News in brief

17 May 2013 09:48  [Source: ICB]

AMERICAS

CP CHEM DECLARES FORCE MAJEURE ON PE
US polyethylene (PE) producer Chevron Phillips Chemical (CP Chem) declared force majeure on the resin, based on troubles affecting the company's production of ethylene, sources said. The company reported a loss of power and steam at its Sweeny cracker in Texas on 11 May, which caused several process units to shut down or experience operational difficulties. The Sweeny site has a combined ethylene capacity of 1.878m tonnes/year. The company is still in the midst of a 60-day planned turnaround that began on 8 April at its Port Arthur cracker in Texas.

TEXAS CRACKER SHUTDOWN REPORTED BY FLINT HILLS
US-based Flint Hills Resources reported a partial loss of electrical power and shutdown at its Port Arthur cracker in Texas on 11 May. A filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said the loss of power shut down the cracked gas compressor and the propylene refrigeration compressor and also caused an upset in the light olefins unit. The filing said power was restored later on 11 May. However, market sources said on 13 May that the light olefins unit was still down.

BASF EO PLANT WORKING DESPITE STEAM FAILURE
BASF's ethylene oxide (EO) unit at its Geismar, Louisiana, facility remains operational and did not experience a shutdown, despite a steam failure on 13 May, a company spokesperson said. Equipment problems led to a steam failure that caused the release of EO into the atmosphere, according to an incident report in the National Response Center. BASF's Geismar facility has an EO capacity of 220,000 tonnes/year.

LANXESS OPENS BLADDERS FACILITY IN BRAZIL
Germany-based chemicals producer LANXESS, through its subsidiary Rhein Chemie, has opened a new production facility for high-performance bladders for tyres. The facility in the city of Porto Feliz, Sao Paulo, has a 170,000 bladders/year capacity and was inaugurated on 13 May. LANXESS also plans to expand its Porto Feliz plant to produce pre-dispersed polymer-bound rubber additives to 1,800 tonnes/year. Altogether, investments should reach €10m ($13m).

SOLVAY, CASSAB CONFIRM DISTRIBUTION AGREEMENT
Belgian specialty chemicals producer Solvay said that Brazilian firm Grupo M. CASSAB will market and distribute its sodium bicarbonate for the production of animal feed in Brazil. M. CASSAB, the second largest chemicals distributor in Brazil, will market the sodium bicarbonate under the Bicar Z brand name.

EVONIK, OPXBIO FORM RENEWABLE CHEMS JV
Germany's Evonik has formed a joint venture with US-based OPX Biotechnologies (OPXBIO) to developed bio-based specialty chemicals, it said. The joint venture will use OPXBIO's proprietary EDGE technology to develop bio-processes. Financial, product or capacity details were not disclosed.

KMP TO SPEND $106M ON HOUSTON SHIP CHANNEL
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (KMP) will spend $106m (€82m) to buy more land and build new storage tanks and a dock at the Houston Ship Channel. KMP said the investment will include purchase of 20 acres (8 ha) next to its existing terminal in Pasadena, Texas; construction of nine new tanks with storage capacity of 1.2m bbl at its Galena Park terminal; and a new barge dock to relieve congestion on the Houston channel.

DECISION ON KEYSTONE XL STILL EXPECTED THIS YEAR
US energy industry officials said they still expect a White House decision this year on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposal, despite reports that the Obama administration might delay a ruling to 2014. Pending since 2008, the 1,700-mile (2,700 km), $7bn (€5.4bn) project would involve building a 36-inch (91 cm) pipeline across five US states, bringing crude to refineries in the US Midwest as well as Texas and providing refined products to another half-dozen states.

REINHARDT TO BE CHEMICAL HERITAGE FOUNDATION CEO
Carsten Reinhardt, professor of the history of science at Bielefeld University, Germany, will become president and CEO of the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF), effective August 1, 2013. He will succeed Thomas R. Tritton, who is retiring. Reinhart, who has worked with leaders in the chemical industry as well as in government, has extensively researched and published on the impact of chemistry on society through topics including the history of industrial research, the emergence of instrumentation, and chemistry's links to physics, biology, medicine, and technology.

MOMENTIVE SPECIALTY CHEM NARROWS Q1 LOSS
Momentive Specialty Chemicals reported a 2013 first-quarter net loss of $4m (€3.1m), compared with a loss of $16m in the same period a year before, as sales remained flat at $1.2bn. US-based Momentive said that improved North American housing markets, as well as restructuring, drove results in its forest products business, which saw a 20% year-on-year improvement in underlying earnings. Momentive's overall first-quarter gross profit was $143m, compared with $172m in the 2012 first quarter.


