News in brief

18 October 2013 09:33  [Source: ICB]

EUROPE

GRANGEMOUTH TO REMAIN SHUT DOWN
The Grangemouth, UK, oil refinery and petrochemicals complex is to remain shut down while employees consider reform proposals submitted by owner INEOS, the Switzerland-based chemicals producer said on 16 October. The entire site will remain closed until Tuesday 22 October at the earliest while employees review proposals submitted by INEOS on Thursday 16 October regarding the future of the complex. Conversations with trade union Unite finished on the morning of 16 October after negotiations broke down. See page 9.

CEFIC IN ‘PATIENT BUT URGENT’ BATTLE FOR SHALE
The US is increasingly benefiting from a quarter-century head-start over Europe in exploiting shale gas reserves, the industrial policy director of the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) told chemical industry conference delegates. Speaking at the 16th Central and Eastern European Refining and Petrochemicals gathering, organised by the World Refining Association, Jose Mosquera said Cefic must be prepared for a patient battle in its “active advocacy” for Europe to back the exploitation of much of its own estimated 16trn cubic metres of shale gas reserves.

HUNGARY’S TVK STARTS BUILDING BD PLANT
TVK has started construction of its planned 130,000 tonne/year butadiene (BD) installation. Following an import-substitution strategy, TVK will find buyers for its BD output from tyre makers across Hungary, CEO Zsolt Hernadi said. Basic engineering for the forint (Ft) 30bn ($138m, €101m) plant, at TVK’s production complex in Tiszaujvaros, northern Hungary, will be provided by a consortium of German process engineering firm Lurgi and Hungary’s OTF Contracting, MOL said. The first commercial production of the installation was expected by the first quarter of 2015.

BASF STARTS UP POLYAMIDE CO-EXTRUSION LINE
BASF has started up a new polyamide co-extrusion line for packaging and technical films at its Ludwigshafen site in Germany, the chemicals major said. The line will be used to develop new applications for the firm’s Ultramid polyamide, as well as for research, product development and material testing for Ultramid film products, it said in a statement. The company did not disclose the capacity of the line. BASF operates Ultramid production plants in Germany, Belgium, the US and Brazil.

EU AUGUST CHEMS PRODUCTION DOWN
EU chemicals production was down 0.6% month on month in July and by 0.9% in the eurozone, despite an expansion in general industrial production in both regions during the month, statistics body Eurostat said. Chemicals production also fell in both regions on a year-on-year basis during August, by 1% in the EU and 1.9% in the eurozone, according to initial estimates from Eurostat. Total EU industrial production in August grew by 0.5% month on month and by 1% in the eurozone.

ATT POLYMERS AIMS TO LIFT NYLON 6 FORCE MAJEURE
ATT Polymers is aiming to lift a force majeure at its 46,000 tonne/year nylon 6 plant in Guben, Germany, by the end of the year following a failed restart, a company source said. “We’ve tried to restart but had some problem. Hopefully by the end of the year we’ll have finished it [the force majeure],” the company source said. ATT Polymers’ Guben plant was shut down on 23 August after a leakage of highly flammable vapours from a production line.

CLARIANT TO SELL ITS DETERGENTS, INTERMEDIATES
Switzerland-based specialty chemicals company Clariant said it will sell its detergents & intermediates business to International Chemical Investors Group (ICIG) for Swiss franc (Swfr) 58m ($64m). “The total consideration of the sale amounts to Swfr58m, out of which Swfr20m will be in cash at closing. The sale is subject to regulatory approvals,” a company statement added. The agreement to divest the detergents and intermediates business marks the next step in streamlining the company’s portfolio, CEO Hariolf Kottmann said in the statement.

EMERY OLEOCHEMICALS OPENS TECH CENTRE
Emery Oleochemicals has opened a new technical development centre at its production site in Loxstedt in northern Germany, the Malaysia-based producer said. Emery said that the centre would serve as its “global centre of excellence” for green polymer additives. The centre is part of a €20m ($27m) investment that includes the expansion of Emery’s production capacity at Loxstedt, the company said without disclosing capacity details.

GERMAN ECONOMIC SENTIMENT IMPROVES
Germany’s economic sentiment continued to improve in October, reaching its highest level since April 2010, despite the fiscal gridlock and partial government shutdown in the US, an economics research institute said. Mannheim-based ZEW Institute said that its monthly economic sentiment index for Europe’s largest economy rose by 3.2 points in October to 52.8 points. The index is based on a survey of 237 financial market analysts.

