News in brief

19 April 2013 09:15  [Source: ICB]

EUROPE

SABIC TO CUT 1,050 JOBS AND CLOSE EUROPE PLANTS
Saudi Arabian petrochemical major SABIC has announced plans to cut approximately 1,050 positions in Europe. The planned restructuring also includes the shutdown of certain European assets. Around two thirds of the planned job cuts across Europe will involve SABIC employees. The remainder of the cuts will come from contracting staff. The locations of the job cuts and asset shutdowns were not disclosed. SABIC said the European market faces new competitive challenges, as lower spending on houses, cars and appliances and investments in infrastructure projects has meant slower growth.

HALTERMANN ACQUIRES PETROCHEM CARLESS
Former Dow Chemical subsidiary Haltermann has completed the acquisition of UK-based fuels and solvents producer Petrochem Carless, Haltermann owner HIG Capital said. Following the acquisition, which was approved by the European Commission last month, Haltermann Holding will be renamed HCS Group, and will serve as the holding company for Petrochem Carless. The deal value was not disclosed, but Petrochem Carless recorded revenues of more than £350m (€411.8m, $538.5m) in 2012. The combined sales of Carless and Haltermann in 2012 stood at around €650m, HIG added.

RECTICEL MULLS UK FOAM CONVERSION UNIT CLOSURE
Recticel is considering the closure of a foam converting factory in Lancashire, UK, as part of a move to streamline its UK operations in the sector, the Belgium-headquartered company said. Run by the company's Recticel Limited (UK) subsidiary, the plant could potentially be closed before the end of the third quarter of 2013, Recticel added. If a decision is taken to close the plant, its activities would be integrated into the conversion capacities of its Alfreton plant in the Midlands region of the UK.

DECLINE OF EU CAR SECTOR CONTINUES IN MARCH
EU passenger car registrations in March 2013 declined for the 18th consecutive month, falling by 10.2% year on year, industry body the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association said. According to its data, 1,307,107 new passenger cars were registered in the region in March, down from 1,454,907 units registered in the same month in 2012.

CLARIANT TO BUY ECOLAB ASSETS IN GULF OF MEXICO
Switzerland-based specialty chemicals maker Clariant has signed a deal with Ecolab to acquire several of the cleaning services firm's deep-water assets in the Gulf of Mexico for an undisclosed fee. Ecolab had to divest the assets as a prerequisite by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) for the approval of its acquisition of US specialty chemicals producer Champion Technologies, Clariant said. The assets include Champion Technologies' oil and gas production chemicals.

EU CHEMS TRADE SURPLUS RISES IN JAN - EUROSTAT
The EU's chemical products trade surplus for January rose by 4.7% from the same period in 2012, driven by a year-on-year increase in imports and exports, EU statistics body Eurostat said. The trade surplus for chemicals in the EU rose to €9.0bn ($11.8bn) in January 2013, up from €8.6bn in the same month of 2012. Exports rose by 6% year on year to €22.7bn, and imports increased by 8% to €13.7bn.

NO RESPITE FOR SYNTHOS FROM MARKETS, SAYS BANK
Major synthetic rubber producer Synthos cannot depend upon European markets for an improvement in its fortunes, with the region's automotive industry remaining in a dire state, Austria-based Raiffeisen Centrobank (RCB) said. Latest pricing figures from Asia implied Synthos' product had become uncompetitive versus that of Asian synthetic rubber producers, but there was likely to be "no relief from European clients as the European automotive industry remains in a dreadful condition", RCB analyst Dominik Niszcz said.

OMV ACQUIRES RWE STAKE IN NABUCCO PIPELINE
OMV has acquired German energy utility company RWE's 16.67% stake in the EU-backed Nabucco pipeline project, the Austrian oil, gas and petrochemicals group said. The price of the transaction, which makes OMV the largest Nabucco shareholder by boosting its stake to 33.34%, was not disclosed by either party.

EU CONSTRUCTION OUTPUT DOWN BY 0.4% - EUROSTAT
EU construction output levels fell by 0.4% in February this year compared to the previous month, data agency Eurostat said. Construction output for the 17-member eurozone was also down by 0.8% month on month in February, Eurostat added. The agency also revised its month-on-month production level figures for January 2013 to a 1.7% decline in the EU and a 2.1% contraction in the eurozone.

