News in brief

26 July 2013 08:47  [Source: ICB]

AMERICAS

DUPONT CONSIDERS PERFORMANCE OPTIONS
US-based DuPont is exploring "strategic alternatives" for its performance chemicals segment, including a possible spin-off of that business. DuPont added that strategic alternatives for its Performance Chemicals segment may include a full or partial separation of each of these businesses from the company through a spin-off, sale or other transaction. The segment includes Titanium Technologies and Chemicals & Fluoroproducts businesses.

TIO2 PRICING WEIGHS ON DUPONT Q2 PROFITS
US-based DuPont said its net income for the second quarter of 2013 was $1.03bn (€783m), down by 12% year on year, as "significantly" reduced titanium dioxide (TiO2) pricing offset agriculture sector sales gains. Net sales were down by 1% year on year at $9.84bn as a result of the TiO2 slump, despite a 7% increase in agriculture segment sales. DuPont's total segment operating earnings for the quarter were $1.86bn, down from $2.24bn during the same quarter in 2012.

SASOL, INEOS TO FORM HDPE JOINT VENTURE
Sasol and INEOS are teaming up to build a 470,000 tonne/year high density polyethylene (HDPE) plant in the US. South Africa-based Sasol and the US olefins and polymers subsidiary of Switzerland-based INEOS have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a joint venture to produce bimodal HDPE using INEOS's Innovene S process technology. A final decision is expected during the first half of 2014, with start-up expected at the end of 2015.

CELANESE EXPECTS PERMITS FOR METHANOL
US-based Celanese expects to get permits for its Texas methanol unit from state and federal agencies within the next few months, the company's CEO, Mark Rohr, said. Celanese and Japan's Mitsui have set up a joint venture to build a 1.3m tonne/year methanol plant at Celanese's acetyls complex in Clear Lake, Texas, US. That unit is expected to be up and running by mid-2015.

AIR PRODUCTS FISCAL THIRD-QUARTER NET FALLS
US-based Air Products' fiscal third-quarter (ended June) net income fell steeply to $288.4m (€219.2m) from $484.5m in the same period the year before, partly on higher costs. Third-quarter revenues were $2.55bn, an increase of 9% compared with the same period last year.

SHELL US MEK ALLOCATION DUE TO SHORT-TERM ISSUES
Short-term production issues caused the 50% methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) allocation announcement in the US by Shell Chemical, market sources said. Shell has an MEK production unit at Pernis, the Netherlands, that produces 90,000 tonnes/year. A market source said it received notice from Shell that the allocation was due to a temporary production glitch that has caused a shortage of MEK for July and August. Shell expects to be back to regular production by late August, a market source said.

STEPAN SECOND-QUARTER PROFITS INCREASE BY 6%
US-based Stepan's second-quarter net income rose by 6% year on year to $22.7m (€17.3m) as sales volumes increased by 4% while selling prices fell by 3%. Second-quarter gross profit in Stepan's surfactants business fell by 7% to $48.3m. Stepan's polymer business saw its second-quarter gross profit rise by 15% year on year to $19.9m. In specialty products, Stepan's gross profit increased by 19% year on year to $6.6m.

CHEVRON PHILLIPS BEGINS RESTART AT TEXAS CRACKER
US-based Chevron Phillips Chemical began the restart process of an ethane cracker at its Sweeny complex in Texas on 22 July, according to a filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The company has begun restarting its No 22 cracker, which was shut down on 20 July. The shutdown was caused by the loss of the gas-fired turbine/propylene compressor.

PRAXAIR STARTS UP HYDROGEN PLANT IN TEXAS
US-based Praxair has started up a 135m cubic feet/day hydrogen plant that will supply Valero's refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, among others. The plant houses the largest steam methane reformer that Praxair has ever built. It will provide hydrogen to Valero's new 57,000 bbl/day hydrocracker at the refinery. Praxair's new hydrogen plant is connected to the company's existing pipeline network in the Gulf coast, it said

YARA STICKING WITH DELAYED PLANT EXPANSION
Yara International has not reversed its decision to postpone the planned expansion of its Belle Plaine facility in Canada, adding that it has come down to cost rather than a worry over a future nitrogen oversupply in North America. In June, the fertilizer producer said it was putting the expansion project on hold. Although it considered the site as an "optimal location for a future North American nitrogen expansion", Yara said it would be further evaluating construction costs and other key project parameters.

