The world this week

25 January 2013 10:29  [Source: ICB]

EUROPE

INEOS, EVERGAS TO BRING US ETHANE INTO EUROPE

INEOS Europe, a business within Switzerland-headquartered chemical major INEOS, has entered into 15-year shipping agreements with petrochemical gas transporter Evergas for the delivery of ethane into Europe from the US. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed. Under the agreements, Copenhagen-based Evergas, formerly Eitzen Gas and Eitzen Ethylene Carriers, will build and operate medium-sized liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers with a cargo capacity of 27,500 cbm, dedicated to the transportation of ethane from Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, in the US, to INEOS's gas cracker in Rafnes, ­Norway.

ROMANIA'S OLTCHIM SET TO FILE FOR INSOLVENCY

Petrochemical and plastics manufacturer Oltchim is to enter insolvency, in a move intended to pave the way for company's future privatisation, the Romanian government announced. "Given the current economic problems Oltchim is facing, we have decided to start insolvency procedures. A request in this regard will be filed to a local court in Ramnicu Valcea. Furthermore, Oltchim's board is to approve our decision today," said Romanian Minister for Economy and Commerce Varujan Vosganian during a government meeting.

SOLVAY STICKS TO TRICKY PROFIT TARGETS - CEO

Belgium-based Solvay is sticking to ambitious medium-term growth targets even though market conditions in its home market of Europe remain challenging, its CEO says. The current challenging European market conditions are being offset by recovery in the US and stronger performance in Asia and, together with operational improvement and organic growth, mean that the company can still attain growth targets set in 2011 of growing earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) from €2bn/year ($2.7bn/year) to €3bn/year between 2011 and 2016, according to the company's CEO, Jean-Pierre Clamadieu.

SOLVAY READY TO TACKLE PVC MARKET OVERSUPPLY

Belgian group Solvay is planning to take action to deal with overcapacity and poor market conditions in Europe's polyvinyl chloride (PVC) market but has ruled out a quick sale of its assets. With Europe's economic crisis hitting demand amid an oversupplied and fragmented PVC market, Solvay is planning to take action to help alleviate unsatisfactory conditions which have hit the profitability of its PVC operations, said CEO Jean-Pierre Clamadieu.

NOVOZYMES ADJUSTS FINANCIAL TARGETS

Danish industrial enzyme producer Novozymes has adjusted its long-term financial targets to reflect an improved visibility regarding future sales growth drivers and earnings capacity. The company said it previously excluded future sales of enzymes for biomass conversion from its long-term sales targets, adding that there is now better visibility regarding growth opportunities in this emerging field.

BAYER CROPSCIENCE BUYS GERMANY'S PROPHYTA

Bayer CropScience, a subsidiary of Germany-based chemicals major Bayer, has completed its acquisition of microbial crop protection products supplier Prophyta. Based on the island of Poel in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany, Prophyta manufactures products based on biological control agents, and employs 30 full-time staff.

EVONIK SIGNS MOU FOR RUSSIAN AMINO ACID PLANT

Germany-based specialty chemicals majorEvonik Industries has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government of Rostov, Russia, to develop a planned plant for animal feed amino acid L-lysine in the region. The plant, which will produce around 100,000 tonnes/year of L-lysine, is expected to come on stream in 2014, the company added.

BASF CROSSES FINISH LINE FOR PRONOVA TAKEOVER

Germany-headquartered chemicals giant BASF is to take over Norway-based omega-3 manufacturer Pronova BioPharma, after securing the required approval of over 90% of the company's shareholders. BASF had received shareholder approval for 97.7% of Pronova's share capital by Friday 18 January, the closing date of the offer period. The company is now setting up a squeeze-out process to acquire all outstanding shares in the company.

ARMSTRONG TO HEAD US IN AKZONOBEL RESHUFFLE

Dutch coatings group AkzoNobel has appointed Graeme Armstrong as managing director Surface Chemistry and country director for North America. Armstrong is currently executive committee member responsible for research, development, and innovation (RD&I), succeeding Bob Margevich who is retiring. Armstrong will assume his new responsibilities on April 1 and will continue his RD&I role until a successor is found.

