News in brief

24 May 2013 09:10  [Source: ICB]

EUROPE

RUSSIA'S EUROCHEM PLANS MELAMINE TURNAROUND
Russian fertilizer producer Eurochem is planning a one-month turnaround at its melamine facility in Nevinnomyssk, from the middle of August, a source from the company said. "We've been kept running at 60% of capacity and are planning a turnaround for the middle of August for one month," it said.

CELANESE TO SELL PLANTS IN FRANCE AND SPAIN
Celanese is seeking buyers for its 34,000 tonne/year acetic anhydride facility in Roussillon, France, and its 200,000 tonne/year vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) production unit in Tarragona, Spain. Celanese employs 30 full-time workers at the Roussillon plant and 70 full-time workers at the Tarragona facility.

SCHEKINO AZOT EYES NEW METHANOL UNIT APPROVAL
Russia-based chemical producer Schekino Azot plans to build a new methanol production facility. The project is expected to be implemented in three years, and would have a capacity of 600,000-800,000 tonnes/year. The board is expected to approve the project in the third quarter of 2013.

EUROPE CRACKER MARGINS FALL FOR FIFTH WEEK IN ROW
European contract cracker margins have fallen for the fifth week in a row and spot margins are at their lowest since December 2012. In the week ending 17 May, a $19/tonne increase in naphtha prices combined with a 1% strengthening of the dollar pushed up euro-based feedstock costs by 3.3%.

EUROPE CAR SALES TROUGH MAY HAVE PASSED - WOOD
Styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) producers have some reason to hope the bottom may have been reached in European car sales, but should expect any subsequent recovery in tyre sales to be a drawn-out process, according to bank WOOD & Company.

POLICY CLARITY NEEDED ON EU RENEWABLES - CEFIC
Greater clarity is required on the EU's policy framework on renewable energy in order to prevent reduced competitiveness and other unintended consequences, according to a director of the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic). Peter Botschek told ICIS that Europe's renewable energy policy is suffering from unintended overlaps and contradictions.

SOCAR SIGNS UP BUILDERS FOR PETCHEMS REFINERY
Azerbaijan's SOCAR has awarded a $3.4bn engineering, procurement and construction turnkey contract to a consortium that will create the Star Refinery, to deliver feedstock to the planned Petkim petrochemical refinery in Turkey. The consortium is led by Tecnicas Reunidas and also features Saipem, GS Engineering & Construction and Japan's Itochu Corp.

PLASTICS CONSUMPTION IN POLAND STALLS IN 2012
Plastics consumption in Poland stalled during 2012 at 2.65m tonnes, the Polish Union of Plastics Convertors (PUPC) trade association said. The disappointing figure, almost the exactly the same as what was seen in 2011, was caused by the renewed economic downturn that swept Europe and a slump in the Polish construction industry.

BANK CUTS RATING ON GRUPA AZOTY STOCK
Raiffeisen Centrobank (RCB) has cut its recommendation on the stock of newly-consolidated Polish chemical group Grupa Azoty from a "buy" rating to "hold", citing a lack of expected improvement in chemical and fertilizer markets.


AMERICAS

MITSUI, IDEMITSU CHOOSE TEXAS FOR ALPHA OLEFINS
Mitsui and Idemitsu chose Freeport, Texas, as the site for its 330,000 tonne/year alpha olefins plant, according to an air-permit application. The two companies plan to build the plant under the joint venture, the Alpha Olefin Chemical Company (AOCC) on land owned by Dow Chemical. Construction should start in the second quarter of 2014, and the plant should start operations in the second half of 2016.

BASF/TOTAL CRACKER BACK TO ON-SPEC PRODUCTION
BASF/Total Petrochemicals' Port Arthur olefins complex in Texas has resumed on-spec production. The site experienced an operational upset on 19 May, causing off-spec material to be produced and sent to the flare. On-spec production had been resumed at the site, which has an ethylene capacity of 934,000 tonnes/year.

CPCHEM BEGINS RESTART PROCESS AT CRACKER
US olefins producer Chevron Phillips Chemical began the restart process at its No 24 cracker at its Sweeny complex in Texas, sources said. The company reported a shutdown at the complex on 11 May, and the loss of power and steam at the site led to the release of ethylene and propylene. Market sources said the No 22 and No 33 crackers remain off line.

