Week in Brief

04 October 2013 09:39  [Source: ICB]

Europe

AkzoNobel to streamline decorative paints in 2014
AkzoNobel will adopt a new operating model for its decorative paints business with a streamlined management structure starting next year, aimed at boosting the segment’s profitability, the Dutch paints and coatings producer said. The changes – due to come into effect on 1 January 2014 – involve reducing the number of senior management teams and introducing a new structure divided into five regions instead of eight: north and central Europe, southeast Europe and Africa, India and southeast Asia, Latin America, China and north Asia.

INEOS launches Grangemouth survival plan
INEOS has launched a survival plan to ensure the long-term future of its loss-making Grangemouth refining and petrochemicals site in the UK partly by switching to ethane feedstock imported from the US, the Switzerland-headquartered company said. The company unveiled a plan that would require workers to accept pension changes, plus government grants, plant closures and job losses. The Grangemouth site is losing £10m a month ($16m, €12m), the pension scheme for its workers is £200m in deficit and the pension costs had reached an unsustainable 65% of salary, INEOS said.

Ensus begins restart of UK bioethanol plant
Ensus is beginning the process of restarting its bioethanol plant at Wilton, in the UK, according to sources. “Essential maintenance work taking place since July is now complete and market conditions have significantly improved, meaning the process of getting the plant up to full production can now begin,” a company spokesperson said. The 400m litre/year bioethanol plant was temporarily closed in April because of adverse market conditions.

US PPG to build $60m coatings plant in Russia
PPG Industries is investing $60m (€44m) in a new manufacturing facility and commercial operation for its coatings business in the Lipetsk region of Russia, the US-based coatings and specialty products manufacturer said. Expected to be complete in the second half of 2015, the facility will manufacture a variety of industrial and performance coatings.

Acron bids for board influence at Grupa Azoty
Russian mineral fertilizer producer Acron Group is to make an attempt at building its stake in the largest Polish chemical group Grupa Azoty to a level that would give it the power to block company decisions at board level, Acron said. If successful in raising its stake from the current 15.3% to more than 20%, Acron would be able to protect its investment against decisions that it believed would be detrimental to Grupa Azoty or itself, according to a statement by Acron vice president Vladimir Kantor.

BASF completes sale of industrial water firm
BASF has completed the divestiture of its Industrial Water Management France SAS (IWM) subsidiary to water treatment specialist Degremont, the German-based chemicals major said. Announced in May, Degremont will continue operations at the IWM production sites in Lyon and La Corneuve. Financial terms were not disclosed. Degremont’s parent company, Suez Environment, is a strategic partner to further expand the service-oriented IWM business, BASF said.

US OMNOVA CEO cautious about recovery in Europe
OMNOVA is taking a cautious approach to reports of Europe’s economic recovery, the CEO of the US-based specialty chemical producer said. “I don’t see many signs that it will be a V-shaped recovery,” said chief executive Kevin McMullen during a conference call about the company’s fiscal Q3 earnings. Sentiment surrounding the European economies has rebounded in recent months. “Given everything Europe has been through … caution is not a bad perspective to take on it,” McMullen said.

Europe shifts to high weight phthalates: Cefic
There has been an overwhelming shift among European phthalate producers from low molecular weight to high molecular weight materials as a result of the regulatory framework in the region, a director of trade body European Chemical Industry Council Cefic said. Upcoming restrictions, which will see the use or production of low molecular weight (LMW) phthalates without authorisation phased out by early 2015, have resulted in a huge shift in European production toward high molecular weight (HMW) products, according to Cefic advocacy director for petrochemistry Maggie Saykali.

Huntsman to revamp surfactants in Europe
Huntsman is planning to restructure its surfactants business in Europe by the end of next year, the US-based producer said. “The company plans to transition away from a number of surfactant assets and product lines that have commoditised,” Huntsman said. The producer added that the restructuring will allow it to focus on developing and growing its “remaining differentiated surfactants business” in strategic markets. The restructuring is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.