PUTIN CALLS FOR DOMESTIC PRODUCTION OVER IMPORTS
Russia needs to rely on its unique natural resources and substitute petrochemical imports for domestic production, President Vladimir Putin told a top level meeting. “We must become masters of our own market,” Putin told the meeting in Tobolsk, according to the presidential press-service’s statement. In 2012, polymer production in Russia amounted to 3.5m tonnes, while polymer consumption reached 5m tonnes, he said.


AMERICAS

ENTERPRISE TO EXPAND CAPACITY OF PIPELINE
Enterprise Products is expanding its Aegis pipeline to deliver up to 425,000 bbl/day of ethane to the petrochemical corridor along the US Gulf Coast, the US midstream energy firm said. With initial deliveries expected to begin during Q2 2014, the 270-mile (435-km) pipeline will start at Enterprises’ liquids storage complex in Mont Belvieu, Texas, and deliver to ethylene production facilities between Beaumont, Texas, and Napoleonville, Louisiana.

OCI RESTARTING TEXAS METHANOL UNIT
OCI has begun restarting its Texas methanol unit after a short outage that occurred on 13 October, a plant official said. OCI reported a motor failure at its Beaumont plant in a state filing. The failure caused the methanol compressor to trip down and opened vents in the reformer. Plant management said the restart began on 14 October.

INVISTA ADDS COMPOUNDING CAPACITY IN TENNESSEE
INVISTA has added 22,000 tonnes/year of new compounding capacity at its site in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the US-based polymers and fibres major said. INVISTA said the new compounding capacity would improve its ability to provide customers with applications solutions for reinforced engineered polymers.

DSM SIGNS DEAL WITH PETROPOL POLIMEROS
DSM has signed an agreement with Brazil-based Petropol Polimeros to produce its Akulon-branded polyamide 6 (or nylon 6) compounds for customers in South America. Petropol Polimeros will produce Akulon compounds at its facilities in Maua, Sao Paulo. Netherlands-based DSM will then market and sell the product to its customers throughout South America.

STYROLUTION AND BRASKEM SIGN ABS JV DEAL
Styrolution and Braskem have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a 100,000 tonne/year styrenics joint venture in Brazil. The proposed plant would supply specialty styrenics, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and styrene acrylonitrile (SAN) copolymers in Brazil and throughout South America. Styrolution would hold 70% of the joint venture and provide the product know how and its existing market in the region. Braskem would supply local and regional market knowledge, supply chain infrastructure and a site for the plant.

LANZATECH, SK TO WORK ON BIO-BASED BD
US gas fermentation technology firm LanzaTech and South Korea’s refining and petrochemicals major SK Innovation have agreed to jointly develop new process technology for the production of bio-based 1,3 butadiene. The collaboration would accelerate the commercialisation of an alternative route to butadiene. The partners aim to integrate SK’s refining and petrochemicals technology with LanzaTech’s gas fermentation process.

POLYPLASTICS ESTABLISHES SUBSIDIARY IN MEXICO
Japanese engineering plastics producer Polyplastics has established a wholly owned sales subsidiary in Mexico City, the company said. Polyplastics Marketing Mexico, which began operations on 1 October, will import and sell engineering plastics. Polyplastics produces polyoxymethylene (POM), polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), fiberglass reinforced polyethylene terephthalate (GF-PET), liquid crystal polymers (LCP), polyphenylene sulphide (PPS) and transparent resin cyclic olefin copolymer (COC).

BRAZIL CAUSTIC SODA CONSUMPTION DROPS 2.4%
Brazil consumed 1.86m dry metric tonnes (dmt) of liquid caustic soda from January to September 2013, down by 2.4% from the 1.90m dmt consumed during the same period in 2012, the country’s association of chlor-alkali industries, Abiclor, reported. Brazil’s domestic production of liquid caustic soda during the 2013 period was 1.04m dmt, down 1.3% year on year. Liquid caustic soda imports were 835,420 dmt in 2013, down by 3.8%.

US HIGH COURT TO HEAR EPA GHG RULES CHALLENGE
The US Supreme Court said it will consider a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule that limits emissions by power plants, refineries, chemicals facilities and other industrial sites. The high court said it would hear challenges filed by multiple industry associations and state governments that said the EPA overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act in moving to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG) from “stationary sources”, meaning industrial facilities and almost any energy-generating site.


