News in brief

12 April 2013 09:51  [Source: ICB]

MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA

SAPCO TO START UP SAP PLANT IN SEPTEMBER
Saudi Acrylic Polymers Co (SAPCO) is on track to start up its 80,000 tonne/year superabsorbent polymers (SAP) plant in Al-Jubail, Saudi Arabia in September, a source close to the project said. This will be the first SAP plant in the Middle East. The source was speaking on the sidelines of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association Plastics (GPCA) conference in Dubai.

TSOC TO START UP BUTYL-A PLANT IN JUNE OR JULY
Saudi Arabia’s Tasnee Sahara Olefins Co (TSOC) will bring its 160,000 tonne/year butyl acrylate (butyl-A) plant in Al Jubail on stream at the end of June or early July, a source close to the project said. The propylene feedstock for the butyl-A facility will be supplied by Saudi Polyolefins Co’s 450,000 tonne/year propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit and the 280,000 tonnes/year of propylene produced by Saudi Ethylene and Polyethylene Co’s (SEPC) ethane cracker.

GPIL TO ADD 35,000 TONNE/YEAR TO BOPP UNIT
Saudi’s Gulf Packaging Industries Ltd (GPIL) will add 35,000 tonnes/year to its biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) film facility in Al-Jubail, a company source said. With the addition, the plant will operate at 100,000 tonnes/year in the fourth quarter. The source added material produced from the facility will be mostly exported globally.

SIPCHEM TO START UP LDPE/EVA PLANT IN Q4
Saudi International Petrochemical Company (Sipchem) plans to start up its 200,000 tonne/year low density polyethylene (LDPE)/ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) joint venture plant in Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia, in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2013, a senior company official said. “The reason we decided to go in for EVA is because it would be value addition to our existing portfolio,” said Trevor Hutley, general manager, R&D, with Sipchem.

NCC BUYS OUT ODFJELL IN SAUDI SHIPPING VENTURE
Saudi Arabia’s National Chemical Carriers Ltd (NCC) will buy out its 50:50 joint venture partner - Norwegian logistics firm Odfjell - in the NCC Odfjell Chemical Tankers JLT (NOCT) by June, the Saudi firm’s parent, Bahri, said. This would entail dissolution of 18 ships totalling 40,000 deadweight tonne (dwt) or higher, according to Bahri, also known as the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia.

ASIA

JAC TO START UP NEW AROMATICS UNIT IN Q2 2014
Jurong Aromatics Corporation (JAC) plans to start up its new aromatics facility in Jurong Island, Singapore, in the second quarter of 2014, sources familiar with the matter said. The aromatics unit has the capacity to produce 400,000 tonnes/year of benzene, 200,000 tonnes/year of orthoxylene (OX) and 800,000 tonnes of paraxylene (PX). Sales of new products will start in July or August 2014. Singapore-based JAC had expected the aromatics project to be complete by February 2014.

PACKAGING TO DRIVE THAI PLASTICS GROWTH
The packaging segment is set to command a large portion of plastics consumption in Thailand in 2013, a senior industry official said. “Packaging accounted for 44% of plastics consumption in Thailand in 2012, and the trend is likely to continue in 2013,” said Somsak Borrisuttanakul, honorary chairman of the Plastic Industry Club of Thailand. He was speaking on the sidelines of the GPCA Plastics conference in Dubai.

LINDE WINS CONTRACT FOR WORK AT RELIANCE HUB
Germany-based Linde Group has been awarded a major contract by India-based Reliance Industries to build several plants to generate and purify gases in Jamnagar, India, in what should be a significant boost to the location as a refining and petrochemical hub, Linde said. Linde will build two air separation units (ASUs) to supply high-purity oxygen to Reliance’s ethylene glycol facilities in Jamnagar.

MITSUBISHI TO BUILD PET BOTTLE LINE
Japanese chemical producer Mitsubishi Plastics plans to build a new production line for high-barrier polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles at its plant in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa prefecture. The investment is in response to growing demand for bottles for alcohol beverages and containers for cooking oil and condiments. The new line, which is expected to cost about yen (Y) 1bn ($10.1m) to build, is scheduled to start commercial production in November 2013.

