This week's world news

23 June 2011 16:55  [Source: ICB]

EASTMAN TO BUY STERLING CHEMICALS FOR $100M
US-based Eastman Chemical has agreed to acquire US-based Sterling Chemicals for about $100m (€69m). The deal includes Sterling Chemicals' production assets in Texas City, Texas. Eastman plans to modify and restart Sterling's idled plasticizer plant to produce non-phthalate plasticizers in order to strengthen its position in that market. The acquisition also includes Sterling's acetic acid plant, also in Texas City, and its supply to BP Amoco Chemical under a long-term production agreement.

HOLLAND TAKES OVER AS CEO OF BRENNTAG
Steven Holland took over as CEO of Germany-based chemical distributor Brenntag last Wednesday. Holland took over the reins from Stephen Clark, who is now a member of the supervisory board, at the company's annual general shareholders meeting. Holland, who has been with the company since 2006, was Brenntag's chief operating officer. "We push ahead for our proven growth strategy and will consistently continue our expansion both organically and through acquisitions," said Holland.

ANWIL PUTS CZECH'S SPOLANA UP FOR SALE
Poland-based chemical firm Anwil has put its Czech polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and caprolactam (capro) subsidiary Spolana up for sale. "We would like to confirm that our company has begun a sale process for Spolana," said Krzysztof Wojdylo, Anwil marketing manager. Wojdylo added that Anwil is waiting for preliminary offers, which should be submitted by mid-July. In March, Polish chemical group Zaklady Azotowe Tarnow (ZAT) said that it was interested in increasing its capro capacity by acquiring Spolana's 40,000 tonne/year capro business. ZAT said that it is also interested in finding a joint-venture partner to purchase Spolana's 130,000 tonne/year PVC business.

CELANESE COMPLETES VAE EXPANSION AT NANJING
US-based chemical company Celanese has completed a vinyl acetate ethylene (VAE) expansion at its production complex in Nanjing, China, and started production. The expansion, which has doubled Celanese's VAE capacity at the complex, should help meet the increased global demand for vinyl-based emulsions, the company said. Capacity and financial details were not disclosed.

US NATGAS FIRMS TO BUILD NGL PIPELINE IN TEXAS
US natural gas processing and pipeline firms Energy Transfer and Regency Energy plan to build a 530-mile natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline from the Permian Basin in west Texas to a processing plant in Jackson County, near Houston. The project comes amid "a dramatic increase" in drilling in the Permian Basin, which prompted the need for additional NGL takeaway capacity from west Texas, the companies said. The pipeline will cost about $700m (€483m) and have a minimum capacity of about 130,000 bbl/day, with completion expected by the first quarter of 2013.

FURTHER CHLORINE LEAKS REPORTED AT RUSSIA PLANT
Chlorine leaked last Tuesday night at Russia's Khimprom Novocheboksarsk chemical plant in Chuvashia, the regional emergency situations department said. The leak happened at the company's production unit No. 51, and followed a similar incident on June 20, but no serious damage was reported following either leak, the department said. Khimprom Novocheboksarsk declined to comment. Last month, the Chuvashiya regional authorities launched a criminal probe into two chlorine leaks that took place at the company's production unit No. 411 on April 27-28. The plant produces 150 chemicals, including chlorine, caustic soda, herbicides and methylene chloride.

POLAND COMPLETES FIRST HORIZONTAL SHALE WELL
UK-based oil and gas firm 3Legs Resources has completed Poland's first horizontal well in the search for shale gas. High gas saturations were encountered throughout the 1,000m (3,281 foot) horizontal section of the well, 4,080m below the surface at Lebien, in the Baltic Basin of northern Poland. "We are pleased to have finalized the drilling and casing of our first horizontal well which is, to the best of our knowledge, the first horizontal shale gas well to be drilled in Poland," said CEO Peter Clutterbuck. "We are encouraged by the excellent gas shows encountered while drilling and we look forward to the results of the well stimulation and test program later this year."

QINGDAO PETROCHEMICAL SHUTS PP PLANT
China's Qingdao Petrochemical shut its 20,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) plant in Qingdao, Shandong province, last Wednesday for a 45-day turnaround, a source close to the company said. Qingdao Petrochemical produces mainly biaxially-oriented PP (BOPP), but the shutdown is unlikely to have a significant impact on supply in the region because two other producers - Jinan Refinery and Qilu Petrochemical - will increase production of this grade, the source said.

BAYER EXPANDS SHANGHAI POLYMER R&D CENTER
Germany-based Bayer MaterialScience (BMS) has broken ground on the third phase of the expansion of its polymer research & development (R&D) center in Shanghai, China. The center is scheduled to be operational by the second half of 2012. The project is part of Bayer Group's €1bn ($1.45bn) investment plan, which was announced in December 2010, to expand its facilities in Shanghai with an eye on generating about €5bn in total sales from the Greater China region by 2015. "China is the largest market in the Asia/Pacific region and the third-largest single market for Bayer globally," said Bayer Group chairman Marijn Dekkers.

