News in brief

14 June 2013 09:31  [Source: ICB]

AMERICAS

NOVA breaks ground on 1bn lb/year LLDPE unit
NOVA Chemicals held a groundbreaking ceremony on 7 June for a 1bn lb/year (454,000 tonne/year) linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) expansion project in Joffre, Alberta, Canada. Construction on the nearly $1bn (€760m) LLDPE expansion should be complete by 2015, with the facility set to come online by the fall of that year. The expansion will add to the two current production trains about 40% more polyethylene (PE) capacity and will use existing ethylene ­capacity at the site.

PetroLogistics confirms shutdown of PDH unit
US propylene producer PetroLogistics confirmed it shut down its Houston propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit in Texas on 8 June. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company said it was shutting down two of the unit's reactors and will be performing additional maintenance at the site. According to the filing, the unit will be restarted on 20 June. The unit has 544,000 tonnes/year of propylene capacity.

Finland's UPM enters into deal with Renmatix
Finnish renewable fuels producer UPM said it has entered into a collaborative agreement with US-based technology provider Renmatix in the area of biochemicals. Both companies will further develop Renmatix's Plantrose process to convert woody biomass into low-cost sugar intermediates for subsequent downstream processing into biochemicals. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

Chevron Phillips texas cracker restarted
US Chevron Phillips Chemical restarted its No 22 cracker at its Sweeny complex in Texas, sources said. The No 22 cracker was the third and final cracker to be restarted after the complex experienced a loss of power and steam on 11 May, according to a filing with the National Response Center (NRC). The company had restarted its Nos 24 and 33 crackers in the past two weeks. The complex has an ethylene capacity of 1.878m tonnes/year.

Formosa declares force majure on Formolene pp
US polypropylene (PP) producer Formosa Plastics has declared force majeure on all of its Formolene PP products, following unplanned outages at the company's plant in Point Comfort, Texas, it said in an 11 June customer letter. Allocation levels are still being evaluated, and it was not clear what the production problems were or how long sales would be allocated. The facility has two PP units, each with a capacity of around 430,000 tonnes/year.

Petrobras delays Abreu e Lima refinery start-up
Brazil state-run oil producer Petrobras said it has delayed the start-up of its Abreu e Lima refinery. The first train of the refinery located in the state of Pernambuco should be complete by November and the second by May 2015. The refinery originally was scheduled for start-up in June.

Petrobras mulls JV with GS Energy for refinery
Brazil state energy producer Petrobras said it may create a joint venture with South Korea based-GS Energy to develop the ­Premium II refinery in the northeastern state of Ceara. The two companies had signed a letter of intent on 29 May. The Premium II refinery is expected to start operations by the beginning of 2018. It will have a capacity of 300,000 bbl/day. Premium II is among several refineries that Petrobras plans to build.

Itochu aims to triple US petroleum distribution
Japanese trading firm Itochu is targeting to grow its petroleum distribution business in the US by threefold in the medium to long term, Masanori Toyoshima, executive officer for energy and chemicals at ITOCHU. The ­targeted sales volume is 200,000 barrels/day from the current 60,000 bbl/day in 25 states. This target could be achieved in at five to 10 years but will have to ­involve mergers and acquisition, the company said

ExxonMobil funds texas training programme
ExxonMobil is committing $500,000 (€380,000) to a chemical manufacturing workforce training programme that will benefit 50,000 Texas community college students and educators over the next five years. Lee College will work with several Houston-area community colleges to train students seeking certification or completion of degree programmes for skills needed by the chemical industry, including instrumentation, electrical, machinist and millwright, welding, as well as pipefitting. There are also future plans to include area high schools and nationally recognised certification programmes.


EUROPE

INEOS Styrenics to close Marl EPS plant end-2013
INEOS intends to stop production of expandable polystyrene (EPS) at its site in Marl, Germany, at the end of 2013, the Swiss-headquartered producer said. The EPS plant has the capacity to produce 100,000 tonnes/year. INEOS will now begin talks with works council to find alternative roles for the 65 employees ­affected by the closure. INEOS said demand for EPS products has fallen as a result of adverse economic conditions.

