News in Brief

30 August 2013 09:38  [Source: ICB]

ECHA LAUNCHES BPA CONSULTATION
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has launched a public consultation on the classification of petrochemical bisphenol A (BPA) following an amendment proposal from the French authorities. Running until 11 October this year, the consultation is focused on the adverse effects on sexual function and fertility, rather than on developmental toxicity or other hazard classes. BPA is primarily used in the production of epoxy resins, polymers, coating materials and polycarbonates, as well as in the processing of polyvinyl chloride.

BORSODCHEM DECLARES FORCE MAJEURE
BorsodChem has declared force majeure on TDI manufactured at its site at Kazincbarcika, Hungary, because of a failed plant restart resulting from a serious technical issue. The force majeure on TDI came into effect on 27 August, a company source confirmed. The Hungarian TDI operations underwent a routine maintenance turnaround beginning in late July, originally expected to last around four weeks.

BASF BUTYL ACRYLATE SALES CONTROL IN PLACE
Butyl acrylate (butyl-A) sales control at Germany-based chemicals major BASF will remain in place until the end of September, a source from the company said. "It will be extended during the entire month of September," the source said. BASF implemented force majeure on butyl-A on 13 June because of production problems at its 110,000 tonne/year Ludwigshafen facility in Germany. It was lifted on 21 June and sales control was put in place.

POLAND'S ORLEN TO RAISE ACETONE PRODUCTION
Poland's PKN Orlen is to expand its acetone production capacity to more than 100,000 tonnes/year from the current 30,000 tonnes a year by 2017, the Polish oil and petrochemicals group said. The capacity expansion would be achieved with the simultaneous quadrupling of the group's phenol capacity to add 200,000 tonnes/year from the existing 50,000 tonnes/year. Acetone production is tied to the production of phenol, with both products made from benzene and propylene.

GRUPA AZOTY TACKLING FORCED SHUTDOWN
Poland's Grupa Azoty is working to resolve a forced shutdown of a polyamide 6 (nylon 6) installation at its ATT Polymers subsidiary in Guben, northeastern Germany. A force majeure has been issued on products from the 46,000 tonnes/year plant, which was shut down on 23 August after a leakage of flammable vapours from a production line, it added.

SYNGENTA TO CHALLENGE EU PESTICIDE BAN RULING
Switzerland-based agrochemicals firm Syngenta said it intends to challenge a European Commission decision to ban the use of pesticide thiamethoxam on crops pollinated by bees in the EU. The company claims that the Commission's decision earlier this year to restrict the use of the material was based on a flawed process, an inaccurate and incomplete assessment by the European Food Safety Authority, and without the full support of EU member states.

GERMANY'S BUSINESS CLIMATE RISES IN AUGUST
Germany's business climate continued to improve for the fourth month in a row in August as companies are more satisfied with their business situation, an economics research group said, citing a widely-watched monthly survey. Munich-based Ifo said its business climate index for Germany rose to 107.5 in August, from 106.2 in July. The index is based on about 7,000 monthly survey responses from firms in manufacturing, construction, wholesaling and retailing.

Investigators look to seize Uralkali property
Belarusian investigators plan to seize property and assets associated with Russian potash producer Uralkali, according to news reports. The RIA news agency in Russia reported investigators as saying that "a decision will be reached to seize the property and assets of Uralkali". Belarus authorities detained the CEO of Uralkali on 26 August amid a bitter dispute with Belarus potash monopoly Belaruskali.

MOL'S BD PLANT TO PROFIT FROM SUPPLY DEFICIT
The forint (Ft) 30bn ($135m, €101m) investment of Hungary's MOL group in constructing a butadiene (BD) plant is likely to be profitable over the long term with global BD demand trailing supply, an equities house said. "Butadiene could be a good long-term story in Europe," said Budapest-based KBC Securities, after analysing the potential of the plant, which will be built by 2015 in Tiszaujvaros, northern Hungary, the production base of MOL petrochemical subsidiary TVK.

AKZONOBEL APPOINTS NEW SUPPLY CHAIN UNIT HEAD
AkzoNobel has appointed David Allen as its new head of integrated supply chain business effective from 1 October this year, the Netherlands-based paints and coatings firm said. Allen joins AkzoNobel from China National Bluestar Group, where he held the post of chief operating officer, the company said in a statement.