BOREALIS TO SHUT TWO MELAMINE PLANTS AT LINZ
Austria-based chemical company Borealis will permanently shut its 20,000 tonne/year melamine low-pressure plant at Linz, Austria, on June 27. The company earlier decommissioned a 10,000 tonne/year melamine low-pressure plant at the Linz site in January 2010. The decision to decommission the plants was made as investments in melamine low-pressure plants "do not pay off in Europe", the company said.

ZHEJIANG HENGYI TO BUILD CHEMICAL COMPLEX
China's Zhejiang Hengyi Group plans to build a yuan (CNY)4bn ($618m) petrochemical complex at Akesu in Xinjiang province, a local government official said. The complex would be able to produce 3m tonnes/year of methanol, 1m tonnes/year of monoethylene glycol (MEG) and 500,000 tonnes/year of propylene (C3), said the source. Natural gas will be used as a feedstock for the complex, he added. "The project is under preliminary study at present. Xinjiang is a remote area and the project's investor needs to ascertain where to get its resources, where the markets are and how to transport its output," the source said.

SHELL TO SHUT SINGAPORE CRACKER IN AUGUST
Anglo-Dutch energy and chemical firm Shell is expected to shut its 800,000 tonne/year mixed feed cracker in Singapore in August for slightly more than a month, market sources said. "We heard the cracker could be shut around August 11," said one olefins trader. Market sources said Shell is taking the cracker off line for an equipment change, but did not provide further details. A Shell spokesperson had earlier said that it was not the company's policy to discuss maintenance schedules at its cracker on Bukom Island. Shell is expected to keep its derivative 750,000 tonne/year monoethylene glycol (MEG) plant at the same site running during the cracker's shutdown, sources added.

TSRC TO CLOSE BUTADIENE RUBBER PLANT IN AUGUST
Taiwan-based chemical firm TSRC will shut down its 60,000 tonne/year butadiene rubber (BR) plant in mid-August for one month, a company source said. The plant, which is located at Kaohsiung, will be shut for maintenance because of high feedstock butadiene (BD) costs which have eroded TSRC's margins. The source declined to say how much the company's margins have eroded.

SHANGHAI SECCO TO DOUBLE BD CAPACITY
China's Shanghai SECCO Petrochemical plans to double its butadiene (BD) capacity to 180,000 tonnes/year by adding a 90,000 tonne/year BD unit in Shanghai, a company source said. The new unit is under environmental assessment and is expected to receive governmental approvals this year, according to the source. The source declined to provide the investment and time frame for the new unit.

METHANEX CONSIDERS MOVING CHILEAN PLANT
Canada-based Methanol producer Methanex is considering moving one of its shuttered methanol plants in Chile to North America, said senior vice president John Floren. He added that the company also is studying whether to restart one of its three closed plants in Chile with coal instead of natural gas. "We'll make a decision by the end of the year," Floren said.

EXXONMOBIL EYES 2012 FOR SINGAPORE PROJECT
US-based ExxonMobil Chemical expects to start up all the plants at its second petrochemical project in Singapore by the second half of 2012, with the 1m tonne/year steam cracker to be the last to come on stream, said Georges Grosliere, venture director for the project at ExxonMobil. The cracker is still under construction and is not likely to start up before the end of the year as was initially projected, taking into account the complexity of integration and safety of the plants, he said. The company has yet to finalize the sequence of starting up the facilities at the site on Jurong Island, but it intends to bring a polymer plant on line before the end of the year. ExxonMobil's second petrochemical project includes two 650,000 tonne/year polyethylene (PE) plants, a 450,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) plant and a 300,000 tonne/year specialty elastomers unit.

W.R. GRACE IN TALKS TO MAKE ACQUISITION
US-based specialty chemicals producer W.R. Grace & Co. had no comment regarding the company's discussions in a court filing to make what it called a strategic acquisition. The acquisition plans go back to at least May when Grace's board allowed the company to start "diligence" regarding the deal, Grace said in court documents. The deal could significantly improve the company's business plan and growth strategy in the upcoming years, Grace said in documents filed in bankruptcy court.

US EPA PROPOSES CUT IN 2012 CELLULOSIC ETHANOL
US cellulosic ethanol usage could fall significantly in 2012 based on a government proposal to cut the amount of biofuel refiners that would be required to blend in gasoline. Cellulosic ethanol is identical to regular ethanol, except that the product is made from biomass that does not include edible feedstocks, such as corn. The mandate for US cellulosic ethanol consumption in 2012 would be cut to 3.45m-12.90m gal (13.06m-48.83m liters), from a previous 500m gal target, under a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA cited a study of "market availability" as the reason behind the reduction, indicating that the US continues to lack cellulosic ethanol production on the scale needed to meet its targets.

LBC EXPANDS BELGIUM STORAGE FOR BASE OILS
LBC Tank Terminals is to expand storage of base oils at its terminal in Antwerp, Belgium, from 228,000 cubic metres (m³) to 270,000m³, with completion in the second quarter of 2012. "We are setting out to make LBC a stronger and more competitive business," said Simon Madgwick, LBC's group director of strategic development. "With a strong global customer base in chemical and petroleum production, we are looking to add storage capacity in existing and new markets."

