This week's world news

13 July 2012 10:04  [Source: ICB]

AMERICAS

GEVO PRODUCES FIRST ISOBUTANOL AT MINNESOTA

US bio-based chemical company Gevo has managed to successfully ferment isobutanol at its recently started-up plant in Luverne, Minnesota, US and is preparing shipments to South Africa-based Sasol and other customers. "We've shown that we can successfully ferment isobutanol in large, 250,000-gallon commercial fermenters, isolate the product and get it into tanks and railcars," said CEO Patrick Gruber. Gevo commissioned the plant in May. The retrofitted ethanol plant can produce as much as 18m gal/year (68m liters/year) of isobutanol. Gruber added that the Luverne facility would be in a "start-up/learning mode of operation" for most of 2012.

GEVO, BETA RENEWABLES TO WORK ON ISOBUTANOL

US bio-based chemical firm Gevo has signed an agreement to work with Italy's Beta Renewables on developing an integrated process for the production of bio-based isobutanol from non-food cellulosic biomass. The project would, if successful, enable production of renewable and competitively-priced jet fuel as well as other fuels and chemicals made from isobutanol, Gevo said. Production plants would be located in areas were cellulosic feedstocks such as switchgrass, miscanthus, agriculture residues and other biomass are readily available, it added.

FIVE PRESENT PROPOSALS FOR BOLIVIA PLANT

Bolivia-based YPFB has received proposals from five companies for the design, engineering, construction, start-up, operation and maintenance of a urea and ammonia plant in central Bolivia, the state oil firm said. Proposals were received from South Korean companies Hyundai and Samsung; Spain`s Duro Felguera; Italian-Argentine consortium Saipen/AESA; and the consortium Tecnicas Reunidas/Technip. According to YPFB estimates, the fertilizer plant, in the state of Cochabamba, will require an investment of around $1bn (€820m). YPBF will announce its decision on August 21, with contracts due to be signed on September 11, the company said. The plant will have capacities of 650,000 tonnes of urea and 400,000 tonnes of ammonia.

GLASS SHUTDOWNS COULD HIT US SODA ASH DEMAND

US soda ash demand could be affected by glass furnace shutdowns, sources said. The Nippon Sheet Glass Group (NSG) said that it will idle one of its two float lines in Laurinburg, North Carolina, US in addition to reducing capacity temporarily at its facility in Porto Marghera in Venice, Italy. A soda ash producer said the decline in demand could affect the market if economic concerns continue in the US and the EU. The idling of the North Carolina line is expected to be completed between August and September 2012.

DEARTH APPOINTED CALGON CARBON CHIEF EXECUTIVE

US-based activated carbon producer Calgon Carbon has tapped Randall Dearth as its new president and CEO, effective August 1, 2012. Dearth had served as president and CEO of LANXESS Corp., the North American arm of Germany-based LANXESS, since 2004. "I am very excited to take on this new opportunity and to help further establish Calgon Carbon as a leader in providing environmental solutions to the various markets it serves," said Dearth.

FSI TO LAUNCH INDIA UNIT

US-based Foam Supplies Inc. (FSI) has announced the formation of Foam Supplies India. The India unit will focus on the distribution of Ecomate, a non-ozone depleting and environmentally friendly polyurethane foam blowing agent technology based on methyl formate, in Asia Pacific. The India office will be fully functional in January 2013, but product will be available starting in July 2012.

ARKEMA TO DIVEST TIN STABILIZER BUSINESS

France-based chemical company Arkema will sell its tin stabilizer business to US-based chemical and plastics producer PMC Group for an undisclosed sum. The divestment is part of Arkema's strategy to refocus its activities on fast-growing core specialty businesses. The deal includes four industrial sites - Arkema's plant in Carrollton, Kentucky, and certain assets at its Mobile plant in Axis, Alabama in the US; Arkema's Beijing plant in China will be transferred; while the part of the group's Vlissingen site in the Netherlands that is dedicated to tin stabilizer operations will be run by Arkema on behalf of PMC Group.