JAHN TO LEAVE NACD AND HEAD UP FERTILIZER BODY
Chris Jahn has been named the president of The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), effective on 9 September. Jahn is currently serving as president of the National Association of Chemical distributors (NACD). Holding the position since 2006, he directed initiatives that expanded the NACD's role in legislation and regulation. "Chris's experience in the security, environmental and product stewardship arenas will enhance TFI's advocacy on behalf of the fertilizer industry," said Jim Prokopanko, TFI's chairman.

POLYONE ADDS TPE CAPACITY AT BRAZIL SITE
US polymer materials firm PolyOne is installing thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) capability at its site in Diadema in Brazil's Sao Paulo state. PolyOne said that the new capability - to be operational in June - would reduce the amount of lead time required to serve South American customers and increase its ability to support global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

RESTART PROCESS BEGINS AT FLINT HILLS CRACKER
US olefins producer Flint Hills Resources has begun the restart process at its Texas cracker, sources said. The company began the restart process on 17 May but had not reached 100% operating levels as of 20 May. The company shut down its Port Arthur cracker in Texas on 11 May after a partial loss of electrical power. The cracker has ethylene capacity of 621,000 tonnes/year, according to ICIS.

DEMAND DECLINES IN 2012 IN ARGENTINA FOR PVC
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) demand in Argentina is significantly down from 2012 on the lack of government projects that include the resin, a source said. The government's more immediate plans involve polyethylene (PE) pipe to run fibre optic cable for communications, to the exclusion of work with PVC. Once the fibre optic work is completed, it is expected to expand water and sewage infrastructure using PVC pipe.

CM&E TO PRESENT JON HUNSTMAN WITH AWARD
The Chemical Marketing and Economics (CM&E) group announced that it will present its Leadership Award for a Lifetime of Achievement to Jon M. Huntsman, founder and executive chairman of Huntsman Corp, at the Yale Club in New York City on 5 December, 2013. "The public and chemical professionals find a wonderful home for industry insights and networking in the CM&E group of the American Chemical Society, New York Section. I commend CM&E's support of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students, earnest harbingers of a better world," said Huntsman.

BRASKEM SET TO PRODUCE BIO-LDPE FROM JAN 2014
Brazil-based Braskem said it will start producing renewable low density polyethylene (LDPE) by January of 2014 at its complex in Triunfo, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Production of the new resin should reach 30,000 tonnes/year. Braskem will produce the LDPE from ethylene made from sugarcane-based ethanol. It has been producing renewable high density PE (HDPE) and renewable linear low density PE (LLDPE) on an industrial scale since September 2010.

SALE OF BRAZIL'S PLEXBOND QUIMICA TO FULLER AGREED
US-based adhesives firm H.B. Fuller has agreed to acquire Brazil's Plexbond Quimica for an undisclosed sum. Plexbond Quimica supplies polyurethane specialties and polyester resins. The company, which operates a plant in Curitiba, Brazil, had sales of about $20m (€16m) last year.

TECHNIP CONSORTIUM TO BUILD CANADA LNG PROJECT
A consortium led by France's Technip won a contract for front-end engineering and design (FEED) of a grassroot liquefied natural gas (LNG) project at Lelu Islands, British Columbia in Canada. Technip, South Korea's Samsung Engineering and China Huanqiu Contracting & Engineering Corp comprise the consortium. The project will include two 6m tonne/year LNG trains, process units and marine facilities, as well as inlet facilities, utilities and power generation.

KBR SET TO PROVIDE FEED FOR CANADA LNG SITE
US KBR was awarded a contract to execute the front-end engineering and design (FEED) for Pacific NorthWest LNG's world-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility at Lelu Island on the western coast of Canada. The facility will process North Montney shale gas in British Columbia and convert it into LNG suitable for export, and the two-train LNG plant will have a capacity of 12m tonnes/year.


ASIA

INEOS, TIANJIN BOHAI TO ESTABLISH ACN JV IN CHINA
Global major acrylonitrile (ACN) producer INEOS Nitriles and China's Tianjin Bohai Chemical Industry Group plan to establish a 50:50 joint venture to build a 260,000 tonne/year ACN plant in Tianjin, China. Both parties have signed a non-binding Heads of Terms to build a 260,000 tonnes/year ACN plant using the latest INEOS process and catalyst technology. The plant will be completed by the end of 2016, with an expectation of possible future expansion, in line with growing demand across Asia.

