This week's world news

14 September 2012 12:09  [Source: ICB]

EUROPE

GERMANY CHEMS TO BOOST R&D SPENDING IN 2012
Frankfurt-based chemical producers association VCI has said Germany's chemical and pharmaceutical producers aim to further increase their spending on research and development (R&D) this year - despite tough economic conditions. The industry's R&D spending will be around €9.2bn ($11.8bn) in 2012, up from €8.8bn in 2011 when it rose 6.5% from 2010, VCI added. BASF executive board member Andreas Kreimeyer, who heads VCI's research and science portfolio, said that chemicals and pharmaceuticals rank among Germany's most innovative industrial sectors.

JACOBS WINS WORK ON LOTTE PET PLANT IN UK
US-based petrochemicals engineering firm Jacobs said it has won a contract from South Korea's Lotte Chemical for work on a planned 200,000 tonne/year polyethylene terephthalate (PET) facility in the UK. Jacobs said its contract included construction management services for the project, which will be built adjacent to Lotte's existing PET and purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plants in Wilton in northeast England.

EUROPE AUGUST CHLORINE OUTPUT DOWN 1.1%
According to industry body Euro Chlor, the average European daily chlorine production in August decreased by 1.1% from July, while inventories of co-product caustic soda increased by 0.4% in the same period. Average daily production of chlorine for the region comprising the EU27, Norway and Switzerland, stood at 26,306 tonnes in August, up from 26,587 tonnes in July. Caustic soda stocks increased to 254,924 tonnes, up from 253,861 tonnes in the previous month.

TIKKURILA RAISES 2012 EARNINGS GUIDANCE
Finland-based decorative paints company Tikkurila has increased its profit and revenue estimates for 2012 on the back of "favourable development" during the first eight months. Tikkurila expects its reported earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) this year to exceed €65m ($83m), a 6.2% increase from 2011, the company said in a statement. The company's EBIT excluding non-recurring items is expected to exceed €70m this year against €62.7m in 2011, with 2012 revenue rising above €660m from €644m last year.

AZOMURES RESTARTS TARGU MELAMINE PLANT
Romania-based Azomures restarted melamine production at its plant in Targu, Mures, this week, a source at the fertilizer producer said. "The plant started on Monday last week," the source said. "It will take one or two weeks before we are running at 100%." The 18,000 tonne/year plant has been out of action since December 2011, when it was shut because of poor buying interest on the back of weakened macroeconomic conditions. Further confirmation from the producer is pending.

GERMAN ECONOMY STILL ROBUST - MINISTRY
Germany's economic performance is still "robust and resistant", despite recessionary trends in the eurozone and difficult global conditions, the country's economics ministry said in an update. "According to recent economic indicators, Germany's economic trends in the second half of the year should develop in a stable manner," the ministry said. "However, we cannot issue an 'all-clear': the economic downward risks outweigh the positives and remain significant," it added.

BASF PUTS OUT FIRE AT ITS LUDWIGSHAFEN SITE
Germany-based petrochemicals major BASF announced it has put out a fire involving hydrosulphite early last Tuesday morning at is petrochemicals hub in Ludwigshafen. BASF said on 10 September at around 23:40 Germany time, that about 1,900 kilogrammes of hydrosulphite caught fire in a transport container. It took fire-fighters 90 minutes to extinguish the blaze. One worker was medically examined for ­irritations to his eyes. There was no emissions impact on neighbouring residents.

EUROZONE CHEMICALS OUTPUT UP 1.2% IN JULY
European statistics agency Eurostat has reported that chemicals production in the eurozone in July grew by an estimated 1.2% month on month. Production in the EU during the same period increased by 1% from June, Eurostat added. In June, chemicals production in the EU had fallen by 2% month on month, and was down by 1.6% in the eurozone, according to revised figures. Production levels in July were still down compared to the previous year, as had been the case in the preceding 11 months.

STUDY THREATENS POLAND'S SHALE GAS PLANS - BANK
Prague-based investment bank WOOD & Company has said plans by Polish companies to ramp up shale gas exploration and production in the country are in question following the publication of a new European Commission study calling for new and tighter regulations on the industry. A study from the Environmental Directorate of the Commission argues that the pursuit of shale gas in Europe may pose a high risk to human health and the environment.

GLOBAL OIL DEMAND TO FALL IN 2013 - OPEC
OPEC has reported that world oil demand in 2013 is expected to decline from 2012 levels because of weakening economic growth. In its September monthly oil report, the cartel predicts 2013 global oil demand at 800,000 bbl/day, as the economic slowdown in developed countries "increasingly spills over into non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) economies." OPEC forecast global oil demand growth in 2012 at 900,000 bbl/day, unchanged from the previous report.

GERMAN CHEMICAL ACCIDENT RATE RISES
Chemical employers group BAVC said that Germany's chemical industry saw a slight increase in workplace accidents last year but the industry is still one of the safest to work in. BAVC said that the workplace accident rate in the chemical industry was 15.14 per 1,000 full-time positions last year, compared with 15.02 in 2010. In absolute terms, there were 13,205 accidents in the chemical industry last year, compared with 12,893 in 2010, said the Wiesbaden-based based group.

