News in brief

07 June 2013 09:52  [Source: ICB]

EUROPE

Solvay plans to close Portugal soda ash unit
Belgium's Solvay is closing its soda ash unit at Povoa, Portugal, by January next year as part of its restructuring measures aimed at cutting costs and improving profitability in Europe. The plant's closure is part of Solvay's plans to address structural overcapacity in the Mediterranean basin, the company said. The restructuring measures in Europe will affect about 450 job positions by 2016. Meanwhile, Solvay is planning to gradually expand its production capacity at Green River in Wyoming, the US, by about 12% through "limited investments".

UK IGas estimates strong reserves in shale assets
UK energy company IGas said that shale gas reserves at its licence sites in northwest England could contain over 170 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of shale gas. The results of a study carried out by the company on its sites in the Lower Carboniferous shale and Bowland shale plays estimate the volume of gas initially in place in the areas it is licensed to explore at a high of 172.3tcf and a low of 15.1tcf, with the most likely reserve estimates placed at 102tcf.

AkzoNobel signs green feedstock solvay deal
AkzoNobel and Belgium-based chemical group Solvay said they have signed a three-year supply deal which will allow the Dutch coatings maker to boost the use of bio-based epichlorohydrin (ECH) in its paints and coatings. AkzoNobel will use the increased supply of bio-based ECH, known as Epicerol, to help meet targets for reducing the carbon footprint of its products, they said in a joint statement. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed (see page 32).

Borealis inaugurates catalyst plant in Linz
Austria-headquartered plastics, chemicals and fertilizer producer Borealis has inaugurated a new €100m ($130m) catalyst plant at its site in Linz. The company said the opening of the new catalyst plant is "a central pillar of the growth strategy within its polyolefins business segment". The plant, which will create 35 new jobs at Linz, will use proprietary Borealis Sirius catalyst technology.

On-spec production hit at pck's FCC refinery
Germany-based PCK has achieved on-spec propylene production from its fluid catalytic cracker (FCC) at its Schwedt refinery following a delayed restart, with the first volumes being lifted over the 1-2 June weekend, market sources said. "Production will be ramped up further," a source added. Current operating rates were not disclosed. The FCC, which has the capacity to produce 250,000 tonnes/year of propylene, was taken offline in early April as part of a €160m ($208m) modernisation and maintenance project.

Ferro to add dibenzoate production in Belgium
US-based specialty chemicals producer Ferro has announced that it will begin making dibenzoates at its site in Antwerp, Belgium. Production at the 28,000 tonne/year facility is expected to begin in the second half of 2014, Ferro said. "This project includes installation of technologies to produce benzoic acid, which will allow Ferro to fully backward-integrate into this key raw material at the Antwerp facility," the company said.

Chem producer prices fall 0.9% in Apr - Eurostat
Chemicals producer prices in the EU fell by 0.9% month on month in April, European statistics provider Eurostat said. Eurozone chemical producer prices were also down by the same amount during the period. The data shows that prices were also down in both regions year on year, with prices falling by 0.8% in the EU in April compared with April 2012, and falling by 0.9% in the eurozone over the same period

UK SMEs 'may struggle' with 2018 Reach deadline
Many smaller companies may be under-prepared to deal with the 2018 registration deadline for the EU's chemical control legislation programme Reach, the director of policy for UK trade body the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) said. CIA policy director Jo Lloyd said the group is encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to start work early for the 2018 deadline, as they may struggle to cope with the time and expense demands. The third registration deadline will encompass chemicals produced in quantities of more than one tonne/year.

Romania shifts oltchim privatisation plan
Romania's economy ministry has decided to change the privatisation plan for the beleaguered chemical company Oltchim in a bid to attract investors after a failed privatisation attempt in late 2012, it said. The company will be divided in two, with a new company called Oltchim SPV to be created. This will take all functional units from Oltchim, including a 200,000 tonne/year ethylene plant located adjacent to the Arpechim refinery, according to a preliminary announcement posted on ministry website.