ZEON TO POSTPONE S-SBR PLANT PRODUCTION
Zeon Chemicals Singapore expects to postpone the start of commercial production at its new solution styrene butadiene rubber (S-SBR) plant on Jurong Island, Singapore, to September from July, its Japanese parent Zeon Corp said. The construction of the expansion of the tunnel for the plant’s pipeline is taking longer than expected, it said. Zeon Chemicals Singapore originally planned to begin commercial production in July 2013.

CNOOC TO CONSTRUCT LNG PLANT IN SICHUAN
China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) plans to build a 600,000 tonne/year gas liquefaction plant at Deyang in Sichuan province, a local government official said. The company entered into a framework agreement through its subsidiary, CNOOC Gas & Power Group, with Deyang government in Beijing on 13 March, the official from Deyang Development and Reform Commission said.

AMERICAS

SABIC PLANS TO EXPLOIT US SHALE WITH NEW CRACKER
SABIC is planning to capitalise on cheap US feedstock prices in light of the US shale gas boom by developing at least one new cracker in the country, a spokesperson for the Saudi-based company said. The company is in talks with partners with a view to investing in one or more projects utilising ethane derived from shale gas as a feedstock, a spokesperson confirmed. The company has been weighing the potential for a new US cracker for more than a year, with CEO Mohammed Al-Mady telling ICIS in December 2011 that the company was considering investing in a US cracker, alone or with a partner.

GROUPS PRESS EPA ON BIOFUEL MANDATES
US refiners urged federal officials to abandon plans to make higher ethanol blended gasoline available to consumers, warning that the action could cause widespread economic damage. The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) filed formal comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), arguing that EPA’s proposed ethanol consumption mandates for this year “are divorced from reality”. As in earlier complaints about the agency’s annual renewable fuel standard (RFS) for ethanol consumption, AFPM targeted plans to allow use of gasoline blends that contain 15% ethanol, or E-15. A final EPA mandate decision is expected some time in the middle of the year.

SASOL BUYS EQUIPMENT FOR CRACKER
Sasol has ordered the long-lead equipment that is critical to the main ethylene compressor trains at its new 1.5m tonne/year cracker in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the South African energy and chemicals company said. Sasol is purchasing the equipment from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Compressor Corporation (MCO) because of its reputation and capability to manufacture equipment of that size and nature. LastDecember, the firm announced that it is proceeding with the front-end engineering and design (FEED) phase for the $5bn-7bn (€3.85bn-5.39bn) cracker.

US SAYS NO PLANS TO BUY SUGAR FOR ETHANOL
Federal agriculture officials denied that they plan high-volume purchases of surplus US sugar and to supply it at a loss to ethanol producers, saying they are considering a variety of measures to deal with record-low sugar prices. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said that it has asked the White House office of management and budget to review a proposed rule that would allow USDA to select from a number of options to intervene in the sugar market.

BRAZIL DIVULGES NEW BIODIESEL GUIDELINES
Brazil has adopted new guidelines for stocking biodiesel as a way to reduce costs and improve the logistical efficiency of the fuel, the nation’s mines and energy ministry said. The measure has a consumer-focused approach regarding its price, quality and supply. Under the new rules, producers and importers of diesel derived from oil may buy the fuel to stock it themselves or contract a buying option from sellers. Brazilian petroleum agency ANP will oversee the proceedings to make the new rules permanent in the market.

BRAZIL SLASHES METHANOL IMPORT TARIFF TO ZERO
Brazil’s chamber of foreign trade (Camex) said it has temporarily cut the import tariff on methanol from 12% to zero with immediate effect. The new tariff is valid for 180 days and is limited to maximum shipments of 560,000 tonnes, Camex said. The measure was taken because a “situation of supply shortage still persists”. A resolution passed by South American trading block Mercosur allows member countries to temporarily reduce import tariffs to guarantee product supply.

TRINIDAD, MITSUBISHI AGREE ON $850M PROJECT
Trinidad and Tobago and a group led by Mitsubishi Gas Chemical signed an agreement to build an $850m (€655m) methanol-to-petrochemical project in a new industrial area on the Caribbean island. The project, first announced in early December 2012, would convert methanol to di-methyl ether (DME) and be built at the Union Industrial Estate in La Brea. The project represents a geographic shift in Trinidad away from the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, where most of the tiny island’s petrochemical plants are located.