Huntsman extends Rozenburg MDI FM
US-based Huntsman has extended its existing force majeure to standard crude methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate (MDI) and associated variants from its Rozenburg site in the Netherlands because of recent constraints ­upstream and downstream in addition to technical problems at the site, according to company correspondence. The force majeure on its standard MDI grade and associated variants came into effect on 7 June. This follows Huntsman's force majeure declaration on pure MDI and MDI based variants, which came into effect in the second half of April.

Russia to build new bottle-grade PET plant
Russia's regional authorities in the southern Kabardino-Balkariya region have pledged to build a new 486,000 tonne/year bottle-grade polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plant in Maisky district, they said. Arsen Kanokov, head of the Kabardino-Balkariya region, presided over a ceremony on June 8 to launch the project. The Russian company Etana is operating the PET project that will be implemented in cooperation with German engineering firm ThyssenKrupp Uhde.

Finnish chemical output up by 0.6% in April
Finland's chemical output increased 0.6% in April from March 2013, the first rise since November 2012, according to official figures from Statistics ­Finland. However, year on year, the country's chemical output fell by 4.2% in April. Chemical capacity utilisation for April was at 81.5%, according to the official statistics body, down slightly from 82.1% in the same month in 2012, and a fall from 83.1% in the previous month.

Rhine river levels fall, barge traffic resumes
The river Rhine reopened to shipping traffic over the weekend, as water levels started to recede following heavy rainfall, river authorities said. Last week, heavy rain disrupted shipping traffic on the Rhine - an important ­European shipping route for chemicals - for at least five days. The Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine said interruptions to barge traffic on the Upper Rhine - a stretch of the river that runs from the Swiss/German border near Basel, Switzerland to Bingen, Germany - ended on 7 June.

French production up by 2.5% in April from March
France's production of chemicals and chemical products rose by 2.5% in April from the previous month, French national statistics bureau Insee said. Overall industrial production increased by 2.2%, with manufacturing gaining 2.6%. Production of rubber and plastic products and other non-metallic mineral products rose 2.2%, while the manufacture of vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers by 4.6% and the production of textiles, wearing apparel, leather and related products by 4.4%, Insee said.

PET Cia to start new R-PET flake plant in September
Spanish recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) producer PET Cia is planning to start its new 30,000 tonne/year colourless flake plant in Valencia in September. The plant will replace the current colourless flake plant at the site, which has a nameplate capacity of 18,000 tonnes/year. Production at the old plant will be discontinued in August, and stockpiles are being built up to make up the shortfall until the new plant is brought on stream.

Unipetrol announces five-year strategy
Unipetrol has announced ­petrochemical modernisation projects including a new polyethylene (PE) plant in a 2013-2017 five-year strategy but cautioned that its spending ambitions are hindered by a vast retail fuel grey market and high energy prices on the Czech market. In petrochemicals, Unipetrol said its strategy aimed to increase the utilisation of its 545,000 tonne/year ethylene steam cracker by 13% with a new (PE) installation, a dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) plant and polypropylene (PP) debottlenecking.


ASIA

PETRONAS to Take FID on petchem project in 2014
State-owned energy firm PETRONAS intends to take a final investment decision on its major refinery and petrochemical development project in first-half 2014, despite facing challenges in developing a greenfield site, a company official said. This represents a year of delay from the initial target of making the decision in mid-2013 for the proposed $20bn (€15bn) Refinery & Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project in Johor.

Chang Chun Plastics to start IPA plant mid-June
Taiwan's Chang Chun Plastics plans to start up its 80,000 tonne/year acetone-based isopropanol (IPA) facility at Panjin in China's Liaoning province in mid-June, according to a source close to the company. The plant may begin supplying material to the Chinese domestic market by the end of June if the start-up process goes smoothly, the source said. Import demand has slowed down ahead of the start-up of the new plant, regional sellers said.

