This week's world news

14 December 2012 10:00  [Source: ICB]

AMERICAS

DOW HAS DESIGNS TO RAISE C2 CAPACITY BY 20%
Dow Chemical's US Gulf coast investment plans, including a new cracker in Texas, will raise the company's global ethylene capacity by about 20%, the US-based producer said. Dow's total propylene capacity will increase by about 900,000 tonnes/year and its total ethylene capacity by about 2.1m tonnes/year. Dow said previously that its planned cracker at Freeport, Texas, will have an ethylene capacity of 1.5m tonnes/year, with start-up expected for 2017. The project is entering its front-end engineering and design stage.

FLINT HILLS RESTARTING US CRACKER
Flint Hills Resources (FHR) was in the process of restarting its Port Arthur cracker in Texas after a planned turnaround, market sources said. The 621,000 tonne/year ethylene unit was taken off line in late September, according to a filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

SHELL RESTARTS LOUISIANA OLEFINS UNIT
Shell has resumed operations at its olefins Norco complex in Louisiana after an unplanned outage last week, market sources said. Shell has two crackers at the site, with a combined 1.42m tonnes/year of ethylene capacity. Market sources said the company had halted production in Norco because it could not ship ethylene out of the facility as a result of a pipeline leak last week. Shell confirmed it had shut down a segment of a pipeline in Louisiana, but a spokesperson declined to comment on the company's operational status in Norco, citing policy.

3M TO EXPAND ALABAMA POLYMER PLANT CAPACITY
3M will upgrade equipment to expand the capacity of its polymer production facility in Decatur, Alabama, the US-based conglomerate said. Expansion is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2013. The plant is 3M's largest fluoro­elastomer manufacturing facility. The company did not disclose the size of the anticipated capacity increase or the cost of the investment.

US PLASTICS, PACKAGING M&A THROUGH Q3 UP 2%
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in the US plastics and packaging industry remained strong in the third quarter as deal volumes in 2012 increased by nearly 2% year on year, an investment banking firm P&M ­Corporate Finances said. Plastics and packaging M&A activity totalled 280 deals through the third quarter, compared with 275 during the same period last year. The strong buyer demand exceeded the available supply of quality businesses for sale, creating a seller's market that generated interest from financial and strategic buyers, the firm said.

AIR PRODUCTS TO SHUT DOWN TEXAS PLANT
US-based industrial gases producer Air Products plans to shut down a plant in Pasadena, Texas, in January and lay off 52 workers by the end of that month, according to a filing with the Texas Workforce Commission. The filing did not specify what Air Products makes at the plant, but the company's annual report said it owns a plant in Pasadena that produces the ­polyurethane intermediate toluenediamine and that it planned to close the plant.

US CHEMS TO BENEFIT MOST FROM FTA WITH EU
The US chemical sector will be the largest beneficiary of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the US and EU, said Bill Allmond, vice president of government and public relations for the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA). The US chemical industry paid over $1bn [€780m] in duties and tariffs to the EU in 2011, with $600m [€780m] from organic chemical manufacturers. If the US and the EU decide to proceed, a signing ceremony could occur by early 2014. US chemical producers are already benefiting from the FTAs signed with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

NEXEO SEALS DEAL WITH FLINT GROUP PIGMENTS
US-based chemical distribution firm Nexeo Solutions has sealed an agreement to distribute Flint Group Pigments' organic colour pigments in the US and Puerto Rico. The agreement grants Nexeo access to Flint Group's organic colour pigments product line in paints and coatings, which includes dry pigments, presscake, aqueous dispersions, hyperdispersants, varnishes, alkyds, alkali blue, pigment chips and resins, it said.

ECOPETROL RESTARTS ONE OF TWO LDPE UNITS
Colombia's sole polyethylene (PE) producer, Ecopetrol, has restarted its Poly-2 PE production unit at Barrancabermeja, which has been down for preventive maintenance, a company source. The low density polyethylene (LDPE) production units at the Barrancabermeja refinery have a combined capacity of 5,400 tonnes/month. The 3,620 tonne/month Poly-2 unit was back in service on 11 December after some technical difficulties that delayed the restart. This unit was initially scheduled to return at the end of November. The 1,780 tonne/month Poly-1 unit is expected to resume operations this week, the source said.

EUROPE STYRON ABS TRAIN STARTS UP AT TERNEUZEN
Styron's acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) train at its 35,000 tonne/year Terneuzen plant in the Netherlands has restarted following an outage in October, a company source said. The outage, which was announced on 19 October, began on 26 October and was attributed to technical issues and the necessity to carry out maintenance on the train. Styron was able to manage supply to customers ­during the outage, helped by softening demand for ABS in November and December.