US NATGAS SUPPLIES HIT A RECORD HIGH
The amount of recoverable natural gas in the US has reached yet another record high, the Potential Gas Committee (PGC) at the Colorado School of Mines said, with the supply now measured as enough to meet all domestic US gas needs for 98 years. An assessment of the nation’s gas resources at 2,384 trillion cubic feet (tcf) (67.5 trillion cubic metres), “is the highest resource evaluation in the PGC’s 48-year history - exceeding by 486tcf the previous record-high assessment from year-end 2010”.

ACTIVISTS URGE AGENCY TO RESCIND OIL, GAS LEASES
Two activist groups are urging the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to rescind oil and gas leases in central California after a judge ruled that the federal agency did not adequately consider the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing before auctioning off about 2,700 acres of land. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club had filed a suit against the BLM and US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for selling four leases in September 2011 for oil and gas production in Monterey and Fresno counties.

EUROPE

SWITAJEWSKI IS NAMED AS NEW CEO AT UNIPETROL
Czech petrochemical producer and refiner Unipetrol has elected Marek Switajewski as its new CEO and chairman of the board of directors. Switajewski replaces the company CEO since 2009 Piotr Chelminski, who resigned from the position. One of the first tasks of Switajewski will be handling the launch of Unipetrol’s next five-year strategy.

MOMENTIVE PLANS MAY ACRYLIC ACID TURNAROUND
Acrylic acid (AA) producer Momentive Specialty Chemicals will enter into a planned maintenance turnaround at its plant in Sokolov, Czech Republic, a source from the company said. “We have a shutdown in May,” the source said. “This is an annual shutdown.” The maintenance will take place on one of its two lines over the course of three to four weeks, the source said. Momentive has the capacity to produce 55,000 tonnes of AA per year. The source said the plant would run at approximately 50% of capacity during the outage.

MYRIANT IN DISTRIBUTION DEAL WITH BCD CHEMIE
US-based renewable chemicals producer Myriant Corporation has signed a distribution agreement with German chemical distributor BCD Chemie. Hamburg-based BCD Chemie will market and distribute Myriant’s bio-succinic acid and Myrifilm solvent in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, Myriant said.

BANK UPGRADES SYNTHOS ON HOPES OF RECOVERY
WOOD & Company has upgraded its rating on the stock of major synthetic rubber producer Synthos to ‘hold’ from ‘sell’, noting there is still a possibility of a second-quarter butadiene (BD) and styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) price recovery. “With the BD supply glut being slowly cleared from the market [in Asia], we continue to see some scope for a BD price uptick from the current levels in the second half of 2013,” said Piotr Drozd, a chemical industry analyst at the Prague-based bank.

DOMO TO BUY AQUAFIL PLASTICS BUSINESS
Belgium-headquartered caprolactam and nylon 6 company Domo Chemicals has entered into an agreement to acquire Italy-based Aquafil’s engineering plastics business unit. Financial details of the potential deal were not disclosed.

TRELLEBORG ACQUIRES AMBLER TECHNOLOGIES
Swedish sealants group Trelleborg has acquired UK-based Ambler Technologies which strengthens its position in oil and gas exploration and extraction, particularly in buoyancy modules for remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). With this acquisition, Trelleborg will have access to expertise in creating specified buoyancy and insulation properties, it said.

ARKEMA TO BOOK €125M WRITEDOWN ON KEM ONE
Arkema is to book a non-recurring charge of €125m ($164.5m) in its financial results for the first quarter to account for its total exposure to troubled upstream vinyls production business KEM ONE, which it divested last year, the France-based chemical company said. KEM ONE was placed into receivership last month at the request of Gary Klesch, head of current owner Klesch Group. The €125m figure represents Arkema’s estimated total exposure to KEM ONE’s international operations.

0.006% OF WORLD LAND USED FOR BIOPLASTICS
The feedstock required for today’s bioplastics production accounts for less than 0.006%, or 300,000 hectares, of the global agricultural area of 5bn hectares, the European Bioplastics trade association said. The amount was determined on figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and calculations of the Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites at Germany’s University of Hannover.


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