GIVAUDAN Q1 SALES RISE BY 2.7% TO SWFR1.09BN
Givaudan's sales rose by 2.7% year on year to Swiss franc (Swfr) 1.09bn ($1.17bn) in the first quarter of this year on the back of higher revenues from both its core divisions, the Switzerland-based firm said. Its core fragrance division posted sales of Swfr517.1m in the first quarter of 2013, an increase of 3.6% year-on-year, while the firm's flavour division's revenues rose by 1.9% to Swfr571.8m.

EMS GROUP COMPLETES TAKEOVER OF EFTEC
EMS Group has completed the takeover of EFTEC to gain complete control over the business in central and eastern Europe, the Switzerland-based specialty chemicals and polymers firm said. EMS last month agreed to buy out its Czech partner in the EFTEC joint venture, D PLAST. EFTEC is a worldwide supplier to the automotive industry. It develops, produces and markets materials and application technology in the fields of bonding, coating, sealing and damping.

ZAP'S MELAMINE II PLANT BACK UP AFTER OUTAGE
Zaklady Azotowe Pulawy's (ZAP) Melamine II plant is operating following a planned turnaround, a source from the Polish fertilizer producer said. The turnaround lasted longer than initially planned as sub-zero temperatures at the Pulawy-based plant in Poland slowed maintenance work. The outage at the 30,000 tonne/year plant began in early March and had been expected to last approximately 20 days.

AMERICAS

M&G TO USE ALPEK'S INTEGREX TECHNOLOGY
Mossi & Ghisolfi (M&G) will use Alpek's IntegRex technology for the 1.2m tonne/year purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plant it is building in Corpus Christi, Texas, the Italy-based polyester producer said. M&G is using its own technology for the 1.0m tonne/year polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plant it is building at the same site. Both plants are expected to begin production in 2016.

CLARIANT AGREES TO BUY ECOLAB ASSETS
Specialty chemicals maker Clariant has signed a deal with Ecolab to acquire several of the cleaning services firm's deep-water assets in the Gulf of Mexico for an undisclosed fee. Ecolab had to divest the assets as a prerequisite by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) for the approval of its acquisition of US specialty chemicals producer Champion Technologies. The assets that would be acquired by Switzerland-based Clariant include Champion's oil and gas production chemicals services in the gulf.

FLIGHT HILLS REPORTS PORT ARTHUR CRACKER OUTAGE
Flint Hills Resources reported a shutdown of its light olefins unit (LOU) at its Port Arthur cracker in Texas because of an unexpected loss of power on 14 April, said a filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The shutdown of the unit caused emissions of various hydrocarbons. The company reported another shutdown on 11 April and began the restart process on 12 April, according to separate TCEQ filings. The site has 621,000 tonnes/year of ethylene capacity.

DUPONT VAM PLANT HAS POST-TURNAROUND ISSUES
DuPont's US vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) plant in Texas is not taking new orders for material because of problems that developed following a recent turnaround, sources said. A DuPont spokesman would not comment, but a buyer said the latest incident occurred following a maintenance turnaround at the 335,000 tonne/year LaPorte plant in March. The buyer said unspecified problems had occurred since restarting the plant, but it was unclear whether the plant had been shut down as a result.

MAGELLAN BEGINS TO SHIP CRUDE VIA REVERSED PIPE
US-based Magellan Midstream Partners said it is beginning commercial operations of its partially reversed Longhorn pipeline, which was converted to transport crude oil from Crane in west Texas to Houston. Magellan expects to transport an average of 75,000 bbl/day during the first 45 days of operations. Transportation volume will increase to 135,000 bbl/day in the subsequent months before operating at the full commercial service level of 225,000 bbl/day in the third quarter of 2013.

US HOUSING CONSTRUCTION UP BY 7% IN MAR FROM FEB
US housing construction rose by 7% in March from February, the Commerce Department said, but the gain was wholly due to a surge in apartment projects while the crucial single-family home segment fell by nearly 5%. Housing starts were at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.036m, an increase of 7% from the upwardly revised February figure of 968,000. The March gain in new housing construction also marked a nearly 47% improvement over the pace seen in March 2012.

US HOME BUILDERS LOSE CONFIDENCE IN MARKET
Market confidence among US home builders fell in April for the third consecutive month, with contractors hampered by continuing tight credit and rising costs for materials and labour, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) said in its monthly survey. Because of rising costs for building materials and skilled labour, builders registered less confidence for new single-family homes in April.