SHANGHAI PETROCHEMICAL SET TO SHUT PE PLANTS
China's Shanghai Petrochemical, a subsidiary of state-operated refining and petrochemical firm Sinopec, plans to shut down its 190,000 tonne/year low density polyethylene (LDPE) plant and 250,000 tonne/year high density polyethylene (HDPE) plant for a turnaround in late July, a source close to the company said. The two plants are located in Shanghai, and the maintenance will last for around one month, noted the source. The LDPE plant has two lines with a capacity of 90,000 tonnes/year and 100,000 tonnes/year, respectively.

STATOIL AIMS TO RAISE CRUDE PRODUCTION
Norway's state-controlled Statoil expects to raise overall production of crude, condensate and natural gas liquids from 1.9m barrels of oil equivalent/day (boe/day) in 2010 to 2.5m boe/day by 2020. The forecast breaks down into 1.4m boe/day production from the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) and 1.1m boe/day from Statoil's overseas production facilities. Statoil aims to have between three and five offshore business clusters outside the NCS from among the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, Angola, the Caspian region and the Arctic.

OPP TO RUN PP PLANT AT FULL CAPACITY BY 2015
A company restructuring will enable Oman Polypropylene (OPP) to run its polypropylene (PP) plant at full capacity by 2015, a source close to the company said last week. The restructuring is part of the government of Oman's move to integrate OPP with Aromatics Oman and Oman Refineries and Petrochemicals to form Oman Oil Refineries and Petroleum Industries Company (Orpic). The move combines four plants in two locations in Oman, including the Mina Al Fahal refinery near Muscat and the Sohar refinery, aromatics and PP plants in the Sohar Port Industrial Complex.

AURORA ALGAE PLANS FACILITY IN AUSTRALIA

US producer of algae-based products Aurora Algae plans a commercial-scale photosynthetic algae facility at Maitland, Western Australia. The facility will "manufacture thousands of tonnes of algae-based biomass" annually for use in nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, aquaculture and renewable energy markets, the company said. Financial details and an expected start-up date have yet to be disclosed.

JX NIPPON AIMS FOR JUNE ON-SPEC PX PRODUCTION
JX Nippon Oil & Energy has restarted its Kashima and Oita paraxylene (PX) units and is expecting to reach on-spec production during June. The 420,000 tonne/year facility in Oita, Kyushu was taken off line on 10 May so a scheduled turnaround could take place. JX Nippon Oil also restarted its 420,000 tonne/year Kashima-based PX unit with on-spec production expected by early July. The Kashima plant was shut on 11 March following the earthquake that hit Miyagi prefecture.

TAIWAN'S FPC RUNS ITS MAILIAO ECH PLANT AT 90%
Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Corp. (FPC) has ramped up the operating rate of its epichlorohydrin (ECH) plant at Mailiao to above 90% last week, a company source said. FPC had been running the plant at a rate of 70-80% since it was restarted in late May.

TORAY TO SUPPLY CARBON FIBERS TO TENCATE
Japan's Toray Industries will supply carbon fibers to TenCate Advanced Composites for the production of thermoplastic composite materials through 2015, the Dutch functional materials maker said. TenCate will use the material to produce composite laminates for the aerospace industry.

SHELL, CNPC SIGN WELL MANUFACTURING DEAL
Shell has signed a shareholders' agreement with China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) on 20 June to establish a 50:50 "well manufacturing" joint venture, the Chinese oil major said. The two companies plan to develop a highly automated "well manufacturing system" that is expected to improve efficiency in drilling and completing new wells onshore.

K+S SELLS COMPO TO PRIVATE EQUITY FIRM
German fertilizer firm K+S has agreed to sell its COMPO division to private equity firm Triton. The transaction, with an enterprise value of €205m ($293m) for COMPO, is expected to close this summer. K+S did not disclose the selling price of the business.

MEXICHEM BUYS JAPAN REFRIGERANT PLANT
Mexichem has acquired a Showa Denko refrigerants plant in Kawasaki, Japan, the Mexican chemical conglomerate said. Closed since 2009, the Japanese plant was the sole producer of R125 refrigerant in Asia outside of China and is also capable of manufacturing a R-134a refrigerant with a total annual capacity of 10,000 tonnes/year.

IEA SAYS CRUDE PRICES THREATEN RECOVERY
The high crude oil prices seen in 2011 have a "strong potential" to derail the global economic recovery, International Energy Agency's (IEA) chief economist Fatih Birol said. The average price of crude so far this year has been at $110/bbl, much higher than the average price of $90/bbl seen in 2008 when oil prices surged to more than $147/bbl and became part of the cause for the financial crisis, Birol said during a lecture on energy futures in Singapore.

PETROLOGISTICS FILES FOR INITIAL PUBLIC OFFERING
US petrochemicals firm Petrologistics filed a registration statement with securities regulators to raise $600m (€420m) in an initial public offering last week. The Houston-based firm said it plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "PDH."


By: Joseph Chang
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