SHELL LIFTS FORCE MAJEURE ON STYRENE AT MOERDIJK
Shell Chemicals has lifted its force majeure on styrene out of its site in Moerdijk in the Netherlands, according to a company source. Force majeure on styrene was originally declared on 6 November, following an unforeseen technical problem. After an additional unexpected steam leakage at the Ellba propylene oxide/styrene monomer (PO/SM) plant in Moerdijk later in November, the company maintained allocation on styrene for the rest of the month, even as repairs on the other plant were completed.

DOW COMPLETES 30,000 TONNE/YEAR LER EXPANSION
US-based company Dow Epoxy, a business unit of Dow Chemical, has completed a 30,000 tonne/year expansion of its liquid epoxy resin (LER) capacity at its plant in Stade, Germany. Announced in May 2011, the expansion has increased the company's global LER capacity by 10%, the company said. The Stade LER plant is now operating at its full production rates.

REPSOL TO IDLE PORTUGAL CRACKER AND BD, PE UNIT
Weak demand has forced Spanish oil and gas firm Repsol to idle units at its petrochemical complex in Sines, Portugal. Sources said, citing local press reports, that Repsol would temporarily shut its 45,000 tonne/year butadiene (BD) unit, ethylene cracker and low and high density polyethylene (PE) units in December. A similar market situation forced the temporary shut down of the cracker in December 2011. It restarted only in the second half of January when demand had improved.

STYRON SHUTS DOWN NETHERLANDS SAN PLANT
9
Styron's 35,000 tonne/year styrene acrylonitrile (SAN) plant in Terneuzen, the Netherlands, was closed for planned maintenance and improvement on 29 November, according to a company source. The planned shutdown was scheduled for December because it sat well with typically low demand for the month, as buyers carefully manage inventories ahead of the year end. Styron intends to commence start-up as soon as the work is complete to ensure it can meet the expected pick-up in demand in the first quarter of 2013.

VCI DISAPPOINTED WITH DOHA CLIMATE OUTCOME
Germany's chemical industry is disappointed with the outcome of the recent UN climate change conference in Doha, Qatar, Frankfurt-based trade group VCI said. Delegates at Doha agreed to extend the Kyoto climate change treaty by eight years to 2020, and to work out a climate pact covering all countries by 2015. VCI general manager Utz Tillmann said countries with large CO2 emissions, such as the US and China, still did not commit to specific greenhouse gas reduction targets.

PERSTORP TO DISTRIBUTE NORDMANN PRODUCTS
Perstorp has signed an agreement with Germany-based company Nordmann, Rassmann (NRC), to distribute its products in Bulgaria, Slovenia and Serbia, the Swedish specialty chemicals company said. The extended distribution agreement came into effect during the second half of 2012, and encompasses Perstorp's polyalcohols, caprolactones, specialty polymers and coalescing agents.

UNIPETROL POLYOLEFIN MARGIN FALL
Unipetrol's model polyolefin margin fell by 12.4% to €234/tonne in November from €267/tonne ($342/tonne) in October, the Czech petrochemical producer said. The company's model olefin margin edged up from €358/tonne in October to €362/tonne in November, it added. In November 2011, the model polyolefin and model olefin margins stood at €212/tonne and €265/tonne respectively, Unipetrol said.

EUROPE CHEMS FACE CHALLENGES AHEAD
The European chemical sector has been one of the top performers of the year, HSBC said, but warned that the rally could continue at its current rate only if the global economy grows faster than expected. According to new data from the UK-headquartered bank, European chemical company stocks out­performed the general European market by 12%, US chemicals by 11% and Asian chemicals by 27% this year, despite the deteriorating macroeconomic environment seen in the second half of 2012.

GNS AGREES EPC TERMS TO BUILD ACRYLATE UNITS
Gazprom Neftekhim Salavat (GNS) has agreed the terms and conditions for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of new acrylic acid (AA) and butyl acrylate (butyl-A) production units, the Russia-based petrochemical major said. GNS signed the EPC contract with Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, trade company Sojitz Corp­oration and Turkey's Renaissance Construction. The new facilities will have capacities of 80,000 tonnes/year of AA and 80,000 tonnes/year of butyl-A. They will be built on GNS's premises in Salavat, Bashkortostan, and are due to come on stream in fourth quarter of 2015.

