This week's world news

13 February 2012 00:00  [Source: ICB]

AMERICAS

INDORAMA VENTURES BUYS OLD WORLD FOR $795M
Thailand's Indorama Ventures Ltd. (IVL) will fully acquire US-based ethylene oxide (EO) producer Old World for $795m (€604m). It expects the transaction to be complete within the first quarter of 2012. Old World operates a 435,000 tonne/year EO production facility at Clear Lake, Texas, US. The facility also produces 204,000 tonnes/year of purified EO and 358,000 tonnes of monoethyelene glycol (MEG). "[The acquisition] provides a platform for growth in new products with higher margins and an experienced team," IVL said.

ACC LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN FOR US ENERGY POLICY
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has launched a new advocacy campaign to build public and policymaker support for a national energy policy, that the council said could drive a renaissance in US manufacturing. The council's campaign - "From Chemistry to Energy" - promotes a US federal energy policy that includes the development of conventional, fossil-based energy resources such as coal, oil and ­natural gas, but also renewable and alternative sources, such as biofuels, solar and wind power. The campaign also advocates improvements in commercial and residential energy efficiency and encourages increased use of "energy recovery" practices that, for example, use recycled plastic waste as a fuel to generate electric power.

JACOBS WINS METHANEX RELOCATION CONTRACT
US-based engineering firm Jacobs has won a contract with Canada's Methanex to relocate one of its idled methanol plants from Chile to Louisiana in the US. Methanol producer Methanex said in January it was operating only one of its four plants in Chile, and that it also had considerable problems maintaining a supply of natural gas for operations. It estimated that relocating a plant to the US could cost $400m (€304m). Jacobs said it is currently executing site-specific engineering for a 225 acre site in Louisiana, and the plant could be operational in the second half of 2014.

HUNTSMAN APPOINTS JON HUNTSMAN JR. TO BOARD
US-based chemical producer Huntsman has appointed Jon Huntsman Jr. to its board of ­directors, as of February 1, 2012. The appointment follows Huntsman's decision to end his campaign for the Republican US presidential nomination in January. Jon Huntsman Jr. is the son of the founder of Huntsman, Jon Huntsman, and the brother of current CEO Peter Huntsman.


EUROPE

EUROPEINSOLVENT PETROPLUS PUTS REFINERY ON HOLD
The 110,000 bbl/day Petroplus refinery at Ingolstadt, near ­Munich, Germany, was due to be put on "optimised stand-by" last week, while officials continue their search for an investor. Germany-based Petroplus filed for insolvency last month after lenders froze $1bn (€760m) in credit lines in late December. The insolvency affects Petroplus's five refineries in Europe, including the plant in Ingolstadt.

GERMANY'S PRODUCTIVE OUTPUT FALLS 2.9% IN DEC
Germany's productive output ­decreased by 2.9% in December 2011 from November, the country's economics ministry said. The ministry said near-term prospects for industrial production in Europe's largest economy remained "reserved." However, an increase in December's industrial orders and an improvement in sentiment indicators were signs that industry was about to ­overcome production weakness.

RUSSIA'S SIBUR TO START TRIALS AT TOBOLSK IN Q4
Russia's Sibur plans to start trial runs at its new 500,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) plant at Tobolsk in the fourth quarter of 2012, a source from Sibur's petrochemical trading arm said. Commissioning of the plant, which will the use INEOS Innovene PP technology, will begin shortly after. Product ranges will include injection moulding, fiber, raffia, biaxially-oriented polypropylene and cast film grades. Marketable volumes will be available in ­January 2013 at the earliest, the source added.

POLAND AIMS TO EXIT CHEMICALS IN 20 MONTHS
Poland hopes to fulfil within 20 months its repeatedly postponed ambition to privatise its state-controlled chemical companies, the country's Treasury Ministry said last week. A newly installed government minister will attempt to sell the recently consolidated Zaklady Azoty Tarnow group - now Poland's largest chemical group by revenue - plus soda ash and toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) maker Ciech group and nitrogen fertilizer and melamine producer Zaklady Azotowe Pulawy.