ASIA

CHINA COAL ENERGY PLANS $3BN PLASTICS PROJECT
China Coal Energy is planning to invest yuan (CNY) 19.3bn ($3.1bn) to construct a 600,000 tonne/year engineering plastics project at Yulin in Shaanxi province, the company said. The project will be based on coal, which will be first converted to methanol, and then to plastics. Output from the project is intended to cater to the east China markets, China Coal said. No definite timetable was provided on when construction will start, but the company estimated that the project will take four years to complete.

EXXONMOBIL SET TO START NEW SINGAPORE CRACKER
ExxonMobil expects to start ethylene production at its new 1m tonne/year cracker in Singapore "in a few weeks", a company spokesperson said on 10 May. "Commissioning and start-up of the multi-billion dollar petrochemical expansion on Jurong Island is progressing well," the spokesperson said. The new cracker is part of ExxonMobil's second petrochemical project in Singapore. The project includes new oxo-alcohol and transalkylation units; two 650,000 tonnes/year polyethylene (PE) units; a 450,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) plant; a 300,000 tonne/year metallocene elastomers unit; and an aromatics extraction unit that can produce 340,000 tonnes/year of benzene. It will also boost the company's paraxylene (PX) output at the site by 80,000 tonnes/year.

SANJIANG MAY BUILD NEW EO LINE IN ZHEJIANG
China Sanjiang Fine Chemicals is considering building a new ethylene oxide (EO) line in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, to come on stream at the end of 2014 or early 2015, a company source said. The decision is not finalised and as such, construction has not yet begun at the new unit, the source said. Sanjiang started commercial operations at a new EO line, with a nameplate capacity of 100,000 tonnes/year, at the same site in late February this year.

SHAOXING SANYUAN EYES PDH START-UP IN NOV/DEC
China's Shaoxing Sanyuan Petrochemical plans to start up its propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, in November/December this year, a company source said. The PDH unit is expected to produce around 450,000 tonnes/year of propylene, which will be fed to its derivative polypropylene (PP) units. The company has signed contracts to secure propane from the US on a formula basis but he did not reveal details. Shaoxing Sanyuan runs two PP plants in Shaoxing, with a combined nameplate capacity of around 500,000 tonnes/year.

HYOSUNG TO BUILD SECOND PDH PLANT BY 2016
South Korean polypropylene (PP) producer Hyosung plans to start up a second propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit in Ulsan in 2016, a company source said. The PDH unit is expected to produce around 300,000 tonnes/year of propylene, a portion of which is likely to be sold in the domestic market or exported, the source said. The company plans to source propane for the plant from the US, he said. Hyosung is currently running a PDH unit that can produce 200,000 tonnes/year of propylene at the same site.

SHANDONG SANYUE ACHIEVES ON-SPEC PO/ECH
China's Shandong Sanyue Chemical achieved on-spec production of propylene oxide (PO) at its epichlorohydrin (ECH)/PO swing plant, sources familiar with the matter said. The 80,000 tonne/year PO facility is also expected to steadily increase production rates once it can consistently produce on-spec material, the source added. It is currently running at 70-80% of its annual capacity. However, any PO produced at the moment is reserved for captive use at the company's downstream mono propylene glycol (MPG) plant at the same site, the source said.

ASAHI KASEI SHUTS ADA UNIT FOR MAINTENANCE
Japan's Asahi Kasei has shut its 120,000 tonne/year adipic acid (ADA) plant at Nobeoka in Miyazaki prefecture on 13 May for a scheduled turnaround, a company source said. The restart is expected to be after around one month, the source said. The shutdown will not affect supply to their customers as the company had already built stocks prior to the maintenance.

FUSHUN TO SHUT CRACKERS FOR TURNAROUND
China's Fushun Petrochemical, a PetroChina subsidiary, shut its naphtha crackers at Fushun in Liaoning province as planned on 15 May for scheduled maintenance, a company source said. The shutdown period for the 150,000 tonne/year and 800,000 tonne/year naphtha crackers will last one month, according to the source. Meanwhile, Fushun Petrochemical will take its downstream facilities at the same site off line on 15 May as well, but no further details were available.

