,000 tonne/year polycondensation plant in Shanghai, China, in September, a company source said. The new line will mainly produce bottle chips, but it can also manufacture fiber chips according to the market situation. With the new plant, Zhejiang Hengyi's total polycondensation capacity will reach 2.1m tonnes/year, the largest in China. The second- and the third-largest Chinese polyester makers would be Jiangsu Sanfangxiang Group and Sinopec Yizheng Chemical Fibre Co, with a total capacity of 2m tonnes/year and 1.7m tonnes/year, respectively.

QIXIANG TENGDA TO BUILD A NEW BD PLANT, TRIPLE MEK
China's Qixiang Tengda Chemical plans to build a new 100,000 tonne/year butadiene (BD) plant and triple the capacity of its 20,000 tonne/year methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) line in Zibo, Shandong province, in 2011. According to a filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, the new BD plant was originally planned to have a capacity of 70,000 tonnes/year, which was expanded after a stockholders' meeting because of the positive outlook for the downstream rubber market. Qixiang Tengda also operates a larger MEK line with a 120,000 tonne/year capacity at the same site. Both the MEK lines - 120,000 tonnes/year and 20,000 tonnes/year - are operating at 70%, a company source said.

JAPAN POLYPROPYLENE RESTARTING KAWASAKI PP
Japan Polypropylene is in the process of restarting its Kawasaki-based polypropylene (PP) plants with a combined capacity of 89,000 tonnes/year and hopes to complete the restart this week, a company source said last week. The Kawasaki plants were shut on 11 March when the earthquake and tsunami hit the northeast of Japan. Japan Polypropylene is still unable to restart its Kashima-based PP plants, with a combined capacity of 646,000 tonnes/year, as these plants are located in Mitsubishi Chemical's petrochemical complex, which suffered damage to some of its facilities during the quake.

HANGZHOU TIANYUAN TO DOUBLE POLYESTER
China's Hangzhou Tianyuan Polyester plans to start building a 500,000 tonne/year polyester yarn plant at Hangzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang province in July. "We've just made payment to Barmag for purchasing spinning machines," a company source said on the sidelines of a major industry event held in Hangzhou on 30-31 March. He declined to give further details. Construction and equipment installation are expected to be completed in August-September 2012, he said, adding that commercial start-up would depend on the market situation. With the addition of the new plant, the company's total polyester capacity will reach 900,000 tonnes/year, he said.

TIANJIN LUGANG SBR UNIT ACHIEVES ON-SPEC
China's Tianjin Lugang Petroleum and Rubber achieved on-spec product at its new 100,000 tonne/year styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) unit on 30 March, a source close to the company said. The new plant was started up early last week, though it was originally scheduled to start up by the end of 2010. The delay was caused by some technical issues. The feedstock butadiene (BD) for the new plant is supplied by Tianjin Petrochemical Co, the joint venture between Sinopec and SABIC, the source added.

BAYER LIFTS FM ON NORTH AMERICAN PC, BPA
Bayer MaterialScience lifted its force majeure (FM) on North American polycarbonates (PCs) and bisphenol A (BPA) effective 28 March. The company declared FM on the materials on 2 February because of production issues caused by freezing weather at its 260,000 tonne/year facility in Baytown, Texas, US. The lifting of the FM is expected to weaken momentum for several price increase announcements in the US PC market. Bayer was seeking a price increase of 25 cents/lb ($551/tonne, €391/tonne), effective 31 March or as contracts allow. Styron is ­seeking a price increase of 22 cents/lb effective on 1 April or as contracts allow.

A. SCHULMAN TO ADD LINES TO RESIN-POWDER PLANT
US-based A. Schulman plans to add several lines to its plant in China, Texas, which processes plastic resins into powders. A. Schulman did not specify the number of lines it would add to the plant. However, the new lines should start running by early 2012. The company is adding the lines to meet higher demand, it said. Such powders are typically used by rotational molders.

EVONIK TO BUILD NEW ALCOHOLATES PLANT
German chemical company Evonik Degussa is to build a new alcoholates manufacturing plant in the Argentine province of Santa Fe. "Evonik Degussa is the leading world supplier of this product and it holds over 50% of the market share in Argentina," said Andre Noppe, vice president of marketing and sales at Evonik Industries. The investment for this project will be $30m (€21.3m). The plant will produce alcoholates to be used as catalysts for the manufacture of biodiesel in Argentina. The plant will have nameplate capacity of at least 60,000 tonnes/year.