ARKEMA DECLARES FORCE MAJEURE ON DOP SUPPLIES
French producer Arkema has ­declared force majeure on 100% of its ­dioctyl phthalate (DOP) ­production after failing to restart its unit in Chauny, northern France, a company source said. The restart operations did not succeed because of the exceptionally cold temperatures in the region. "[We] are in the process of warming the unit to restart as soon as possible, but the ongoing cold weather makes it impossible to forecast [a restart day]," the source added.

PKN ORLEN HIT BY Q4 PETROCHEMICAL LOSS
PKN Orlen's petrochemical ­division suffered a zlotych (Zl) 202m ($64m, €48m) loss in the fourth quarter of 2012 on lower margins. The loss compared with an operating profit of Zl117m in the same quarter of the previous year. In the fourth quarter, ­Poland-based Orlen saw its model petrochemical margin decline to €609/tonne, from €667/tonne in the same quarter of 2010, and €663/tonne in the third quarter of 2011. So far this year the margin had further declined to €531/tonne, it added.

DOW EXPECTS $1BN FROM OLYMPIC SPONSORSHIP
US-based Dow Chemical expects to gain $1bn (€760m) in new revenue from its 10-year sponsorship of the Olympic Games. "It's a great platform for us to demonstrate the solutions we have on offer throughout the value chain, including infrastructure, sporting equipment and consumables," said George Hamilton, vice president for Dow Olympic Operations. Dow's sponsorship agreement from 2010 to 2020 covers five Olympic events.

EC CLEARS ADVENT ACQUISITION OF MAXAM
The European Commission has cleared the acquisition of ­Spanish chemical and industrial group Maxam by US-based private ­equity firm Advent International and some 110 individuals, ­including Maxam's current ­management. The Commission said the deal created a vertical supply relationship between Advent's production of 2-ethylhexanol (2-EH) and Maxam's production of 2-ethyhexyl nitrate.

ROQUETTE SIGNS BIO ­AGREEMENT WITH RHODIA
France-based chemical firms Roquette and Rhodia Acetow have signed a joint development agreement (JDA) to develop new plant-based polymers. "This JDA will accelerate the launch of new polymers based on renewable raw material, for which the demand is drastically increasing. The plant-based polymer cellulose acetate and cellulose acetate fiber will remain the key products for Rhodia Acetow," said Rhodia Acetow president Gerard Collette. Rhodia Acetow is a subsidiary of Belgium-based chemical firm Solvay.

PERSTORP DECLARES FM ON TDI, CHLOR-ALKALI
Perstorp has declared force ­majeure on toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) and chlor-alkali products at its Pont-de-Claix site in France because of a strike, according to a company letter seen by ICIS and a source at the producer. Perstorp was forced to stop production at its chlor-alkali unit on February 4 because of the strike, which subsequently pressured its downstream TDI facility, the letter dated February 6 said. As a result, availability for its chlor-alkali and TDI products will be limited. TDI supplies are under strict allocation with immediate effect, with a minimum 50% reduction on contractual commitments.

CHURCH & DWIGHT APPOINTS SIVERLING
US-based consumer products firm Church & Dwight has announced that Curt Siverling is to be promoted to the position of president, specialty products ­division, effective March 1. ­Siverling's promotion will come upon the retirement of current division president Joe Sipia. Siverling will be responsible for leading Church & Dwight's specialty chemical and animal nutrition businesses, as well as being a board member on three joint ­venture companies.

BP'S Q4 PETROCHEMICALS PROFIT SLUMPS 60.5%
BP's profit from petrochemicals fell by 60.5% in the fourth quarter of 2011 to $96m (€74m) from a year before, on weaker market conditions and additional Asian supply. Replacement cost ­operating profit for the segment was down by 59.3% from the third quarter. "In our petrochemicals business, compared with 2010, the fourth-quarter result was impacted by weak market conditions, as additional Asian capacity has come on stream at a time of weaker demand." UK-headquartered BP said.