EUROPE

EVONIK TO START UP SINGAPORE PA-12 PLANT

Germany's Evonik is planning to start up a 20,000 tonne/year polyamide 12 plant in Singapore by 2014, a source at the company said. The new plant will cater to growing demand in the Asia market. Evonik decided to proceed with its plans of building the polyamide 12 plant despite a fire that occurred in March at a plant that manufactures cyclododecatriene, a feedstock of polyamide 12, in Marl Chemical Park, which is near Duisburg in Germany. The damaged cyclododecatriene plant in Marl is being repaired and operations are expected to recommence in the fourth quarter of 2012.

INEOS LICENSES TECH FOR VNHK COMPLEX

Switzerland-headquartered INEOS Technologies has licensed its Innovene polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) technologies to Rosneft subsidiary VNHK. VNHK is constructing a petrochemical complex at Nakhodka in the far eastern Primorsky region of Russia. The complex will be based around a cracker producing more than 1.4m tonnes/year of ethylene and 600,000 tonnes/year of propylene. Its butadiene capacity will be about 200,000 tonnes a year and it is being designed to produce around 230,000 tonnes/year of benzene.

FRANCE GETS LETTER OF INTEREST FOR REFINERY

A France ministry has received a letter of interest from a potential buyer for LyondellBasell's mothballed 105,000 bbl/day Berre-l'Etang refinery near Marseille. The ministere du redressement productif (ministry for industrial renewal) said it would send a technical team to Berre to further study the matter. LyondellBasell spokesman David Harpole told ICIS that the ministry informed the company about "an inquiry about possible interest in our Berre refinery." Harpole said that the name of the interested party was not disclosed. LyondellBasell was contacted through the ministry and the company, for its part, has not yet received a letter of interest, he added.

KARPATNEFTEKHIM PLANS SHUTDOWN IN AUG, SEPT

Ukraine's Karpatneftekhim plans to shut down its production units for polyvinyl chloride (PVC), ethylene, caustic soda, chlorine and polyethylene for maintenance. The company's plant in Kalush, western Ukraine, is due to be shut down in August and September for regular maintenance work. However, the plant may remain idle for longer if Ukraine's government does not do more to protect domestic petrochemical producers, the company said. Karpatneftekhim has capacities to produce 300,000 tonnes/year of PVC, 200,000 tonnes/year of caustic soda, 180,000 tonnes/year of chlorine, 250,000 tonnes/year of ethylene and 100,000 tonnes/year of polyethylene (PE).

ASIA

EXXONMOBIL DELAYS SINGAPORE PX SHIPMENTS

US-based ExxonMobil has slightly pushed back shipments of paraxylene from Singapore, given mechanical issues at its aromatics facilities at the site, market sources said. Operating rates at the aromatics units may have been affected, they said. An ExxonMobil spokesperson declined to discuss operational matters. A Japan-based customer of ExxonMobil Singapore said there were "small delays" in paraxylene (PX) shipments of term volumes from the company. Term PX deliveries were pushed back to early August from July, market sources said. ExxonMobil operates two aromatics lines in Singapore - the Jurong Aromatics Plant (JAR) that produces 300,000 tonnes/year of benzene; 180,000 tonnes/year of toluene; and 400,000 tonnes/year of PX; and the Singapore Aromatics Recovery (SAR) that can produce 190,000 tonnes/year of benzene and 420,000 tonnes/year of PX.

SINOPEC-SABIC SETS TURNAROUND FOR MEG

Sinopec-SABIC Tianjin Petrochemical plans to shut its 380,000 tonne/year monoethylene glycol (MEG) plant in north China at the beginning of August for maintenance, a company source said. The shutdown is expected to last about 45 days, the source said. The unit also produces 24,000 tonnes/year of diethylene glycol (DEG) - a co-product of MEG, according to the source. The company is 50:50 joint venture between petrochemical majors SABIC of Saudi Arabia and Sinopec of China. Anticipating the August shutdown, Sinopec-SABIC Tianjin is currently selling limited spot MEG and DEG, leading to some tightness in supply in the domestic market, traders said.

DRAGON DELAYS XIAMEN PARAXYLENE START-UP

China's Dragon Aromatics has further delayed the start-up of its 800,000 tonnes/year paraxylene (PX) project, located at Zhangzhou in Xiamen, because of pipelines issues, a source familiar with the matter said. The aromatics complex is likely to start up in the fourth quarter of the year, the source added. The expected start-up date of the unit had been previously delayed from February-March 2012 to the early third quarter of the year.


By: Joseph Chang
+1 713 525 2653



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