BIOPLASTICS BODY UNVEILS COMMUNICATIONS GUIDE
Industry association European Bioplastics has published a standards guide to combat the "widespread" problem of false or misleading environmental product properties data in the bioplastics industry. "Together with the bioplastics industry, we want to set a new benchmark for good environmental communication - all along the value chain," said Andy Sweetman, chairman of European Bioplastics.

AMERICAS

ITALY'S M&G BUYS LAND FOR TEXAS PROJECTS
Mossi & Ghisolfi (M&G) has bought land in Corpus Christi, Texas, for its planned polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and purified terephthalic acid (PTA) facilities, the Italy-based PET producer said. The site will be home to a 1m tonne/year PET and a 1.2m tonne/year PTA plant, M&G said.

LANXESS TO START UP COMPOUNDING PLANT
LANXESS expects to start up production at a plastics compounding facility in Gastonia, North Carolina, later this month, the Germany-based chemicals firm said. The plant will be part of a global network of compounding plants at which LANXESS mixes and refines nylon (or polyamide) with additives and glass fibre to produce plastic compounds for car parts.

HUNTSMAN TO EXPAND SPECIALTY RESINS WORK
Huntsman Corporation is to expand production capacity of specialty epoxy resins at its facility in McIntosh, Alabama, the US chemical company said. The expansion will more than double production capacity at the plant, increasing it by 4,500 tonnes, bringing total international epoxy resins output to 11,000 tonnes/year.

MDI OUTLOOK BRIGHTENS AS DEMAND RISES
Signs are pointing to an improving profit picture for methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate (MDI) producers, with prices on the upswing in the US and Asia, along with steady pricing in Europe, an analyst said. Frank Mitsch, analyst at US-based investment bank Wells Fargo, commented on US-based polyurethanes producer Huntsman: "We believe strong MDI demand - volumes up 15% year on year in Q2 - continued into Q3, helped by northern Europe and Asia. Chinese growth in particular has been impressive."

BRAZIL'S BRASKEM DEFENDS TARIFF HIKES
Plans by the Brazilian government to increase the nation's import tariffs on several petrochemical products will benefit the plastics industry, Braskem said. "It will make the Brazilian market more competitive. The package should not change total demand for resins in Brazil, but it [could] increase the competitiveness of local producers", said polyolefins vice president Luciano Guidolin.

US WR GRACE TO EMERGE FROM BANKRUPTCY IN 2013
WR Grace now expects to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the fourth quarter of 2013, the US-based catalyst producer said. The company earlier said that it expected to emerge from bankruptcy protection some time this year.

US WILLIAMS DECLARES ETHYLENE FORCE MAJEURE
US olefins producer Williams has declared force majeure on ethylene, according to information in the market, blaming the restriction on inventory losses caused by the shutdown of its cracker during Hurricane Isaac. The 612,000 tonne/year Geismar cracker in Louisiana has resumed operations, but the company was allocating ethylene sales at 75% during September.

AMERICAS STYRENICS CONFIRMS PLANT START-UP
Americas Styrenics confirmed that its 950,000 tonne/year St James facility in Louisiana was up and running following Hurricane Isaac. A source with the company said part of the facility was up over the US Labor Day weekend, while the rest of the plant came back up later.

US DOW RESUMES NORMAL OPERATIONS IN LOUISIANA
US-based Dow Chemicals has resumed normal operations at its plants in Louisiana, the company said. Dow had shut down its St Charles operations in Taft to prepare for Hurricane Isaac. Dow also had reduced rates at some of its units at its Plaquemine complex. Others were shut down.

TOTAL RESTARTS STYRENE PLANT AFTER ISAAC
Total Petrochemicals confirmed that it had restarted its Carville facility in Louisiana following Hurricane Isaac. The Carville facility has a combined styrene capacity of 1.16m tonnes/year and a polystyrene (PS) capacity of 658,000 tonnes/year.

LOW PROPANE, TIGHT SUPPLY BOOST OUTLOOK
Lower propane costs and tighter propylene supplies are improving the outlook for propane dehydrogenation (PDH), an analyst said. US-based on-purpose propylene producer PetroLogistics operates the sole PDH plant in the US, which uses propane as a feedstock to make propylene.

CITGO REVIEWS SAFETY ON TEXAS REFINERY
CITGO is reviewing the findings of a safety evaluation of its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, by US regulators, the refining and petrochemicals firm said. CITGO was responding to the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration's citation of the company for five safety violations at the refinery.

US CHEMICALS SECTOR JOBS DECLINE IN AUGUST
US chemicals sector employment fell marginally in August from July, the Labor Department said, but the plastics industry saw jobs growth for the third straight month. The department said that the chemicals industry shed about 300 jobs in August, dropping the total industry workforce to 797,400.

GEORGIA GULF TO SUPPLY BIO-BASED COMPOUNDS
US chlorovinyls firm Georgia Gulf will supply InPro, a manufacturer of door and wall protection, washroom systems and commercial surfaces, with bio-based compounds, it said. Georgia Gulf said that it developed rigid and flexible vinyl compound products that are non-phthalate and heavy metal-free.

