This week in brief

28 May 2012 00:00  [Source: ICB]

AMERICAS

AITHER CHEMICALS TO REVAMP OLD CARBIDE TECH
US-based start-up Aither Chemicals is aiming to improve upon a technology developed in the middle of the 1980s by Union Carbide to produce ethylene and acetic acid from ethane, said Jeffrey Plotkin, vice president at US-based consultancy Nexant. "It is 'back to the future' for them, as they will be dusting off and improving an old Union Carbide process called Ethoxene, which was never commercialized," said Plotkin at the Asia Petrochemical Industry Conference (APIC) which was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Aither plans to build an ethane cracker to take advantage of feedstock from Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits. The project would cost $750m (€593m) over five years. "The process will use ethane and oxygen with a catalyst to co-produce ethylene and acetic acid," Plotkin said.

INDORAMA EXPLORES US CRACKER WITH PARTNERS
Thailand-based Indorama Ventures Ltd (IVL) is exploring an investment in a US-based cracker with multiple partners. "We are still working on it, evaluating ethylene pricing and investment opportunities with various partners. We will consider all possible situations," said DK Agarwal, CEO of Indorama Polymers, an IVL subsidiary, at APIC in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. "But we require only 300,000 tonnes/year of ethylene for our US operations in MEG [monoethylene glycol] and EO [ethylene oxide]," said Agarwal. The company still needs to buy a further 450,000 tonnes/year of MEG in North America, he said.

CANADA RAIL STRIKE COULD TRIGGER PLANT SHUTDOWNS
The rail strike at Canadian Pacific (CP) that began last Wednesday could force some Canada-based chemical producers to shut down their plants within days, a chemical industry trade group said. CP has shut down its freight train operation across Canada after its engineers and conductors began work stoppages in a dispute over work rules and pension plans. David Podruzny, vice president of business and economics at Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC), told ICIS that many chemical producers have only limited storage capacities at their sites. Some larger chemical companies that are shipping high-volume products such as ethylene glycol (EG), styrene or polyethylene (PE), may only have room to store three or four days of storage capacity, he noted.

CHEVRON PHILLIPS FLARES TEXAS CRACKER
US-based Chevron Phillips Chemical reported flaring from its Sweeny 24 cracker in Texas, citing an instrumentation failure, in a filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The failure was caused by a malfunctioning pressure indicator controller on a de-ethanizer tower overhead. Operations made adjustments to control the pressure and was taking appropriate steps to stabilize the unit, the filing said. Ethylene unit 24 has 676,000 tonnes/year of capacity. Chevron Phillips does not comment on its operations, said a spokesperson. The company has two other crackers at the site with a combined 1.2m tonnes/year of capacity.

EXXONMOBIL SHUTS DOWN HIGH-PRESSURE LINE
US polyethylene (PE) producer ExxonMobil shut down a high-pressure line at its PE plant at Beaumont, Texas, on May 20, following a release of ethylene, it said in a filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The company said that a problem with the PSV valve on a high-pressure line was the cause of the release. It is not clear whether the unit was still shut down. A company spokesperson did not respond to a request for a 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.

EUROPE

OMV RESTARTS PETCHEM SITE AFTER OUTAGE
OMV has begun restarting operations at its integrated refining and petrochemicals site in Burghausen near Munich, Germany, following an outage, the Austria-based producer said last Wednesday. OMV said that last Tuesday's outage at a part of the Burghausen refinery was caused by inappropriate conduct on behalf of a worker employed by a partner firm. It did not further describe what went wrong. According to ICIS, OMV's petrochemicals production capacities at Burghausen include 450,000 tonnes/year of ethylene, 560,000 tonnes/year of propylene and 160,000 tonnes/year of benzene. Earlier this month, OMV reported an operational failure at Burghausen following a power supply disruption.

INDORAMA TO START UP ROTTERDAM PET IN JULY
Thailand-based Indorama Ventures Ltd. (IVL) plans to start up its 200,000 tonne/year polyethylene terephthalate (PET) expansion in Rotterdman, the Netherlands, in July, said DK Agarwal, CEO of Indorama Polymers, an IVL subsidiary, at the Asia Petrochemical Industry Conference (APIC) held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The expansion will double the capacity of the site to 400,000 tonnes/year.

ASIA

PETRONAS TO DECIDE ON RAPID INVESTMENT BY 2013
Malaysia-based energy and petrochemical company PETRONAS will aim to make a final investment decision on its planned $20bn (€15.8bn) Refinery & Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project by mid-2013, with estimated completion in 2016, said Datuk Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, chief operating officer and executive vice president - downstream business. He spoke at APIC in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. PETRONAS officially launched the RAPID project in a ceremony near its proposed site of Pengerang, Johor, Malaysia, on May 13. The product slate of the project will be "more diversified and biased towards specialties so that it will be less susceptible to price volatility," Wan Ariffin said.

PETROCHINA TO START UP TWO NEW CRACKERS
PetroChina plans to start up two new crackers in the second half of 2012, a company official said. The first - PetroChina subsidiary Fushun Petrochemical's 800,000 tonne/year cracker located in Fushun, Liaoning province - will begin commercial production in August. Fushun Petrochemical operates a 150,000 tonne/year cracker at the same site. Another subsidiary, Daqing Petrochemical, will open a 600,000 tonne/year cracker in Daqing, Heilongjiang province in mid-September. The new cracker will complement Daqing Petrochemical's current 600,000 tonne/year cracker at the same site. Downstream units at the two facilities, including polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) will begin operations at the same time as the crackers, the source said, without giving details.

INDORAMA'S THAILAND PET UNTI TO RESUME OPS
Thailand-based Indorama Ventures' 178,000 tonne/year polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle chip plant at Lopburi in Thailand is expected to be fully operational by the end of May 2012. "One line, the bigger one, at the plant is already running at full capacity, while the other is expected to be fully operational by the end of the third week," said DK Agarwal, CEO of the company's PET business, without specifying the capacities of the two lines. He spoke at the Asia Petrochemical Industry Conference (APIC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Lopburi plant, which mainly produces bottle-grade PET for major consumer goods companies in Thailand, was shut on September 23, 2011, because of flooding, according to Agarwal.

CHINA APRIL PE, PP IMPORTS FALL BY MORE THAN 16%
China's polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) imports fell sharply in April. The country imported a total of 521,400 tonnes of PE in April, down by 16.7% from March, according to data from China Customs. China imported 339,260 tonnes of PP in April, down by 16.7% from March, ­according to data released by China Customs.

LCY PLANS $6BN QUANZHOU PETROCHEMICAL COMPLEX
Taiwan's LCY Chemical is planning to build an integrated refinery and petrochemical complex at Quanzhou in China's Fujian province between 20162020, a company source said. The $6.0bn (€4.7bn) project is expected to be included in China's 13th Five-Year Plan, the source said. LCY's proposed project in Quanzhou will include a 1m tonne/year refinery, a naphtha cracker with 1m tonnes/year of ethylene capacity and more than 50 downstream plants, said the source, who was at the Asia Petrochemical Industry Conference (APIC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA

SHARQ RAMPS UP LLDPE UNITS AFTER RESTART
Saudi Eastern Petrochemical Company (SHARQ) is ramping up both of its linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) plants in Al-Jubail, Saudi Arabia following a brief scheduled maintenance, a source close to the company said. The two LLDPE facilities, with a combined nameplate capacity of 750,000 tonnes/year, were restarted on May 19 after a week-long turnaround, he said.


By: Joseph Chang
+1 713 525 2653



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