AMERICAS

Chevron Phillips restarts Texas cracker
US-based Chevron Phillips Chemical restarted its No 33 cracker at its Sweeny complex in Texas, sources said. The cracker was shut down on 11 May because of a loss of power and steam at the complex, according to a filing with the National Response Center (NRC). The No 24 cracker was restarted on 21 May, sources said, while the No 22 cracker remains down. The No 33 cracker has an ethylene capacity of 907,000 tonnes/year.

PetroLogistics warns of FM on propylene
US-based PetroLogistics said it will declare force majeure on propylene while it shuts down its propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit on 8 June, according to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The company's Houston PDH unit in Texas is going down for repairs pertaining to two of the eight reactors at the plant. It will complete other maintenance during the shutdown, which is expected to last for two weeks. The company has 544,000 tonnes/year of propylene capacity at the unit.

ExxonMobil brings Texas cracker back on line
US olefins producer ExxonMobil Chemical restarted its Baytown No 1 cracker in Texas, sources said. The company reported a shutdown at the facility on 15 May, according to a filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The filing said that a bleeder valve failure led to a shutdown of the compressors, which also caused flaring. The No 1 cracker has ethylene capacity of 1.2m tonnes/year, according to ICIS plants and projects.

MonoSol set to build new PVOH film plant
US chemical maker MonoSol plans to build a new polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) film production plant at La Porte, Indiana, because of an increase in demand for industrial purposes, a spokesman from its Japanese parent company Kuraray said. Demand for water-soluble PVOH film is growing particularly for use in individually packaged detergents in the US and Europe. The new production plant, expected to cost $35m (€26.6m), is scheduled to come on stream in July 2014. There is an existing PVOH film facility at the same site.

Total lifts force majeure on aromatics 150 in US
Total Petrochemicals said it has lifted its force majeure on aromatics 150 (ARO 150). The company had declared force majeure on ARO 150 in early May but did not specify the cause. Total had said that it expected ARO 150 production to be back online by the end of June. ARO 150 supply remains tight in the US Gulf and Midwest on the back of strong demand from the agricultural industry.

CP Chem to add furnace to ethylene unit in Texas
US-based Chevron Phillips Chemical (CP Chem) announced that it is adding a 10th furnace to ethylene unit 33 at its Sweeny complex in Old Ocean, Texas. The furnace will not add to the nameplate capacity at the facility but will allow CP Chem to maximise capacity utilisation if another furnace is off line for maintenance. The furnace could result in a net increase of 200m lb/year (91,000 tonnes/year) of ethylene availability at the facility, which has a capacity of 4.1bn lb/year, CP Chem said. Start-up is anticipated in 2014.

BioAmber to complete succinic acid UNIT in 2014
US-based renewable chemicals producer BioAmber's joint-venture project with Mitsui to produce bio-based succinic acid in Canada is expected to be mechanically complete in 2014, said Kristine Weigal, BioAmber's business development manager for the Americas. The plant at the Sarnia petrochemicals hub in Ontario will have a capacity of 30,000 tonnes/year. BioAmber said chemicals distribution major Brenntag would distribute BioAmber's Bio-SA succinic acid and derivatives, including bio-based 1,4-butanediol (BDO), in the Americas.

Stepan closes polyester resins deal with BMS
US specialty chemicals producer Stepan said that it has completed the acquisition of Bayer MaterialScience's North American polyester resins business for $64m (€49m). The sale includes a production facility in Columbus, Georgia, US with a 21,000 tonne/year expandable plant and a research and development (R&D) laboratory. Bayer MaterialScience produces powder polyester resins for metal coatings applications in North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries, as well as liquid polyester resins for coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers (CASE) applications globally.

Air Products buys liquid CO2 producer EPCO
US industrial gases producer Air Products announced that it has acquired US liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) producer EPCO Carbon Dioxide. The acquisition allows Air Products to expand its North American offerings to include liquid CO2, which the company already offers in its other regions around the world. EPCO has 12 CO2 purification and liquefaction plants predominantly located in central US. The acquisition includes Illinois-based Louisiana Leasing, which owns liquid CO2 distribution assets solely leased to EPCO.