AMERICAS

US CHEMICAL ACTIVITY RISES BY 0.9% IN JANUARY

A US chemical activity indicator rose by 0.9% from December, indicating a sixth consecutive monthly gain that hints at acceleration for the housing market, according to rounded figures provided by the American Chemistry Council (ACC). The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a monthly index developed by ACC economists, rose to 92.4 from 91.6 a month ago. The index is 3.1% higher than 89.6 a year ago. In addition, the barometer's January three-month moving average rose to 91.5 from December's 91.2%, indicating sustained growth. January's average was also an increase from 89.0 in January 2012.

CP CHEM MULLS NORMAL ALPHA OLEFINS EXPANSION

Chevron Phillips Chemical is considering expanding normal alpha olefins capacity by at least 20% at its Cedar Bayou complex in Baytown, Texas. Chevron Phillips Chemical will seek approval in the third quarter of 2013. So far, Chevron Phillips has filed an environmental permit application with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). If the company pursues the project, construction would start in the first quarter of 2014, and the expansion would be completed in the fourth quarter of 2015.

DOW TO WITHDRAW FROM US MANUFACTURING GROUP

Dow Chemical has decided to withdraw its membership from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) because it disagrees with the organisation's position to support US export of natural gas, company spokeswoman Nancy Lamb said. Dow sent a letter, responding to the organisation's position and said it will pursue common-sense policies that promote manufacturers. In December, the US Department of Energy (DOE) released a report that analyses the effects LNG exports could have on the US. Dow CEO Andrew Liveris spoke out against the report, saying it failed to consider the importance of manufacturing to the US economy.

KEMIRA COMPLETES NORTH AMERICA EXPANSIONS

Kemira has completed a two-year, multi-million euro capacity expansion project at three polymer production plants in North America, effective this month, the Finland-based water chemistry firm said. It added the expansion has resulted in a 60% increase in manufacturing capacity at the company's production sites at Mobile in Alabama, Columbus in Georgia and Longview, Washington. Detailed capacity information was not disclosed.

BAYER MATERIALSCIENCE BUYS LAND FOR EXPANSION

Bayer MaterialScience has purchased nearly 11 acres (4 ha) of land adjacent to its South Deerfield site in Massachusetts for future expansion of its Functional Films NAFTA operations. The 147,000-square-foot (13,700 square-metre) South Deerfield facility manufactures and sells thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), polycarbonate (PC) and polycarbonate blend, as well as other specialty film and sheet for use in the medical, automotive, sports/recreation and safety industries, among others.

US NATUREWORKS INVESTS $807M IN 'GREEN' PLASTICS

NatureWorks, the US-based polylactic acid (PLA) manufacturer is planning to build a "green" plastic plant at the cost of Thai baht (Bt) 24bn ($807m), a company official said. NatureWorks Asia Pacific, a joint venture between PTTGC and Cargill Inc, "green" bio-plastic products can be developed from a number of agricultural products such as sugar. The company will decide later this year about the location of its second plant, but it will preferably be Thailand, given its location and raw materials, according to US media quoting Viboon Pungprasert, general manager at NatureWorks Asia Pacific.

MEXICHEM, PEMEX TO GO AHEAD WITH $566M VCM JV

Mexichem said it would proceed with a joint venture for vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) production with Mexico's state-owned oil and gas company Pemex, just two months after the Mexican chemical giant withdrew from the $566m (€425m) project. Mexichem's announcement follows Pemex's decision to finally approve the deal that will upgrade Pemex's VCM plant at Pajaritos in the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz. VCM production at Pajaritos is expected to increase by 24,000 tonnes in the first year of operation, 146,000 in the second and 217,000 in the third, Mexichem said.

CORRECTION

On page 12 of the 21 January issue, in the article titled "US propylene contracts settle higher for January", we indicated that polymer-grade propylene prices rose by 36% from 53.25 cents/lb in mid-December. In fact, this 36% rise was from 53.25 cents/lb in mid-November.

ASIA

BASF, SINOPEC TO BUILD CHINA ISONONANOL PLANT

BASF and Sinopec plan to build a world-scale isononanol (INA) plant in Maoming of Guangdong province in south China, with production expected to begin in around mid-2015, a news release from BASF said. BASF and Sinopec will form a new 50:50 joint venture, BASF MPCC, with preapproval received from the Maoming Administration of Industry and Commerce for the name of the venture. The capacity of the plant and the start date of the construction have not yet been disclosed.

