This week's world news

30 April 2012 00:00  [Source: ICB]

AMERICAS

SUNOCO, CARLYLE DISCUSS REFINERY JOINT VENTURE
US-based Sunoco has extended the deadline for closing its 330,000 bbl/day refinery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US, to August, as it continues joint-venture discussions with US private equity firm The Carlyle Group. Sunoco had previously set a deadline of July this year to shut down the plant if no buyers had been found. Under its discussions with Carlyle, it would contribute the plant assets in exchange for a non-operating minority interest in the joint venture. "Carlyle would contribute cash to the joint venture, hold the majority interest and oversee day-to-day operations of the joint venture and the facility," Sunoco said.

CELANESE Q1 2012 NET PROFIT UP 29%
First-quarter earnings for US-based Celanese rose to $183m (€139m), up 29% the same period a year ago. Sales rose 2.8% year on year to $1.63bn, mostly driven by higher acetyl intermediates and industrial specialties volumes. But operating profit fell to $98m from $188m, reflecting "recessionary trends in the European economy, the lingering effect of fourth-quarter 2011 inventory destocking in the company's acetyl intermediates segment and significantly higher raw-material costs," the group said. "In particular, industry demand and margins in acetyls continued to be impacted by

European recessionary trends, which also impacted auto builds and industrial goods," CEO Mark Rohr said. He expects the challenging market climate in Europe and Asia outside China to continue further into 2012 than first anticipated.

DUPONT BEGINS ETHYLENE MAINTENANCE IN TEXAS
US-based DuPont began a maintenance shutdown at its Sabine River Works ethylene unit in Orange, Texas, US, the company said in a regulatory filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The facility's air shutdown began on April 21 and will continue until May 1, the filing stated. The Orange ethylene unit has 680,000 tonnes/year of capacity, according to ICIS plants and projects.

CONOCOPHILLIPS CHEMICAL SEGMENT Q1 PROFIT UP 13%
US-based ConocoPhillips' chemicals division profits in the first quarter of 2012 rose by 13% year on year to $218m (€166m) on higher margins. The company said: "Industry margins for ethylene during the quarter were among the highest recorded in 20 years. With domestic ethylene utilization rates for the quarter averaging more than 100%, the business was able to capture these strong margins."

UNIVAR APPOINTS FYRWALD AS PRESIDENT AND CEO
US-based chemical distributor Univar has appointed Erik Fyrwald to join the company as president and CEO from May 7. Fyrwald will leave his job as president of US-based water, hygiene and energy technologies firm Ecolab, which merged with US-based water treatment chemicals firm Nalco in December. Univar's current president and CEO, John Zillmer, will become executive chairman, succeeding William Stavropoulos, who will move to the role of lead director.

ASIA

CELANESE SHUTS ACETIC ACID UNIT IN SINGAPORE
US-based Celanese shut an acetic acid plant in Singapore during the first quarter of 2012 because of tough market conditions in Asia, CEO Mark Rohr said. The 600,000 tonne/year acetic acid plant was taken down at the end of the quarter because of declining margins and demand. "The plant is still idled as we speak," Rohr said in an earnings conference call. He said the market in Asia outside of China has become "sloppy" to the point that the company had decided not to keep the plant running at the low margins being achieved. "As soon as we can see a situation where margins have returned and demand has returned in a balanced fashion, then we'll bring it back up," Rohr said.

SINOPEC SABIC EYES CRACKER SHUTDOWN
China's Sinopec SABIC Tianjin Petrochemical is expected to shut down its 1m tonne/year naphtha cracker in Tianjin for scheduled maintenance in August, a source close to the company said. The turnaround dates have yet to be finalized but the cracker is likely to be off line for more than a month, the source said. Other market sources expect the planned maintenance shutdown to last around 60 days. The source close to the company did not comment on derivative operations. ICIS has reported earlier that downstream units will also be shut for maintenance this year. The cracker's derivative facilities include a 300,000 tonne/year linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) unit, a 300,000 tonne/year high density polyethylene (HDPE) unit and a 450,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) plant.

GUIZHOU JINCHI METHANOL UNIT SHUT SINCE MID-APRIL
China-based Guizhou Jinchi Chemical's 300,000 tonne/year methanol plant at Guizhou in southwestern China has been shut since mid-April because of poor market conditions, a company source said. Downstream demand is limited at present, the source said, adding that no restart date has been set for the plant. Transportation problems are also preventing the sale of the plant's output to coastal areas.

CHINA'S MARCH CRUDE GLYCERIN IMPORTS UP 7.3%
China imported 46,328 tonnes of crude glycerin in March, a rise of 50.4% month on month and an increase of 7.3% year on year, at an average import price of $279.17/tonne (€212.17/tonne), according to data from China Customs. The March imports were purchased in December 2011, when many buyers invested in large volumes to take advantage of prices that were lower than they had been three months earlier, a market source said. The data showed that China's imports from its top three sources of crude glycerin - Brazil, Argentina and Thailand - were 14,684 tonnes, 6,601 tonnes and 4,627 tonnes, respectively, in March.