AMERICAS

TECHNIP AWARDED LNG TERMINAL EXPANSION DEAL
Technip has been awarded the front-end engineering and design (FEED) contract for the potential expansion of the existing liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the France-based engineering firm said. Scheduled for completion in the first half of 2014, the Lake Charles Exports project includes an LNG liquefaction plant with an export capacity of 15m tonnes/year.

MORGAN STANLEY HIRED FOR METHANOL PLANT JOB
A $1.3bn (€1.0bn) methanol project in Louisiana has retained Morgan Stanley to supervise raising money for the project later this year. Earlier this year SLM announced that it, in partnership with Todd Corp of New Zealand, would build the largest methanol plant in North America at the Port of South Louisiana in St. James Parish. The plant will produce 1.8m tonnes/year of methanol.

JACOBS WINS WORK FOR CHLORINE DIOXIDE PROJECT
Jacobs has won a contract to build an integrated chlorine dioxide plant at Guaiba, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, the US-based petrochemicals engineering firm said. The plant, by Celulose Riograndense, will be part of that company's pulp expansion project in Guaiba, Jacobs said. The plant will be able to produce about 55 tonnes/day of chlorine dioxide. Details about the project's costs or its construction schedule were not disclosed.

SHELL SEEKS ETHANE SUPPLIERS FOR COMPLEX
Shell Chemical is seeking ethane suppliers for its proposed petrochemical complex in Pennsylvania. Shell Chemical has already secured supply commitments from CNX Gas, a subsidiary of CONSOL Energy; Hilcorp Energy; Noble Energy; and Seneca Resources. Shell Western Exploration and Production will also provide some of the ethane for the complex. In 2012, Shell picked Monaca, Pennsylvania, as the possible site for the complex.

WESTLAKE PUTS LOUISIANA CRACKER IN RESTART MODE
US Westlake Chemical has put its Petro 1 Lake Charles ethane cracker in Louisiana into restart mode, sources said. The cracker had been shut down since mid-August because of furnace issues, sources said. Attempts to reach a company spokesperson for comment were unsuccessful. The cracker has an ethylene capacity of 544,000 tonnes/year, according to ICIS plants and projects.

STORAGE TANK RUPTURES AT BASF SITE IN CANADA
A storage tank at BASF's site at Cornwall in Ontario, Canada, over-pressurised on 27 August. BASF confirmed the incident, saying there were no injuries and that air monitoring had been initiated at the site. According to a local media report, a tank holding phthalic anhydride exploded and ruptured, leading to the escape of an unknown quantity of the chemical. The Cornwall site produces and distributes plasticizers for the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) industry.

PRAXAIR URGES CONGRESS TO EXTEND HELIUM FUNDING
US industrial gases major Praxair urged lawmakers in the US Congress to extend funding for the country's Federal Helium Reserve programme through the 2014 fiscal year. Funding is set to expire on 7 October. The end of the funding would force the suspension of operations at the Reserve, and restrict market access to nearly 30% of the world's helium supply, Praxair said.

US RECOVERY IS GAINING MOMENTUM, SAYS INDEX
The US economic recovery continues to improve and finally may be gaining some sustaining momentum, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said in its monthly chemical activity barometer (CAB). The indicator gained 0.1% in August from July (on a three-month moving average) to a reading of 92.9%, marking the fourth monthly gain and its highest level since June 2008.

PEMEX FINED OVER DISTRIBUTION PRACTICES
Mexico's Federal Competition Commission (CFC) has fined state-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and its refining division Pemex Refinacion a total of Mexican pesos (Ps) 653.2m ($49.5m, €37.1m) for anticompetitive fuel distribution practices, the CFC said. According to the regulator's ruling, Pemex had been illegally forcing domestic gas retailers to transport wholesale gasoline and diesel using the firm's own unionised staff.

DOW APPEALS $1BN PRICE-FIXING JUDGMENT
Dow Chemical has filed an appeal of a $1bn (€750m) judgment in a lawsuit that accuses Dow and other companies of fixing prices for a number of polyols and isocyanates purchased from 1 January 1999 and 31 December 2004. The other firms had reached settlements, while Dow went to trial. In February 2013, a jury found that Dow had fixed prices and found the isocyanates customers were entitled to $400m in damages.