US FIRM FMC ACQUIRES EPAX NUTRA FOR $345M
US-based FMC has acquired all the shares of omega-3 fatty acid concentrates producer Epax Nutra Holding III AS (Norway) and Epax UK Holding III AS (UK) to strengthen its position in the nutraceuticals market. FMC bought the shares from Norway-based Trygg Pharma in a deal valued at $345m (€262m). FMC's acquisition includes Epax's world-scale production facilities in Alesund, Norway, and Seal Sands, UK.

EUROPE

INEOS CLOSES GERMAN CELLROOM TO CUT COSTS
Switzerland-headquartered producer INEOS ChlorVinyls has closed its mercury chlorine cellroom in Wilhelmshaven, Germany as planned, to reduce fixed costs. "Chlorine production [at Wilhemshaven] stopped last week," a company source said on 23 July, adding that "ethylene dichloride [EDC] vessels have started to be shipped from Runcorn to the Wilhemshaven site." This move will allow EDC to be used to feed the downstream vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) units at Wilhemshaven.

OMV Q2 PETCHEM UNIT SEES HIGHER MARGINS
OMV's petrochemical business saw its margins benefitting from lower naphtha prices in the second quarter of this year compared with the preceding quarter but the positive effects were partly offset by lower sales volumes. The Austrian group's refining business, meanwhile, "saw a strong performance in the second quarter of this year", partly thanks to higher volumes, improved margins and cost discipline, it said.

SYNGENTA H1 NET PROFIT FALLS BY 5%, SALES UP BY 2%
Swiss agrochemicals firm Syngenta posted a 5% year-on-year fall in its first-half net profit to $1.41bn (€1.07bn), even though sales increased by 2%. Sales for the January-June period in 2013 stood at $8.39bn, with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) falling 3% year on year to $2.18bn. The company was able to deliver a 7% growth in underlying integrated sales for the period "despite unfavourable weather and late planting in the northern hemisphere," Syngenta CEO Mike Mack said.

EIGENMANN &VERONELLI FORMS TURKEY VENTURE
Italy-based chemical distributor Eigenmann & Veronelli and Turkey-based Parkim Parfum Plastik ve Kimya have formed a new company Eigenmann & Veronelli Kimyasal Ticaret ve Sanayi Anonim Sirketi to service the Turkish specialty chemicals market. All existing Parkim cosmetics and household raw materials businesses have been integrated into the new company.

SPOLCHEMIE TO START PERC PRODUCTION
Czech producer Spolchemie said that it is initiating a new perchloroethylene (perc) production campaign. The producer plans to restart its 15,000 tonne/year perc plant in Usti nad Labem on 29 July, with the campaign ending on 15 August, a company source said.

KEMIRA SECOND-QUARTER NET PROFIT DOWN BY 88%
Kemira's net profit for the second quarter of the year fell by 88% compared with the same period last year to €3.7m ($4.9m), partly as a result of €27m in restructuring fees and efficiency savings writedowns. Revenues were up slightly year on year, from €562.3m in the second quarter of 2012 to €569.3m in the second quarter of 2013, on the back of improved sales volumes driven by Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), the Finnish chemicals company said.

CRODA'S Q2 OPERATING PROFIT RISES BY 4.4%
Croda International's second-quarter operating profit from continuing operations rose by 4.4% year on year to £71.1m ($109.4m, €82.7m) on the back of "improving trends in key markets". The UK-based specialty chemicals company said gains were reported across each of the company's three reporting segments - consumer care, performance technologies and industrial chemicals - and sales rose by 2.3% during the period compared to the second quarter of 2012, to £279.6m.

BASF SALES CONTROL REMAINS IN PLACE
Sales control on butyl-acrylate (butyl-A) production at Germany-based chemicals major BASF will remain in place at least until the end of the month. A source from the firm said it was not yet clear how long the sales control would be in place. The acrylates producer had implemented force majeure on butyl-A on 13 June because of production problems at its 110,000 tonne/year Ludwigshafen facility. It was lifted on 21 June and sales control put in place.

PULAWY BEGINS MELAMINE PLANT TURNAROUND

Polish fertilizer producer Pulawy has begun a planned turnaround at its Melamine I plant that is likely to last until September. A company source said on 22 July the turnaround at the 32,000 tonne/year facility was thought to have begun in the last week, although the exact date was not confirmed. The company will also be modernising the unit. Pulawy has an annual melamine output of 96,000 tonnes, and is located in Pulawy, eastern Poland.