US CHEMTURA WORKING ON 'BOLT-ON' INVESTMENTS'
Chemtura plans to raise up to $125m from lenders to fund potential "bolt-on" investment opportunities, the CEO of the US-based specialty chemicals firm said. Craig Rogerson said that Chemtura believed it was a good time to raise its liquidity in order to permit the company to undertake "transactions in the second half of 2012".

ASIA

VERSALIS ENTERS ASIA, PLANS GLOBAL INVESTMENT
Italy's Versalis, the chemicals division of energy firm Eni, expects to invest €400m/year ($513m/year) to expand its global business, with new operations in Asia to be focused on enhancing its elastomers business, a company executive said. Versalis CEO Daniele Ferrari was in Shanghai for the inauguration of a new office in China, marking the company's entry into Asia. In Asia, Versalis will be operated by Eni Chemicals Trading and Versalis Pacific Trading. These will be responsible for the import and sale of chemical products, the management of technology licences, and the development of partnerships in Asia.

SHANXI GUANGDA SHUTS LINFEN METHANOL UNIT
China's Shanxi Guangda Coking Air Source shut its 150,000 tonne/year methanol unit at Linfen in Shanxi province on 12 September for scheduled maintenance, a company source said. The producer is expected to restart the unit on 8 October. Around 60% of the plant's methanol output is supplied to the Henan area and 40% is sold to Shandong and Hebei province. The shutdown may not lead to an increase in local methanol prices in the province, a market player said.

SINOPEC SHANGHAI GAOQIAO TO SHUT PLANT
China's Sinopec Shanghai Gaoqiao plans to shut its 200,000 tonne/year phenol/acetone unit from mid-October for about one month, a company source said.Domestic phenol output will decrease by 10,000 tonnes and acetone output will decrease by 6,000-7,000 tonnes. This unit, which is located at Shanghai Chemical Industry Park in Caojing, is operating at full capacity now. Shanghai Sinopec Mitsui Chemicals's 120,000 tonne/year bisphenol A (BPA) unit will be shut at the same time.

BLUESTAR PETROCHEMICAL SHUTS BD UNIT IN TIANJIN
China's Bluestar Petrochemical shut its 30,000 tonne/year butadiene (BD) unit in Tianjin on 11 September with no definite restart date, a source close to the company said. Although the shutdown is expected to reduce available spot supply in the market, BD prices may continue to be on a downtrend because of weak demand from downstream butadiene rubber (BR) and styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) sectors.

HPCL-MITTAL ENERGY TO EXPORT PP TO PAKISTAN
India's HPCL-Mittal Energy Ltd (HMEL) will start exporting polypropylene (PP) cargoes from its new plant to neighbouring Pakistan in October, an executive from a Pakistani petrochemicals distributor said. Planet Petrochemicals Group chief executive Khurram Sayeed told ICIS that his company will be in charge of marketing HMEL's products in Pakistan under an agreement signed on 24 August

NAVOIAZOT SUSPENDS PVC, CAUSTIC SODA PROJECT
Uzbeki fertilizer producer Navoiazot has suspended plans to build new polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and caustic soda production facilities, the company said. ISU Navoi Chemical, a joint venture between Navoiazot and South Korea's ISU, had suspended the project, said Navoiazot.

PAKISTAN PSF UNIT TO BE COMPLETED ON SCHEDULE
Pakistan's Ibrahim Fibre is on track to complete building its new 232,750 tonne/year polyester staple fibre (PSF) plant in December this year, a company executive said. The trial production is expected in January 2013, Ibrahim Fibre director Shahid Amin said. The new plant, in which the company is investing $250m (€195m), will more than double the company's polyester staple fibre capacity to 442,750 tonnes/year.

THAILAND'S PTTGC TO SHUT HDPE PLANT THIS MONTH
Thailand's PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) was due to shut its 300,000 tonne/year high density polyethylene (HDPE) plant at Map Ta Phut in late September for a eight-day turnaround, a source close to the company said.

JIAXING'S NEW PTA PLANT RUNNING AT 60% CAPACITY
China's Jiaxing Petrochemical is running its new purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plant at Jiaxing with a total capacity of 1.5m tonnes/year at 60% capacity, after starting it up on 9 September, a company official said.

FCFC TO RESTART MAILIAO PHENOL/ACETONE PLANT
Taiwan's Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp (FCFC) plans to restart its phenol/acetone plant at Mailiao on 1 October after completing annual maintenance, a company source said. The plant, which consists of two lines with a combined phenol capacity of 400,000 tonnes/year, and a combined acetone capacity of 250,000 tonnes/year, was taken off line on 27 August to undergo a scheduled overhaul.

MCI PLANS TO SET UP POLYMERICS FIRM IN CHINA
Japanese chemical producer Mutsui Chemicals Inc (MCI) is planning to establish a firm for functional polymeric materials in Shanghai, China, in November 2012, thanks to growing demand, the firm said.


By: Will Beacham
+44 20 8652 3214



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