ASIA

YANGMEI CHEMICAL PLANS MEG PLANT IN HEBEI
China's Yangmei Chemical plans to build a 220,000 tonne/year monoethylene glycol (MEG) plant at Shenzhou in Hebei province, the firm said. It proposed to partner with China Prosper Investment and Management (Tianjin) to set up a joint venture to construct and operate the yuan (CNY) 1.1bn ($180m) MEG plant, according to the company in a statement to the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Yangmei Chemical is a subsidiary of Shanxi-based coal producer Yangquan Coal.

ORISSA PROVINCE SEEKS ANCHOR INVESTORS
The government of Orissa is scouting for two more anchor investors for the petrochemical investment region coming up in the eastern Indian province, a government official said. The prospective investments from additional anchor investors and downstream project profile would be in line with the feasibility report and product profile report mandated to Jurong Consultants Pte Limited, Singapore, the official said. IOC had committed investments to build one polypropylene plant by 2017 and another by 2018.

JILIN PETROCHEMICAL TO SHUT ACN UNIT THIS MONTH
China's Jilin Petrochemical plans to shut its 106,000 tonne/year No 2 acrylonitrile (ACN) plant in Jilin for maintenance in the first half of September, a company source said. The maintenance shutdown is expected to last for about 10 days, the source said, but it did not disclose the exact shutdown date. The shutdown may incur an output loss of about 3,000 tonnes, the source added.

NO RATE INCREASE FOR KH NEOCHEM'S GLYCOL ETHERS
Japanese producer KH Neochem has no immediate plans to increase the operating rate at its 30,000 tonne/year glycol ethers plant at Yokkaichi in Mie prefecture from around 80% of capacity, a company official said. The producer plans to keep running its plant at the reduced rate until its margins can be improved by an increase in international prices, the official said.

SUMITOMO TO SHUT CAPRO UNIT FOR MAINTENANCE
Japan's Sumitomo Chemical is planning to shut its 180,000 tonne/year caprolactam (capro) plant in mid-October for around 40 days, according to a company source. The plant at Niihama, in Ehime Prefecture, will be shut for annual maintenance until the end of November, the source said. The plant, which comprises a 100,000 tonne/year line and another 80,000 tonne/year line, is operating at an average of 70% of its production capacity, the source said.

JIAXING PETROCHEMICAL TO BUILD SECOND PTA PLANT
China's Jiaxing Petrochemical is planning to invest yuan (CNY) 3.04bn ($0.50bn) to construct a new 1.2m tonne/year purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plant at Jiaxing in Zhejiang province, its parent Tongkun Group said. The company operates a 1.5m tonne/year PTA plant at the same site. The construction of the plant is expected to take two years to complete, Tongkun Group said in a statement to the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The new facility, which is similar to the existing one, will mainly supply PTA to Tongkun Group for the production of polyesters and other downstream products, according to the statement.

FPCC TO TURN AROUND BD UNIT IN SEPTEMBER
Taiwan's Formosa Petrochemical Corp (FPCC) will shut its 160,000 tonne/year butadiene (BD) unit at its 1.03m tonne/year No 2 cracker for 45 days from 16 September, a company source said. The No 2 cracker will shut at the same time for maintenance, the source added. FPCC has three BD units, with a total capacity of 450,00 tonnes/year at its three crackers at Mailiao in Taiwan.

JOINT VENTURE FOR BIO SUPERABSORBENTS PLANT
Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) has formed a joint venture with CIC Holdings and Chemanex to build and operate bio-based superabsorbent polymers plant in Colombo, Sri Lanka, a spokesperson at the US-based agribusiness confirmed. Traditionally produced from petroleum derivatives, the BioSAP produced at the plant will be derived from starches obtained from agricultural feedstocks, ADM said.

ORIENTAL ENERGY PLANS JIANGSU OLEFINS PROJECT
China's Oriental Energy is planning to establish a yuan (CNY) 36bn ($5.9bn) olefins project at Zhangjiagang in east China's Jiangsu province over a span of 3-5 years, the firm said. Oriental Energy will invest about CNY10bn on the project and will seek other investors to shoulder the balance of the planned investment amount, it said in a statement to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. Oriental Energy is also building a 1.2m tonne/year joint venture PDH plant at Zhangjiagang and two 660,000 tonne/year PDH plants at Ningbo in Zhejiang.


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