MALAYSIA'S EMSB TO SHUT CRACKER IN EARLY MAY
State-run Ethylene Malaysia Sdn Bhd (EMSB) is expected to shut its 400,000 tonne/year ethane cracker at Kerteh in Terengganu in early May for a planned maintenance, a source close to the company said. The source did not specify the shutdown date but said the cracker is expected to be off line for 10-14 days. The company is running the cracker at a reduced rate of around 70% of capacity in April because of some production hiccups earlier this month, according to the source. EMSB is a joint venture between Malaysia's state-owned PETRONAS, Japan's Idemitsu Kosan and UK-based BP.

SHENHUA SHENMU SHUTS NO. 2 METHANOL UNIT
China's Shenhua Shenmu Chemical shut its 400,000 tonne/year No. 2 methanol unit in Shaanxi province on April 23 for about 20 days of maintenance, a company official said. Its No. 1 methanol plant at the same site, with a 200,000 tonne/year capacity, is running at full capacity, the source said.

ZHONGCHUANG TO RESTART 2-BUTYL ACETATE PLANT
China's Zhongchuang Chemical plans to restart its 100,000 tonne/year 2-butyl acetate plant at Huizhou in Guangdong province at the beginning of May, a company source said. The company shut the plant on April 17 for a scheduled maintenance and plans to shut its 60,000 tonne/year 2-butyl acetate plant at Yueyang in Hunan province for maintenance, the source said, without giving the date of the turnaround. The producer is running the Yueyang plant at 100% of capacity, the source added.

NAN YA TO SHUT BPA LINES FOR MAINTENANCE
Taiwan's Nan Ya Plastics plans to shut its 90,000 tonne/year No. 1 bisphenol A (BPA) line at Miaoliao in June for a one-month-long annual maintenance, a source close to the company said. Its 100,000 tonne/year No. 2 line at the site will be taken off line in July for a month and its 130,000 tonne/year No. 4 line will be shut in August, also for a month-long turnaround, the source said, adding that the No. 3 100,000 tonne/year line was shut on April 7 and will resume normal operations on May 31.

MITSUI CHEMICALS RUNS CHIBA BPA AT 50% CAPACITY
Japan's Mitsui Chemicals has been running its 90,000 tonne/year bisphenol-A (BPA) plant in Chiba prefecture at 50% of capacity since mid-February because of poor economics, a company source said. The plant could be taken off line in May if market conditions fail to improve, the source said. Mitsui Chemicals also has a 65,000 tonne/year BPA plant in Osaka that is running at full tilt, the source said.

EUROPE

SOLVAY SETS 50% PROFIT GROWTH TARGET BY 2016
Belgium-based Solvay is targeting profit growth of 50%, with recurring earnings before income, tax, depreciation and amortization (REBITDA) of €3bn ($4bn) by 2016. The company, which merged with France-based Rhodia in 2011, said it expects growth to be driven by three core businesses and merger-related streamlining. Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, who will become the company's CEO on May 11, said: "After an in-depth analysis of our portfolio, we have developed a clear strategic intent for our different businesses in the light of their intrinsic strengths, their positioning and market dynamics."

RUSSIANS' POLYETHYLENE OUTPUT TO RISE IN 2012
Russia-based petrochemical producer Nizhnekamskneftekhim (NKNKh) plans to increase its linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) output this year. Production is expected to rise to a total of 230,000 tonnes from the 195,000 tonnes produced in 2011. NKNKh, based in Tatarstan in central Russia, chose LyondellBasell Spherilene technology to produce both LLDPE and HDPE at its 230,000 tonne/year polyethylene (PE) unit.

CIECH RECEIVES CONCRETE OFFER FOR ZACHEM
Poland-based Ciech has received a firm offer for its toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) business, Zachem, but is not ruling out closing the subsidiary should it not be able to achieve a deal for a sale, the chemical group said. It added that it is considering whether to invite the company behind the offer to hold exclusive negotiations for the purchase of Zachem or to continue talks with several investors that might come forward with their own bids. It said the offer was only around the lower range of its price expectations and that the bidder was also interested in Ciech's polyurethane (PU) foams line, for which Zachem's TDI was the key input.

BUCHNER TAKES OVER AS AKZONOBEL CEO
Netherlands-based AkzoNobel's supervisory board has appointed Ton Buchner as the company's CEO. During the group's annual general meeting, Buchner was also appointed a member of the board of management by ¬company shareholders. At the same time, Hans Wijers stepped down from his positions both as ¬company CEO and as a member of the board of management.

MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA

BOROUGE 3 POLYOLEFINS PROJECT ON TRACK
Abu Dhabi-based polymers company Borouge is right on track with its expansion project at its ¬polyolefins complex at Ruwais, which is expected to come fully on stream in mid-2014, ¬according to the company. The Borouge 3 project will boost the facility's capacity of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) to 4.5m tonnes from 2m tonnes by ¬mid-2014, the company said in a statement. The statement added: "The investment of ¬approximately $4.5bn (€3.4bn) in expanding its petrochemicals complex and an innovation ¬center is enabling Borouge to ¬further ¬support China's infrastructure growth in pipe ¬systems, energy and communication ¬networks, as well as the rapidly growing automotive and advanced packaging industries."

CORRECTION
On page 8 in the April 23 issue, the news brief headlined "Uncertainty is here to stay - SBR producer" incorrectly stated that a styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) producer said "the next two to three years will be difficult." Rather, it should have said the next "two to three months." We regret the error.


By: Joseph Chang
+1 713 525 2653



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