UNIPETROL SUFFERS Q4 LOSS AS MARGINS SINK
Unipetrol's petrochemical ­business suffered a fourth-quarter loss of koruna (Kc) 696m ($37m, €28m) in earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), with polyolefin margins falling to their lowest level in two years, the Czech Republic-based company said. Analysts were disappointed by the loss, which compares with an EBIT profit of Kc144m in the same quarter of 2010. Wood & Company investment bank analyst Robert Rethy saying the ­figure was "extremely poor."

OPEC CUTS 2012 FORECAST FOR OIL DEMAND GROWTH
OPEC has revised down its ­forecast for 2012 global demand growth for crude oil to 900,000 bbl/day because of "waning OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] economies" negatively affecting the market. In its oil market report for February, the cartel revised down its forecast from 1.1m bbl/day, owing to mature economies "imposing a considerable range of uncertainty over the short-term." OPEC revised down its forecast for world economic growth to 3.4% in 2012, down by 0.2% from 2011.


ASIA

ASIALG CHEM SETS 2012 ACRYLIC ACID SHUTDOWN
South Korea's LG Chem has firmed up the turnaround ­schedule for its crude acrylic acid (AA) lines in Yeosu for this year, a company source said. LG Chem operates three crude AA lines, with a total nameplate production capacity of 193,000 tonnes/year. The company aims to shut its No. 1 crude AA line in the ­second half of March for 10 days. The No. 1 line will subsequently be shut for a second time in ­September for 20 days. Meanwhile, LG Chem plans to shut its No. 2 crude AA line in the first half of October for 14 days, while it will shut its No. 3 crude AA line at the end of ­November for 30 days. All ­shutdowns will be for routine maintenance, the source added.

HONAM TO FINISH STUDIES FOR SE ASIA COMPLEX
Honam Petrochemical is ­expected to finish feasibility studies for a new petrochemical complex in Southeast Asia by early 2013, with Indonesia the most likely location for the $4-5bn (€3-4bn) project, a company official said. Honam has "highly prioritized" Indonesia as the site for the project, but no firm decision has been made, the official added.

CHINA VEHICLE SALES DOWN BY 26% IN JAN
China sold 1.39m units of ­vehicles in January this year - a decrease of 26.4% year on year and 17.8% from December 2011 - the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said. It added the sharp decline was primarily caused by the Lunar New Year holiday on January 22-28, when buying activity weakened during the festive season.

PTTGC CRACKER IN MAP TA PHUT STILL SHUT
Thailand's PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) has yet to restart its 1m tonne/year ethane cracker at Map Ta Phut following an unplanned shutdown, a source close to the company said. The cracker was taken off line on January 31 because of a power outage. It is still unclear when the facility will restart, the source added. PTTGC's three other crackers in the area, which have a combined ethylene nameplate capacity of 1.38m tonnes/year, were not affected by the outage.

DKSH OPENS FIRST SALES OFFICE IN SRI LANKA
Switzerland-based chemical ­distributor DKSH has opened the first sales office in Sri Lanka for its performance materials business, as part of its expansion plan into the Indian subcontinent. "India is a fast-growing market within DKSH's chemical distribution activities, and we are committed to further strengthening our comprehensive network in this important region," said ­performance materials head Mario Preissler. "With the ­geographical expansion to Sri Lanka, we accomplished the next step in our goal of becoming the number one specialty chemicals distributor in Asia."

BASF, HYUNDAI MOTOR TO PRODUCE 'GREEN' CAR
Germany-based chemical major BASF is to collaborate with South Korea-based Hyundai Motor Group to release a one-of-a-kind concept car that is lighter, more fuel-efficient and more environmentally friendly. The car, known as i-flow, will be 40-50% lighter than a normal car, as engineering plastics and polyurethanes (PU) will be used to replace some of the vehicle's metal parts, BASF senior vice president for engineering plastics in Asia-Pacific, Andy Postlethwaite, said.

FPCC PLANS PROPYLENE UNIT MAINTENANCE
Taiwan's Formosa Petrochemical Corp. (FPCC) plans to shut one of its two residual fluid catalytic crackers (RFCC) in Mailiao in the second half of April for scheduled maintenance, a company source said. The No. 1 RFCC, which can produce about 375,000 tonnes/year of propylene, is ­expected to be offline for about one month. There is no turnaround scheduled for the No. 2 RFCC at Mailiao, which has the same nameplate capacity as the No. 1 unit.