CHINA'S PLASTICS DEMAND SET TO GROW - DOW
China's processed-food sector has been a source of growing demand for plastics, because of its government's regulatory efforts on food safety, said Lawrence Cheung, commercial director of Dow Chemical's packaging and special plastics in Greater China. He spoke at Chinaplas 2013 in Guangzhou. Food safety concerns have led to a rising demand for better packaging, particularly for beverages, meat and wine in the country, according to Cheung.

TANGSHAN ZHONGHAO TO START POM OPS IN H2
China's Tangshan Zhonghao Chemical plans to start commercial production at its new 40,000 tonne/year polyacetal (POM) facility in Tangshan city, Hebei province, in July or August 2013, a company source said at Chinaplas 2013. The producer plans to build another POM plant with the same capacity in the second phase of its investment, the source said. POM is an engineering plastic commonly used in the manufacture of autos.

SK ENERGY TO START UP MLLDPE SWING PLANT 2014
South Korea's SK Energy plans to start commercial production at its new metallocene linear low density (MLLDPE)/elastomer/plastomer swing plant in Ulsan, South Korea in April 2014, a company source said at Chinaplas 2013. The 200,000 tonne/year plant will be able to produce octane-based MLLDPE, polyolefin elastomer (POE) and polyolefin plastomer (POP), the source said. The new plant was scheduled to start trial production at the end of this year, he added.

SONGWON TO DECIDE ON ANTIOXIDANT PLANT IN 2013
South Korea's Songwon plans to make a decision by the end of 2013 on its proposed antioxidant project in China, including the joint venture partner and the plant capacity, said executive vice president for corporate development, Philippe Schlaepfer, at Chinaplas 2013. The project would be ready to start up in 2015, if all goes as planned. Songwon is also looking at other investment options, including doubling its 25,000 tonne/year antioxidant plant in Maeam in South Korea, said Schlaepfer.

JAPAN POLYETHYLENE TO EXPAND MLLDPE OUTPUT
Japan Polyethylene (JPE) plans to expand its metallocene linear low density polyethylene (MLLDPE) production capacity by 2015 or 2016, a company source said at Chinaplas 2013. The company's 50,000 tonne/year MLLDPE plant at Mizushima and its 60,000 tonne/year MLLDPE unit at Kawasaki will be expanded through a debottlenecking process, he said. "We've not decided how much capacity to add at the lines," the company source said.

ZHEJIANG XINGXING PLANS START-UP OF MTO UNIT
China's Zhejiang Xingxing New Energy Technology plans to start up its 1.8m tonne/year methanol-to-olefins (MTO) plant in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, at the end of 2014 or early 2015, said a source close to the company. The MTO plant is expected to produce around 300,000 tonnes/year of ethylene and 300,000 tonnes/year of propylene, the source added.

GNFC EYES SEPTEMBER START-UP FOR TDI UNIT
India's Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals (GNFC) will start production at its second toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) plant in September, a company source said. The nameplate capacity of the new TDI facility in Dahej, Gujarat, will be 50,000 tonnes/year. GNFC, India's sole TDI producer, has an existing 17,000 tonne/year plant located about 45 kilometres away from the new unit.

NPU AIMS TO RESTART TWO MDI UNITS IN MID-JUNE
Japan's Nippon Polyurethane (NPU) plans to restart two of its methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate (MDI) facilities at Nanyo, Yamaguchi Prefecture, by mid-June after completing annual maintenance, a company source said. The 70,000 tonne/year unit and the 130,000 tonne/year unit were taken off line on 7 May for the turnaround. Its third and newest 200,000 tonne/year unit will undergo maintenance from September to mid-October, the source said.

CHINA OUTPUT OF LV TYRES TO DOUBLE IN 2020
China's production of light vehicle tyres is expected to more than double to around 700m units in 2020, from about 300m units in 2010, spurred by strong domestic automobile sales and higher exports, according to Robert Simmons, head of rubber and tyre research at consulting firm LMC International. With this increase, China's share of global light vehicle tyre production will rise from 23% in 2010 to 35% in 2020.

SKGC TO RESTART NO 2 PX/OX UNIT BY END-JUNE
South Korea's SK Global Chemicals (SKGC) plans to restart its No 2 Ulsan-based paraxylene (PX)/orthoxylene (OX) unit in end-June, a company source said. The company shut the unit towards the end of the week of 13 May for a scheduled turnaround, the source said. The plant can produce up to 450,000 tonnes/year of PX and 100,000 tonnes/year of OX.


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