Odfjell signs deal for LPG/ethylene carriers
Odfjell has signed a contract with China’s Nantong Sinopacific Offshore & Engineering for the construction of four liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)/ethylene gas carriers of 17,000 cubic metres (cbm), the Norwegian logistics firm said. Deliveries of the carriers are scheduled between October 2015 and May 2016. The contract price is worth about $180m (€133m), and Odfjell “have secured various options” for the delivery of up to four additional gas carriers, it said. Odfjell is currently operating in its fleet two LPG/ethylene carriers of 9,000cbm.

Borealis sells melamine process to Urea Casale
Borealis has sold its melamine high-pressure process technology and all related intellectual property rights to Urea Casale for an undisclosed sum, the Austria-based chemicals major said.“The divestment follows an earlier strategic decision by the company to focus on the melamine business and production, and to exit the melamine licensing activity,” said Markku Korvenranta, Borealis executive vice president, base chemical. Borealis added that its melamine production sites at Linz, Austria, and Piesteritz, Germany, will not be affected by the divestment.

Croatia’s LDPE firm gets pre-bankruptcy deal
Croatian low density polyethylene (LDPE) producer Dina Petrokemija has taken an important step towards restarting its indefinitely mothballed production plants, with a court having approved a pre-bankruptcy settlement, the company said. The approval meant Dina Petrokemija could proceed with a restructuring plan that would see it raise capital to pay creditors and workers through the sale of land at its production site on the Adriatic island of Krk to the state property management agency (DUUDI), it added.


Americas

Chevron Phillips restarts Texas cracker
US-based Chevron Phillips Chemical restarted its No 33 Sweeny cracker in Texas on 28 September. The cracker was shut down on 23 September, according to a filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), after an owl hit a transformer on the site, causing a power disruption. The cracker has an ethylene capacity of 907,000 tonnes/year.

KODA hires Chief Commercial Officer
US-based KODA Distribution Group has hired Joel Jones as its new chief commercial officer. Jones will manage current suppliers, develop new strategies for filling product gaps and work on building upon KODA’s already expansive portfolio I specialty chemicals, the company said. He comes from Dow Chemical, where he was a global corporate account executive. “Joel will play an instrumental role in strengthening relationships by working closely with our key suppliers and sales organisation to ascertain exactly what is most important to our suppliers and customers,” said CEO Frank Bergonzi.

Methanex restarts idled Chile methanol plant
Canada-based Methanex has restarted operations at one of its two plants in Punta Arenas, southern Chile, after production was idled at the end of April. Operations had been halted as a result of an insufficient supply of natural gas feedstock from Chile and Argentina during the southern hemisphere’s winter months. The company’s other plant at the Punta Arenas site remains off line.

EBIH seeks interest for two plastic projects
Bolivia’s EBIH has invited firms to join its database for the basic and detailed engineering, procurement, construction, start-up, operation and maintenance of the Petrocasas and El Alto petrochemical complexes. Petrocasas plant in Caracollo, Oruro department, will produce polymer kits for the construction of prefabricated houses, while the El Alto plant in Bolivia’s capital La Paz will produce tubes and accessories for the country’s natural gas works. Interested parties have until 31 October to submit details.

INVISTA and Ingenza to cooperate on bio-chems
US integrated polymers and fibres major INVISTA said that it will cooperate with UK-based industrial biotechnology and synthetic biology firm Ingenza on the development of new technologies for bio-derived industrial chemical production processes. Edinburgh-based Ingenza is an industrial biotechnology company with a broad customer base in the chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food, feed and fuel industries where it applies its proprietary synthetic biology to manufacture industrial products.

Repsol to reduce Puertollano ethylene
Spanish Chemicals producer Repsol is to reduce ethylene and propylene capacities at its Puertollano cracker by 62% and 57% respectively as part of a process of optimisation, a company spokesperson said. Due to take effect in 2015, the nameplate ethylene capacity will be 95,000 tonnes/year. Currently, it is 250,000 tonnes/year. Nameplate propylene capacity, currently at 150,000 tonnes/year, will reduce to 65,000 tonnes/year.