BASF, PETRONAS TERMINATE PROPOSED JV IN MALAYSIA

German chemicals company BASF announced in a statement that it has reached a mutual agreement with Malaysia's PETRONAS to terminate their joint speciality chemicals venture in Pengerang, Johor. Following negotiations, both companies concluded that it would be in their mutual interest to terminate the Heads of Agreement (HoA) for the partnership as they were unable to agree on the terms and conditions. BASF said the HoA was signed on 5 March 2012 to jointly own, construct and operate production facilities for a variety of speciality chemical products within PETRONAS's Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project in Pengerang. While the proposed project has been discontinued, PETRONAS and BASF remain committed to their existing joint production facility at Gebeng Industrial Zone in Kuantan.

BASF PLANS UNCHANGED DESPITE RAPID PULLOUT...

BASF's objectives for growth in Asia-Pacific remain unchanged following the termination of a specialty chemicals heads of agreement (HoA) with PETRONAS for the giant RAPID project in Malaysia, it said.The Germany-headquartered chemicals giant said earlier that the (HoA) had been terminated by mutual agreement. It was to jointly develop and construct a number of speciality chemical production facilities at the RAPID complex - a planned $20bn refinery and chemicals complex in Pengerang, Johor, Malaysia. The HoA was part of a €1bn ($1.3bn) investment plan agreed by the two companies in 2010 as part of efforts to raise chemicals production in Malaysia.

...PETRONAS, EVONIK PLAN NEW SPECIALTY UNITS

PETRONAS and Germany's Evonik Industries signed a letter of intent (LOI) to jointly develop specialty chemical facilities within the Refinery & Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project in Pengerang, Johor, the two companies said. Under the LOI, the two companies are planning to jointly own, develop, construct and operate facilities for the production of hydrogen peroxide, C4 co-monomer and oxo-products within the RAPID project. The proposed units are expected to produce 250,000 tonnes/year of hydrogen peroxide, 220,000 tonnes/year of isononanol (INA) and 110,000 tonnes/year of 1-butene.

CHINA'S FUJIAN REFINING & PETCHEM CUTS AROMS RATE

China's Fujian Refining & Petrochemical (FREP) cut the operating rates of its aromatics unit in Quanzhou to 60% from 100% because of technical issues at an upstream refinery, a company source said. The aromatics plant - which can produce 260,000 tonnes/year of benzene; 250,000 tonnes/year of toluene; 740,000 tonnes/year of xylenes; and 700,000 tonnes/year of paraxylene (PX) - may run at this reduced rate for two to three days, the source said. Most of FREP's toluene and xylene output is for captive use of its PX facility.

NPU PLANS STAGGERED MDI UNIT MAINTENANCE IN 2013

Japan's Nippon Polyurethane (NPU) plans to shut its three methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate (MDI) facilities at Nanyo, Yamagata Prefecture, for annual maintenance during the second and third quarters this year, a company source said. The 70,000 tonne/year and 130,000 tonne/year units will be taken off line progressively from May to June. Subsequently, the company's newest 200,000 tonne/year unit will be shut in September or October.

However, exact dates are not yet confirmed, the source added.

CPDC RUNS CAPRO UNIT AT 85% AFTER RESTART

China Petrochemical Development Corp (CPDC) is running its 200,000 tonne/year caprolactam (capro) line at Kaohsiung in Taiwan at around 85% of capacity after maintenance works were completed on 18 January, a company source said. The line was shut in the week ended 28 December. CPDC is the sole capro producer in Taiwan. The company has two other capro lines located in Toufen, each with 100,000 tonnes/year of capacity. One of the Toufen lines is currently operating at close to full capacity, while the other unit has yet to start up, the source said.

SINGAPORE ACRYLIC ACID PLANT SHUTS FOR 10 DAYS

Singapore Acrylic Acid shut its 73,000 tonne/year facility at Jurong Island on 21 January for its annual maintenance, a source familiar with the matter said. The crude acrylic acid (AA) unit will be shut for about 10 days. Toagosei, a joint-owner of Singapore Acrylic Acid, will run its acrylate esters plants in Singapore at lower rates because of the shutdown at the upstream AA plant, market sources said. Players said prices are expected to remain stable-to-soft on weak buying interest.


By: Will Beacham
+44 20 8652 3214



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