COBALT TECH SCALES UP BIO-BASED N-BUTANOL
Cobalt Technologies has scaled up its production process for bio-based n-butanol (NBA), the US developer of bio-based chemicals said. In a recent production run, it achieved a fermentation scale of more than 100,000 litres, compared with a pilot scale of 4,000 litres. The demonstration provided validation of Cobalt's ability to take advantage of opportunities to retrofit or co-locate with existing ethanol plants, it said.

CHEVRON BLAZE PROMPTS CSB CALL TO TIGHTEN RULES
Regulatory agencies need more resources to monitor US refineries, and safety regulations need to be more authoritative, the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said in unveiling its draft report on the August 2012 Chevron refinery fire in Richmond, California. The CSB recommended that had stricter regulations been in place that did more than recommend changes or fixes, an accident such as the 6 August 2012 blaze could have been avoided.

ASIA

SOLVAY TO BUILD SINGAPORE ALKOXYLATION FACILITY
Solvay will build a large-scale alkoxylation facility in Singapore to serve the fast-growing Asian market in home and personal care, coatings, industrial, agrochemicals and oil & gas. Through the alkoxylation process key monomers are produced that serve downstream surfactant development and manufacturing. The facility is expected to start operations by 2015.

BASF DAHEJ PROJECT SET TO PRODUCE IN EARLY 2014
BASF's new chemicals production site at Dahej, India, is on track to begin production in early 2014. The cost of the project - on the west coast of India in Gujarat and being developed by local subsidiary BASF India - is estimated at around Indian rupees (Rs) 10bn, ($183.12m), BASF said. The project, which broke ground a year ago, represents BASF's largest single investment in India.

TAIWAN'S TSRC TO RESTART SBR PLANT ON 22 APRIL
Taiwan Synthetic Rubber Corp (TSRC) will resume production of its 100,000 tonne/year styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) plant at Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on 22 April, after shutting in early April for scheduled maintenance. Non-oil grade SBR 1502 prices have been dropping in the past month because of weak demand, falling feedstock butadiene (BD) prices and declining natural rubber (NR) prices.

JAPAN'S NPU CONFIRMS MAY MDI PLANT MAINTENANCE
Japan's Nippon Polyurethane (NPU) plans to shut two if its methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate (MDI) facilities at Nanyo, Yamagata Prefecture, for annual maintenance in May. The two units, with capacity of 70,000 tonne/year and 130,000 tonne/year, will be taken off line on 1 May, and are expected to restart in mid-June. The company's third and newest 200,000 tonne/year unit will undergo maintenance turnaround from September to mid-October.

LANXESS STARTS UP CHINA LEATHER CHEMS PLANT
Germany's specialty chemicals LANXESS started up its 50,000 tonne/year leather chemicals plant on Tuesday in Changzhou, east China. The construction of the plant, located in Changzhou Yangtze Riverside Industrial Park, started in July 2011, and the start-up was on schedule. LANXESS has invested €30m, and it is the largest of its kind in China.

KPX CHEMICAL REDUCES TDI UNITS RATES AT YEOSU
South Korea's KPX Chemical is currently running two of its three toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) units in Yeosu at reduced capacity. There appears to be no plan to increase the overall utilisation rate of the plants, unless regional demand for TDI improves substantially. KPX Chemical has three TDI production lines with a nameplate capacity of 50,000 tonnes/year each, with one line shut since last year.

DUPONT EXTENDS MCC SUPPLY DEAL WITH MINGTAI
DuPont is to expand its microcrystalline cellulose (MCC)-based product offerings through an extended manufacturing agreement with Taiwan-based MCC manufacturer Mingtai. The agreement, which expands on a strategic partnership set up between the two companies in 2009, includes the development, production, distribution, marketing and sale of the hydrocolloid material to the global food industries. DuPont's side of the partnership is carried out through its Nutrition and Health division.

VINYTHAI PLANS ECH PLANT MAINTENANCE FOR MAY
Thailand's Vinythai plans for plant maintenance in May for its 100,000 tonne/year epichlorohydrin (ECH) plant in Map Ta Phut, Thailand. The plant will be shut for about one week in May for maintenance. The company will ramp up the plant's operating rate prior to the maintenance shutdown.


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