ASIA

TAIWAN’S FPC REVERTS TO EVA OUTPUT AT MAILIAO
Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp (FPC) has switched to producing ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) at its 72,000 tonne/year swing plant in Mailiao from the start of October. The plant was previously producing low density polyethylene (LDPE) in full swing given a limited supply of the polymer, and amid high EVA production cost at the time. FPC’s other 168,000 tonne/year tubular EVA plant at the same site has been operating normally.

SINOPEC SENMEI, FUJIAN CUSTOMS SIGN MOU
China’s Sinopec SenMei (Fujian) Petroleum has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Fujian Customs as both parties seek to step up efforts in stopping oil products smuggling in Fujian province. The MoU expects to strengthen the cooperation between Sinopec Senmei and Fujian Customs to improve efforts against oil products smuggling, according to a statement from Sinopec. The date of agreement was not specified in the statement.

SINOPEC SHANGHAI GAOQIAO SHUTS PUDONG UNIT
Major Chinese producer Sinopec Shanghai Gaoqiao on 15 October shut its 60,000 tonne/year phenol/acetone u nit at Pudong in Shanghai for repairs. Mechanical repairs at the unit are expected to take two to three days. The producer also operates a 100,000 tonne/year phenol/acetone unit at the same Pudong site. Operations at the larger unit are normal. In addition to the two units at Pudong, Sinopec Shanghai Gaoqiao operates a 200,000 tonne/year phenol/acetone plant at Caojing, which is currently under maintenance.

SHIYOU CHEM RESTARTS PHENOL/ACETONE UNIT
China’s Shiyou Chemical is in the process of restarting its 320,000 tonne/year phenol/acetone plant at Yangzhou in Jiangsu province on Wednesday after completing mechanical repairs at the unit. The plant was shut on 8 October because of mechanical issues. The producer expects to achieve phenol/acetone output and resume shipments by 18 October. Shiyou Chemical’s plant can produce 200,000 tonnes/year of phenol and 120,000 tonnes/year of acetone.

SAMSUNG FINE CHEMICALS RUNS PLANT AT FULL RATES
South Korea’s Samsung Fine Chemicals has ramped up the run rates at its new 60,000 tonne/year epichlorohydrin (ECH) plant in Ulsan to full capacity from 80% at the end of September. The plant was started up on 19 September and the company gradually increased its run rate over a period of time. The company’s total ECH nameplate capacity at the site is now 120,000 tonnes/year, and both its old and new plants are running at full capacity.

SINOCHEM LIFTS FM ON POLYOLS SUPPLY
China’s Sinochem International has lifted the force majeure (FM) on the supply from its 50,000 tonne/year polyols plant at Ningbo, in Zhejiang province. The plant producing rigid and case polyols was shut down on 8 October because of Typhoon Fitow, which had lashed eastern China with heavy rain and flooding earlier last week. The storm had disrupted road and sea transportation as well as the supply of several Chinese producers in the region.

ZHEJIANG QING’AN CHEMICAL RUNS DOP PLANT AT 80%
China’s Zhejiang Qing’an Chemical is running its 150,000 tonne/year dioctyl phthalate (DOP) unit at Jiaxing in Zhejiang province at around 80% of capacity following a restart on 14 October. The unit was shut down on 23 September because of feedstock shortage. The restart may weigh down on DOP prices in the domestic market amid weak demand conditions and depressed market confidence.

IDEMITSU KOSAN PLANS 2014 TURNAROUNDS
Japanese aromatics producer Idemitsu Kosan plans to shut both its Chiba and Tokuyama-based benzene and styrene monomer (SM) facilities in 2014 for a month-long scheduled maintenance. The Chiba-based 330,000 tonne/year benzene unit and 210,000 tonne/year SM plant will be shut from March to April 2014 for the turnaround. At Tokuyama, the benzene unit, reformer and SM unit will likely be taken off line in September to October 2014.

SIAM CEMENT ON TRACK TO SHUT AROMATICS UNIT
Thailand-based Siam Cement Group (SCG) is on track to shut its joint venture’s Map Ta Phut Olefins Co (MOC)’s aromatics plant from early November for a 45-day scheduled turnaround. MOC’s aromatics plant has a nameplate capacity of 160,000 tonnes/year of benzene, 80,000 tonnes/year of toluene and about 60,000 tonnes/year of solvent grade xylene.


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