BAYER TO SHUT PC PLANT FOR MAINTENANCE
Bayer MaterialScience is planning to shut down its 275,000 tonne/year polycarbonate (PC) plant at Map Ta Phut, Thailand, on May 19 for scheduled maintenance, the company said. During the turnaround period, Bayer will conduct inspections and perform maintenance and project work at the plant. The plant is expected to resume production by the end of June, it added.

FCFC RESTARTS AROMATICS UNITS NO 1, NO 2 IN MAILIAO
Taiwan's Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp (FCFC) has restarted its No 1 and No 2 aromatics unit in Mailiao, company sources said. The aromatics No 1 facility that includes a 270,000 tonne/year paraxylene (PX) unit and 130,000 tonne/year benzene plant, was shut since end March, the source said. The facility was brought back on line on 12 May. FCFC has also restarted its No 2 aromatics unit at the same stie on 13 May after a brief shutdown. The company shut the No 2 aromatics unit facility after a fire incident at the Mailiao site for safety checks and inspections.

JIANGMEN HANDSOME RUNS NEW BUTYL-A UNIT AT 80%
China's Jiangmen Handsome Chemical Development is currently operating its new 80,000 tonne/year butyl acrylate (butyl-A) plant in Jiangmen at around 80% capacity after starting it up on 3 May, a company source said. On-spec production of butyl-A was achieved over the weekend of 11-12 May, the source added. "The plant's run rate is expected to remain at around 80% [capacity] for the next one to two months," the source said.


EUROPE

ARKEMA CONFIDENT OF STRONG RESULTS IN 2013
France-based chemical producer Arkema reaffirmed its confidence in achieving a strong performance in 2013 but conceded that macroeconomic conditions, particularly in Europe, remain challenging. Arkema swung to first-quarter net loss of €30m from a profit of €100m in the same period last year.

TVK TARGETS JULY FOR RESTART OF LDPE PLANT
Hungary-based TVK is targeting July for a relaunch of its 65,000 tonne/year low-density polyethylene (LDPE) II installation, which has been out of action since last October following a fire. The shutdown of LDPE II, in Tiszaujvaros, left TVK without any LDPE production capacity because its LDPE I plant was shut down in 2007 after 37 years of operation.

FIRMS INVESTIGATED IN EU CRUDE TRADING PROBE
The European Commission confirmed that it had carried out unannounced inspections at the offices of companies in two member states as part of an investigation into the trading of crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels. Shell, BP, and price reporting agency Platts confirmed that they had been visited by European Commission officials.

AUSTRIA'S OMV SWINGS TO Q1 PETCHEM PROFIT IN 2013
Operating profit for Austrian group OMV's petrochemicals business rose to €41m in the first quarter from €7m in the same period last year, driven by higher west European contract prices. First-quarter petrochemical sales volumes were flat year on year at 570,000 tonnes.

SOLVAY Q1 NET INCOME UP 26% DESPITE SALES FALL
Solvay's first-quarter group net income rose 26% year on year to €63m, on lower one-off charges and lower taxes. The Belgian specialty chemical producer said first-quarter net sales fell to €3.10bn from €3.01bn in the same period a year earlier.

OXEA Q1 NET PROFITS UP 31% ON COST CONTROL
Oxea's first-quarter net profit climbed 31% to €21m on cost control and pricing discipline.

The Luxembourg-headquartered oxo products company said its first-quarter sales had been flat at €373m but that a strong earnings increase had produced its third-best quarterly results since Oxea's inception in 2007.

BASF TO SELL WATER OPS IN FRANCE TO DEGREMONT
German chemicals firm BASF will sell its subsidiary - Industrial Water Management France SAS - to Degremont, a water treatment specialist, for an undisclosed fee. Upon completion of the sale, Degremont will continue operations at production sites in Lyon and La Corneuve.

ROMPETROL PETCHEMS REPORTS Q1 NET LOSS
Rompetrol's petrochemicals business reported a net loss of $2.31m for the first three months of 2013, compared with a net loss of $4.01m in the same period last year. Rompetrol Petrochemicals' turnover decreased by 20% year on year to $57m.

MERCK Q1 NET INCOME UP BY 54% ON SALES GROWTH
Germany-based Merck Group's first-quarter net income grew 54% year on year to €266m ($345m), as all four of its divisions contributed to sales growth. The company said a 29% increase in the operating result to €399m, "coupled with lower interest expenses and a comparatively low tax burden," also led to the improvement in net income.


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