ASIA

BASF plans to invest €10bn in Asia-Pacific
BASF said it will invest €10bn ($13bn) to reach sales of €25bn by 2020 under a growth strategy for its business in Asia-Pacific. "In the next decade, Asia-Pacific will face huge challenges, while remaining the fastest growing market for the chemical industry," said Martin Brudermuller, vice chairman of the board of executive directors of BASF, who is responsible for the Asia-Pacific region. BASF has outlined investments of €10bn, creation of around 9,000 new jobs and annual savings of €1bn.

Taiwan's Ming Dih ramps up rate at Thai EPS plant
Taiwan's Ming Dih Group is ramping up production at its 40,000 tonne/year expandable polystyrene (EPS) plant in Bangkok, Thailand, after restarting it last week, a company source said. "The unit is running smoothly and we are ramping up production," the source added. The plant was shut for an expansion in early March and was initially scheduled to restart in April. However, the expansion was delayed by holidays in Thailand during April.

Qianjiang Yongan EO unit hits on-spec production
China's Qianjiang Yongan Pharmaceutical achieved on-spec EO product at its 40,000 tonne/year ethylene oxide (EO) unit at Qianjiang in Hubei province on 2 June after it was started up, the company said. The yuan (CNY) 482m ($79m) EO unit can use both alcohol and ethylene as feedstock. The company will keep its EO output for captive use in its taurine production, it said. It will take some time before commercial operations at the EO unit can begin, the company added.

PTT to invest in PMMA, starts new subsidiary
Thailand's PTT is planning to invest in a new 40,000 tonne/year polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) plant through a newly established entity named PTT PMMA Co, the company said. "[The] board of directors of PTT has passed the resolution on the approval to establish PTT PMMA Company Limited with registered capital of Thai baht (Bt) 660m ($21.8m)," the company said in a filing to the Stock Exchange of Thailand. PTT PMMA Co will be wholly owned by PTT, the company said.

Nippon Shokubai gets okay to restart AA line
Nippon Shokubai has obtained government approval to restart a 160,000 tonne/year line acrylic acid (AA) line at its Himeji facility, a company source said. The company will also restart part of its 320,000 tonne/year superabsorbent polymer (SAP), the source said but did not give specific dates. Nippon Shokubai's acrylic acid and super absorbent polymer (SAP) facilities at Himeji was shut by an explosion since late September.

PTT Phenol to postpone July BPA turnaround
PTT Phenol is planning to postpone the turnaround of its 150,000 tonne/year bisphenol-A (BPA) plant at Map Ta Phut, Thailand, a company source. The plant, which is currently running at full capacity, was originally scheduled for a month-long turnaround in July, the source said. The plant is still scheduled for a shutdown, although the new schedule has yet to be confirmed, the source said. PTT Phenol is a subsidiary of Thai energy major PTT.

Yankuang Lunan starts trial pom production
China's Yankuang Lunan has started trial production at its new 40,000 tonne/year polyacetal (POM) facility in Tenzhou city, Shandong province, said a source close to the company. No reason was provided for the delay in the plant's start-up from the original schedule of March/April 2013, but market sources said the delay could be due to prevailing weak demand for POM. POM is an engineering plastic with applications in the automotive and electrical sectors.

ExxonMobil singapore PE units run at 60-80%
ExxonMobil is currently running its two new polyethylene (PE) plants in Singapore at reduced capacities, with one unit producing hexene-based metallocene linear low density PE (MLLDPE), regional distributors said. Each of the units has a 650,000 tonne/year capacity. The unit currently producing MLLDPE is operating at above 80% of capacity, while the other that churns out butene-based LLDPE for bulk shipment is running at a lower capacity of around 60%, the distributors said.

BASF PETRONAS lifts fM on malaysia acrylics
BASF PETRONAS Chemicals has lifted the force majeure on its acrylic acid, oxo-alcohols and acrylate esters plants at Gebang industrial zone in Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia as planned, the company said. The company has ceased force majeure on its acrylics and oxo-alcohols products effective on 3 June, the company said in a statement. BASF PETRONAS Chemicals declared the force majeure on 9 May. "We are now operating our business as usual and accepting new orders for June shipment onwards," the company added.


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