KPC CONSIDERS TOTAL AS PARTNER IN CHINA PROJECT
Kuwait Petroleum Corp. (KPC) is considering France-based energy firm Total as a possible international partner for its refinery and petrochemical project in Guangdong province, China, according to Meshari Al-Mahmoud, who is in charge of the China project at KPC. "We are still in the process of finalizing the selection," he said. The yuan 59bn ($9.4bn) petrochemical project in Zhanjiang is a 50:50 joint venture between China's Sinopec and KPC. KPC is on the lookout for a partner to share its 50% stake in the project, with a view to divesting 20% to a third party. The project broke ground on November 18, 2011, and consists of a 15m tonne/year refinery, a 1m tonne/year cracker and downstream facilities.

HENGTONG CHEMICAL TO START CAUSTIC SODA UNIT
China's Hengtong Chemical plans to start up its new 200,000 dry metric tonne (dmt)/year ion-exchange membrane caustic soda unit in Tancheng, Shandong province, in April, a company source said. The unit is the second phase of the company's yuan 800m ($127m) caustic soda project at the site, the source said. The company's first 200,000 dmt/year ion-exchange plant in Tancheng started production in June 2011.

JUHUA GROUP TO EXPAND CAPRO LINE IN ZHEJIANG
China's Juhua Group Corp. ­Polyamide Fibre Factory is planning to begin expansion works to double the capacity of its 25,000 tonne/year caprolactam (capro) line at Quzhou, in Zhejiang province, in the middle of February, a company source said. The expansion works will last at least one month and include technological improvements on the line. The line's capacity will be increased to 50,000 tonnes/year.

INDIA NEEDS INCREASED PLASTICS EXPORTS
India's plastics processors need to step up exports in the coming years to help mitigate the country's unemployment problem, according to M P Taparia, managing director of India's leading plastics processor Supreme Industries, and chairman of polystyrene (PS) producer Supreme Petrochem. "Exports of plastics products in India rose by only 11% year on year in fiscal year 2010-2011, whereas imports of these products jumped by 29%," he said on the sidelines of the 8th PlastIndia Exhibition in New Delhi. Exports and imports of plastics goods in fiscal 2010-2011 totalled 800,000 tonnes each, he added.

RELIANCE TO EXPAND DAHEJ PVC PLANT BY Q3 2013
India's Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) is planning to expand its 245,000 tonne/year polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plant in Dahej to 345,000 tonnes/year by the third quarter of 2013, a company source said. In addition, RIL is considering building another PVC plant in India, but has not made a decision, the source said at the ­PlastIndia exhibition in New Delhi.

MIDDLE EAST & AFRICASABIC SEEKING METHANOL PROJECT IN TRINIDAD
Saudia Arabia's SABIC is pushing for approval to build a $5.3bn (€4.0bn) methanol complex in Trinidad and Tobago, sources said last week. Local press reports said the project would include a methanol-to-petrochemicals and methanol-to-olefins complex. A US market source said SABIC wanted a Trinidad government subsidy for natural gas to supply the project.

BOROUGE'S POLYOLEFINS ONSTREAM BY MID-2014
Abu Dhabi-based chemical firm Borouge expects an expansion of its polyolefins complex in Ruwais, Abu Dhabi, to be fully on stream by mid-2014, a company spokesman said. The project, Borouge 3, "is expanding the plant by 2.5m tonnes/year, to a total annual capacity of 4.5m tonnes by the end of 2013, and will be operational mid-2014," he said. The expansion is in the engineering, procurement and construction stage and on track as planned, he added. Borouge is a joint-venture between Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and Austria-based chemical company Borealis.


By: Will Beacham
+44 20 8652 3214



AddThis Social Bookmark Button

For the latest chemical news, data and analysis that directly impacts your business sign up for a free trial to ICIS news - the breaking online news service for the global chemical industry.

Get the facts and analysis behind the headlines from our market leading weekly magazine: sign up to a free trial to ICIS Chemical Business.

Printer Friendly