KODA Distribution acquires specialties
US-based specialty chemical distributor KODA Distribution has acquired Specialty Professional Products (SPP) for an undisclosed sum. KODA said that SPP’s subsidiaries – ADAPCO and Red River Specialties – would maintain their identities and staff and that they would continue to report to SPP president Steve Burt. ADAPCO distributes mosquito control and related products, while Red River Specialties supplies a range of products to the forestry, vegetation management and pasture markets.


Asia

Thailand’s PTTGC to ramp up I-4 cracker run rates
Thailand’s PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) is targeting to increase the operating rates at its 515,000 tonne/year I-4 No 1 cracker in Map Ta Phut to 90% from 85% currently. The facility, which mainly uses naphtha as a feedstock, was restarted on 22 September. The cracker had earlier resumed operations in early September following a turnaround that started on 1 August, but was subsequently taken off line because of technical issues.

Taiwan’s CPC on track to restart Linyuan cracker
Taiwan’s CPC Corp is on track to restart its 720,000 tonne/year No 6 cracker in Linyuan towards the end of the week after completing maintenance at the unit. The company’s Dalin residual fluid catalytic cracker (RFCC), which can produce 400,000-450,000 tonnes/year of propylene, is slated to resume operations in mid-October. The restart schedule was pushed back by five to seven days after maintenance work at the plant failed to meet the government’s health, safety and environmental regulations.

Asia to receive 80,000-100,000 tonnes of PX
Asia is expected to receive in total 80,000-100,000 tonnes of deep-sea paraxylene (PX) in end-November/early December. The cargoes that will come from the US Gulf (USG) is estimated to be at 70,000-80,000 tonnes, while 10,000-20,000 tonnes will be coming from Europe. Inter-regional trade has been subdued because of squeezed downstream purified terephthalic acid (PTA) margins.

China’s Jiangsu Sanmu to start up ECH unit in 2014
China’s Jiangsu Sanmu Group plans to start up its new 120,000 tonne/year epichlorohydrin (ECH) plant in Shandong province in mid-2014. The project at Dongying city is a joint venture between Jiangsu Sanmu and Shandong Lubei Enterprise Group, but the actual ownership structure of the plant has yet to be determined. ECH has applications in coatings for storage tanks, pipes and electrical appliances.

S Korea’s OCI sets TDI plant turnaround
South Korea’s OCI plans to shut its 50,000 tonne/year toluene di-isocynate (TDI) plant in Gunsan for 12 days of maintenance from 21 October. The turnaround will be done during the “slow season” and will not affect the company’s activities in the market. The company will also have enough inventory to supply its customers through to December this year, the source added. The company has been controlling the number of deals for October in order to maintain products inventory.

OMPL plans aromatics unit start-up by early ‘14
India’s ONGC Mangalore Petrochemicals Ltd (OMPL) plans to commission its new aromatics plant in New Mangalore at the end of 2013 or in early 2014. The complex comprises a 920,000 tonne/year paraxylene (PX) plant and a 270,000 tonne/year benzene unit. Previously, the company had targeted to start-up this October but delays in completing the required pipelines along the shore postponed the commission date.

CPDC reschedules capro line upgrade
Taiwan’s China Petrochemical Development Corp (CPDC) will be delaying the shutdown of its 100,000 tonne/year caprolactam (capro) line in Toufen for line upgrading from the first week of October to 7 October. The delay could be attributed to an unexpected mechanical problem at the company’s 200,000 tonne/year capro plant in Xiaogang on 23 September. Production at the Xiaogang plant over the next three days was unstable and contributed to a loss of around 700 tonnes of capro.

Belgium’s Solvay to build plant in Thailand
Solvay is investing €20m ($27m) to build a new 100,000 tonne/year sodium bicarbonate plant at Map Ta Phut in Thailand. The plant, to be the largest in southeast Asia, is scheduled to start up in the first half of 2015 and will be sited at the company’s existing production site at the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate in Rayong province. The new facility will help meet demand for high quality products from the region’s healthcare and food markets.


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