GRUPA AZOTY STARTS WITH €490M CAPEX BUDGET
Grupa Azoty, the major state-backed Polish chemical company to be launched following a merger in the new year, will announce a two-year capital expenditure (capex) budget of around zloty (Zl) 2bn ($630m, €490m), the Polish treasury ministry said. The group, to be formed from merging Zaklady Azotowe Pulawy (ZAP) and Zaklady Azoty Tarnow (ZAT) - should invest with the understanding that the government sees the chemical industry as a strategic sector of the Polish economy, Polish treasury minister Mikolaj Budzanowski said.

CORRECTION
In the 10 December article "ICIS Top 40 Power Players", page 24, we incorrectly stated that Tom Crotty is director of communications and CEO, INEOS Olefins ­and Polymers. In fact, his job title is director of communications, INEOS.

ASIA

KUMHO BEGINS OPERATIONS AT YEOSU MIBK UNIT
South Korea's Kumho P&B Chemicals has begun commercial operations at its expanded methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) plant in Yeosu, a company source said. The plant, which has a nameplate capacity of 55,000 tonnes/year, is operating at 70-80% capacity after being started up in early December, the company source said. ­The producer plans to keep the MIBK plant running at 70-80% capacity for December.

CHINA ADDS ON ACETONE IMPORTS TO EXPIRE 2013
China's Ministry of Commerce has announced that its anti-dumping measures on acetone imported from Japan, Singapore, Korea and Taiwan will expire on 9 June next year. It had levied anti-dumping duties (ADDs) at 5-51.6% on acetone cargoes imported from these four regions since 9 June 2008. According to China's anti-dumping policy, the implementation period of the ADDs should not exceed five years if there is no review application from domestic producers during that period.

FORMOSA RESTARTS ACRYLATES UNITS
Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Corp (FPC) has restarted its acrylic acid (AA)/acrylate ester plants located at Kaohsiung on 8 December as planned, a company source said. The plants were initially shut because of a scheduled power shutdown at the facility ordered by the Taiwanese government. The firm produces about 51,000 tonnes/year of crude AA, 30,000 tonnes/year of glacial AA, 40,000 tonnes/year of butyl acrylate (butyl-A), 30,000 tonnes/year of methyl acrylate (methyl-A) and 20,000 tonnes/year of ethyl acrylate (ethyl-A).

MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA

SAUDI POLYMERS COMPLEX TO REMAIN SHUT IN DEC
Saudi Polymers's Al Jubail complex will remain shut for the rest of December and is expected to resume output sometime in January, the firm's parent, The National Petrochemical Co, said. The complex - which can produce 1.16m tonnes/year of ethylene, 1.1m tonnes/year of polyethylene, 430,000 tonnes/year of propylene, 400,000 tonnes of polypropylene (PP), 200,000 tonnes/year of polystyrene (PS), and 100,000 tonnes/year of 1-hexene - was taken off line on 10 Nov­ember because of technical issues, which was expected to last about four weeks.

EGYPT LAB TO EXPAND CAPACITY BY END-2014
Egypt's largest linear alkylbenzene (LAB) producer, Egypt LAB Co, plans to increase its LAB capacity at Alexandria, Egypt, by 40% to 140,000 tonnes/year by the end of 2014, a source close to the company said. "The company will use UOP's solid state catalyst process for the expansion," the source said. Most of the additional capacity will be exported, as domestic consumption in Egypt is only 70,000 tonnes/year, the source added. But domestic demand in Egypt is growing at a rate of 5-6%/year, it will be inadequate to absorb the production in 2014, a market player said.

EGYPT LAB TO BEGIN TURNAROUND IN MID-DEC
Egypt's largest linear alkylbenzene (LAB) producer, Egypt LAB Co, plans to shut its 100,000 tonne/year LAB plant at Alexandria in mid-December for maintenance, a source close to the firm said. "The plant will restart on 1 January, 2013," the source said. The shutdown is expected to tighten supply of LAB in northern Africa and the Middle East, sources said. Egypt's capacity of LAB is 155,000 tonnes/year, while local consumption is only 70,000 tonnes/year, resulting in exports of 85,000 tonnes/year.


By: Will Beacham
+44 20 8652 3214



AddThis Social Bookmark Button

For the latest chemical news, data and analysis that directly impacts your business sign up for a free trial to ICIS news - the breaking online news service for the global chemical industry.

Get the facts and analysis behind the headlines from our market leading weekly magazine: sign up to a free trial to ICIS Chemical Business.

Printer Friendly