CIECH BACKING AWAY FROM SALE OF ROMANIA SODA
Poland's Ciech is backing away from a possible sale of Romania-based soda ash subsidiary US Govora Ciech, Raiffeisen Centrobank said last week. This followed market changes that have lowered the competition threat posed by trona-based natural soda ash production launched in Turkey, the investment bank added. "The new low-cost soda capacities launched in Turkey last year did not harm Ciech's [Romania-based] business as strongly as expected, since part of the production was directed into the Middle East and Asian markets," said Raiffeisen analyst Dominik Niszcz. "As a result Govora was able to increase volumes and now Ciech's management is not inclined toward selling the subsidiary," he added.

SPOLCHEMIE READY FOR INTERNATIONAL EXPANSION
Spolchemie is ready to plan for an international expansion following setbacks caused by the financial crisis, the CEO of the Czech Republic-based synthetic resin producer has said. "Before the crisis, we had some concrete plans for expansion in Asia; those projects were shelved. Now, we are taking those projects off the shelves again," said Paul Yianni. "We are looking again at international expansion but it's too early to have anything firm on that," he added. "I guess we have lost two years because of the crisis. Now, we are picking up from where we were two years ago," Yianni said. Yianni became CEO of Spolchemie on 1 January after replacing interim CEO Francois Vleugels.

JAPAN DISASTER: LANXESS REOPENS TOKYO OFFICE
Germany-based specialty chemicals company LANXESS has reopened its Tokyo office after being shut for just over two weeks following the earthquake in Japan. Around 60 employees in the Japanese capital have returned to their desks after an assessment of the current safety situation in Tokyo. The group's management team, which had been working temporarily at the site of LANXESS subsidiary Rhein Chemie in Toyohashi, is also working out of Tokyo again. "Production in Toyohashi has so far been unaffected by the consequences of the earthquake," said the company.

US DUPONT AGAIN EXTENDS OFFER FOR DANISCO
US chemicals major DuPont is extending its tender offer to acquire the shares of Denmark's Danisco, for a second time. DuPont also indicated it will not raise its bid. The company said its second extension, by four weeks until April 29, for its $6.3bn (€4.5bn) deal to acquire the Danish food ingredients and enzymes firm would provide additional time to secure approvals from regulators in the EU and China. "We believe Danisco shareholders are recognizing that our offer is full, fair and firm and, moreover, it is the best offer available and provides certainty to shareholders," said CEO Ellen Kullman.

PPG INDUSTRIES EXPECTS STRONG 2011 Q1 RESULTS
PPG Industries expects to report strong 2011 first-quarter results as its chemicals and coatings businesses benefit from the global recovery, the CEO of the US-based producer said last week. PPG expects earnings per share for the quarter ending on March 31 in the range of $1.30-1.35 (€0.92- €0.96), compared with $0.69 in the 2010 first quarter and $0.18 in the 2009 first quarter. "Our aggressive cost focus, coupled with continued recovery in global industrial activity levels and slightly higher than anticipated European volumes, has resulted in higher year-on-year earnings and comparable margins in our combined coatings and optical and specialty materials segments," said CEO Charles Bunch.

EVONIK INDUSTRIES TO EXPAND METHACRYLATES
German specialty group Evonik Industries is expanding its production capacity for methacrylate specialty esters in Germany and the US to meet increasing market demand. Although the company did not disclose detailed production capacity information, it said that its methacrylate specialty esters capacity would effectively be doubled at its production site in Mobile, Alabama, US. At its facility in Worms, Germany, the expansion will be planned later this year. Evonik produces 225,000 tonnes/year of methyl methacrylate at its Worms site, as assessed by ICIS.

BUILDS ISOPHORONE PLANTS IN SHANGHAI
Evonik Industries will build new isophorone and isophorone diamine plants in Shanghai, China, as part of its strategy to expand its market position in isophorone chemicals, particularly in Asia. Basic engineering at Evonik's production site in Shanghai is forecast to be complete within the next few months, and the worldscale plants are scheduled to go on stream in 2013.


By: Joseph Chang
+1 713 525 2653



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