Reliance to restart LAB unit if market improves
India's Reliance Industries plans to restart its linear alkyl benzene (LAB) plant at Vadodara in Gujarat state only when market economics improve, a source close to the company said. "The current spread between prices of LAB prices and its feedstocks is too narrow to allow the plant to operate in a viable manner," the source said. Company sources were not available for comment. The 60,000 tonne/year plant was shut for maintenance in the third week of February.

Nippon Shokubai likely to restart Himeji AA line
Japan's Nippon Shokubai is likely to restart its 80,000 tonne/year acrylic acid (AA) line at its Himeji facility by the end of June, a source familiar with the matter said. The company recently restarted its 160,000 tonne/year AA line at the same site in early June after receiving approval from the government. Nippon Shokubai's total AA capacity at the site is 460,000 tonnes/year.

Asia marine coatings market revenue to grow
Asia Pacific's marine coatings market revenue is projected to ­increase by 38% over four years to $6.69bn, backed by robust activities in shipbuilding and offshore engineering industries in the region, chemical industry consultant Frost & Sullivan said. In 2012, marine coatings market revenues were at $4.84bn, the consultant said.

Indonesia's TPPI to restart aromatics unit
Indonesia's Trans-Pacific Petrochemical Indotama (TPPI) plans to restart its idled aromatics facility in Tuban by September, a company source said. The ­facility, which can produce 550,000 tonnes/year of paraxylene (PX) and 360,000 tonnes/year of benzene, has not been operating since end-2011. "We hope that the unit will restart before September," he said without ­elaborating on the reason for ­resuming production at the ­aromatics plant.

ExxonMobil Singapore unit under maintenance
A production unit at ExxonMobil's site at Jurong Island in Singapore is currently undergoing planned maintenance, a company spokesperson said. "It [maintenance] is progressing as scheduled," the company spokesperson said, without elaborating further. ExxonMobil declined to identify which unit was involved in the turnaround, citing company policy. "We have access to a global supply network and we continue to work with our customers on meeting their needs," the spokesperson added.

SKGC to restart ulsan reformer on 16 June
South Korea's SK Global Chemical (SKGC) will restart its 27,000 bbl/day reformer at its Ulsan-based aromatics complex on 16 June after a month long of scheduled maintenance, a company source said. The reformer was taken off line on 15 May, the source said. Both its toluene disproportionation (TDP) units of 6,000 bbl/day and 27,000 bbl/day nameplate capacity at the same site are currently running at 100%, he said.

PCS shuts BD unit for turnaround until 12 July
The Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore (PCS) has shut its 60,000 tonne/year butadiene (BD) extraction unit on 6 June for maintenance, a company source said. The BD unit will be shut for 35 days and will be restarted on 12 July, the source added. The company's 450,000 tonne/year No 1 naphtha cracker at Ayer Merbau in Jurong Island will be shut at the same time for ­maintenance. The company has no BD spot availability during this period.

Fushun Petrochemical running ACN plant at 95%
China's Fushun Petrochemical is running its 92,000 tonne/year acrylonitrile (ACN) plant at Fushun city in Liaoning province at 95% capacity, following its restart on 6 June, a company source said. The ACN plant successfully produced output on 8 June after it came on stream, the source added. The ACN plant was shut on 17 May for maintenance in tandem with the shutdown of the producer's upstream refinery on 13 May for about a month-long annual maintenance, the source said.

Wuhan Petrochemical Hubei PP plant shut down
China's Wuhan Petrochemical shut its 100,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) plant in early June in Hubei province, a source close to the company said. The shutdown of the PP plant is to allow feedstock to be diverted to the company's new 400,000 tonne/year PP plant for the conducting of trial runs in the week of 10 June, the source said. Wuhan Petrochemical is a joint venture between Sinopec and South Korea's SK Group.


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