This week's world news

26 March 2012 00:00  [Source: ICB]

AMERICAS

ENTERPRISE TO BUILD TWO MORE NGL FRACTIONATORS
US midstream energy firm Enterprise Products plans to build two additional natural gas liquids (NGL) fractionators at its Mont Belvieu site near Houston, Texas, each with a capacity of 75,000 bbl/day. The plants, scheduled to start up in the fourth quarter of 2013, will bring Enterprise's overall NGL fractionation capacity at Mont Belvieu to over 610,000 bbl/day. The additional units - the company's seventh and eighth NGL fractionators at Mont Belvieu - would help process NGL from Rocky Mountain basins and the Eagle Ford Shale region in south Texas. Enterprise added that its sixth NGL unit, which is currently under construction, is on track for start-up in the fourth quarter of 2012.

AITHER, RMG MAKE PROGRESS ON CRACKER
US-based start-up firm Aither Chemicals and Renewable Manufacturing Gateway (RMG) have made progress on an announced ethane cracker for the Appalachia region, said Ieva Abolina, development director at RMG. She said the companies had been working on identifying potential sites and understanding market potential, but had made no formal announcement. Aither and RMG said in January that they planned to build an ethane cracker to take advantage of feedstock from Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits. The project would cost $750m (€570m) over five years.

EXXONMOBIL SHUTS DOWN REACTOR LINE AT PE PLANT
US polyethylene (PE) producer ExxonMobil shut down a reactor line at its plant in Beaumont, Texas, following an emissions event, according to a filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The company said an emergency vent valve leak last Tuesday caused ethylene to be released from a high pressure reactor line. The company shut down the reactor line to repair the vent valve, the filing states. It is not clear whether the unit is still shut down. A company spokeswoman would not comment. ExxonMobil has a 235,000 tonne/year capacity low density polyethylene (LDPE) unit and a 705,000 tonne/year linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) unit at the site, according to ICIS plants and projects.

SHELL SET FOR PHENOL-ACETONE TURNAROUND
Shell Chemical's US phenol-acetone unit in Freeport, Texas, will be going into a planned turnaround for maintenance in late April through early May, sources said. A company spokesperson declined to comment. The unit has 600,000 tonnes/year of phenol capacity and 355,000 tonnes/year of acetone capacity.

EUROPE

SHELL LIFTS MOERDIJK FORCE MAJEURE
Shell Chemicals has lifted the force majeure on cracker products from its Moerdijk facility in the Netherlands, as stable and normal production rates have been re-established, a company spokesman said. The spokesman said its customers had been notified on March 20. The force majeure on ethylene, propylene, isoprene and acetylene was declared on March 1 because of "unforeseen fouling in the ethylene cracker bottom oil circulation." Butadiene (BD) was not affected. Shell has nameplate capacity at its Moerdijk cracker of 910,000 tonnes/year for ethylene, 500,000 tonnes/year for propylene and 115,000 tonnes/year for BD, according to ICIS.

INEOS STYRENICS TO CLOSE PS, SM UNITS AT MARL
Switzerland-based INEOS Styrenics plans to close its polystyrene (PS) and styrene monomer (SM) units at Marl, Germany, at the end of 2012. The decision to close the plants follows the cancellation of a production agreement by Germany-based styrenics major Styrolution. Styrolution announced it would stop taking product from the INEOS-operated­ SM and PS units at Marl in order to improve the competitive position of its European styrene-based commodity business. The INEOS site at Marl consists of four plants, which produce 110,000 tonnes/year of expandable polystyrene (EPS), 260,000 tonnes/year of cumene, 180,000 tonne/year of PS and 350,000 tonne/year of SM. INEOS said its production of expandable polystyrene (EPS) and cumene at the Marl site would continue.

EVONIK JOINS BASF IN INVESTING IN TECH FUND
Germany-based chemical firm Evonik has joined compatriots BASF and Altana to become the third chemical firm to invest in a German high-tech fund. Evonik said it had invested €2.5m ($3.3m) in High-Tech Grunderfonds II (HTGF II). The fund provides financing of up to €500,000 of venture capital to innovative technology companies. Other investors in the fund include Germany's federal economics and technology ministry and the government-controlled KfW bank, as well as automaker Daimler and industrial firm Bosch. High-Tech Grunderfonds has about €563m under management in two funds, HTGF I and HTGF II - the latter of which holds the chemical firms' investments.

CIECH CONSIDERS SELLING ZACHEM TDI BUSINESS
Poland-based Ciech Group may put toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) subsidiary Zachem up for sale following the unit's poor performance in 2011. Zachem, Poland's sole and Europe's fifth-largest TDI producer, struggled with very low prices during the year when the main consumers of its output - the furniture and automotive industries - were hit by a downturn in demand across Europe, the company said. Zachem saw its 2011 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) fall to a loss of zlotych (Zl) 59m ($19.0m, €14.4m) from a loss of Zl 7m a year ago, while sales revenues dropped to Zl 859m from Zl 999m in 2010.

DOW PLANS APRIL-MAY MDI MAINTENANCE AT STADE
US-based Dow Chemical's methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate (MDI) facility at Stade, Germany, is scheduled to enter a planned maintenance turnaround on April 14, set to last around six weeks, a company source said. The source said Dow has built some inventory ahead of the turnaround, although it added that its stock build had been limited by recent production problems at the site. The site's nameplate capacity for MDI is estimated at 200,000 tonnes/year, according to ICIS records.

NOVAPET SHUTS PET LINE FOR MAINTENANCE
Spain-based Novapet's 30,000 tonne/year specialty-grade polyethylene terephthalate (PET) line in Barbastro, Spain, has been shut down for planned maintenance, a company source said. The shutdown began on March 20 and is expected to last until the end of April. Total capacity at the site amounts to 260,000 tonnes/year.

ASIATHAI POLYACETAL ON TRACK WITH EXPANSION PLANS
Thai Polyacetal Co. (TPAC) is on track to expand its polyacetal (POM) capacity in Thailand by 45,000 tonne/year, with construction works expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2013, a company source said. "Commercial operation is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2013," the source added. TPAC's Japanese parent company Mitsubishi Gas Chemical (MGC) first announced plans to expand the existing 55,000 tonne/year POM facility at Map Ta Phut in Rayong province to 100,000 tonne/year in June 2011. POM is primarily used for automotive, electric and electronic applications.

JILIN PETROCHEMICAL TO SHUT MIBK PLANT
China's Jilin Petrochemical has brought forward the maintenance shutdown date for its 15,000 tonne/year methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) line at Jilin in northeastern China to May 23, a company source said. The overhaul will be completed on around July 3. The shutdown was originally scheduled to start on May 26 and end on July 4. The company's other 15,000 tonne/year line at the same site has been mostly idle since September 2008, partly because of poor economics.

MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA

ELEME TO START PET PRODUCTION IN NIGERIA
Thailand-based Indorama subsidiary Eleme Petrochemicals will bring on stream its new polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plant in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, in April or May. The plant has a capacity of 86,400 tonnes/year, and cost $300m (€228m) to build, the company said. Parent company Indorama is also investing a further $1.8bn to build a methanol plant and fertilizer facility at the Port Harcourt site. In 2006, the Indorama group paid $400m for Eleme, which was previously a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

CORRECTION
In the March 19 issue, the US polyethylene terephthalate (PET) price chart on page 18 reflected a non-market price adjustment on March 1, 2012. This made it appear as if the price declined sharply, whereas in fact, no such decline occurred.


By: Joseph Chang
+1 713 525 2653



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