ASIA

DYNAMIC TO RESTART EO UNIT BY EARLY AUGUST
China's Dynamic (Nanjing) Chemical Industry plans to restart its 60,000 tonne/year ethylene oxide (EO) unit in Nanjing by early August after completing a turnaround, a company official said. The restart of the EO unit, which was taken off line on 15 July, is scheduled to take place between 30 July and 5 August, the official said. The producer's second 120,000 tonne/year EO unit is scheduled to be started up in the second quarter of 2014, instead of the end-2013 timing as stated on its company website, the official said, without providing any further details.

DFE CHEMICAL'S PS UNIT AT LOW RATE AFTER RESTART
Philippines' DFE Chemical is running its 30,000 tonne/year polystyrene (PS) unit in Manila at around 60% of capacity after restarting the facility in mid-July, a company source said. The plant was shut in early July for a turnaround. However, the recent escalation in feedstock styrene monomer (SM) prices to around $1,850/tonne (€1,406/tonne) CFR (cost & freight) China has caused pricing difficulties for PS resin makers.

INDIAN OIL TO RESTART VADODARA LAB PLANT
Indian Oil is expected to restart its linear alkylbenzene (LAB) plant at Vadodara in the state of Gujarat by 29 July after a month-long turnaround, a source close to the company said. "The plant actually restarted on 15 July after undergoing maintenance but went down again on 17 July because of a technical hitch," the source said. The shutdown at the 120,000 tonne/year plant has severely tightened supply in the Indian market, resulting in virtually no spot export availability in July.

LUXI COMMISSIONS SHANDONG CAPRO PLANT
China's Luxi Chemical said that its 100,000 tonne/year caprolactam (capro) plant at Liaocheng in Shandong province has entered the commissioning stage. The company also started up a 200,000 tonne/year hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) unit in the upstream market and commenced trial operations at the unit on 23 July, it said in a statement to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The H2O2 output would be mainly fed to the capro plant and only extra output would be sold in spot markets, it said. Luxi Chemical also plans to double the capro plant's capacity to 200,000 tonnes/year in the future.

JX NIPPON TO SHUT RFCC FOR MAINTENANCE
Japan's refiner JX Nippon Oil & Energy plans to shut its residual fluid catalytic cracker (RFCC) at Sendai in mid-September for about a month to carry out maintenance, a source close to the company said. The gasoline-making unit can produce around 100,000 tonnes/year of propylene. JX Nippon will also be taking its Kawasaki olefins conversion unit (OCU) off line at the end of September for 20 days of scheduled maintenance. The OCU can produce around 140,000 tonnes/year of propylene.

QIXIANG TENGDA CHEMICAL SHUTS BD PLANT IN ZIBO
China's Qixiang Tengda Chemical has shut down its 100,000 tonne/year butadiene (BD) unit at Zibo in Shandong province because of weak prices of the olefin, the company said. The exact shutdown date was not mentioned in the announcement. During the shutdown, the unit's oxygenation and dehydrogenation process will be upgraded to bring down the production cost of BD, the company said in a disclosure to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The shutdown's duration will depend on how the upgrade works on the plant progress, the firm said.

MITSUI RESTARTS CYMENE PLANT AT IWAKUNI-OHTAKE
Japanese chemical producer Mitsui Chemicals has restarted operation of its cymene plant at the fire-hit Iwakuni-Ohtake Works in Yamaguchi prefecture, the company said in a statement. The plant had been shut following the fire at the Iwakuni Ohtake site in April 2012. Production of cymene at Mitsui Chemicals' substitute facilities at Ichihara Works, in Chiba prefecture, which commenced in September 2012, has been terminated, the producer added.

CORRECTIONS
In the ICIS Top 100 Chemical Distributors issue of 15 July, we incorrectly included Moeller Chemie in the North American leaders table at #47 with $82m in 2012 sales. However, all of the company's sales of $82m were in Europe, making it #58 in the European leaders table. In the 1 July issue, in the article titled 'China butadiene and synthetic rubber in crisis', the first table on page 29 was incorrectly titled 'China butyl rubber expansions'. Instead, the table should have read 'China polybutadiene rubber expansions'.


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