News in brief

22 November 2013 10:02  [Source: ICB]

EUROPE

INEOS restarts BD extraction unit in UK
INEOS has restarted its butadiene (BD) extraction unit in Grangemouth, UK, a spokesman for the Swiss-headquartered producer said. The BD unit, which can produce 71,000 tonnes/year, was shut down alongside the refinery and all the other petrochemical units in mid-October due to threats of strike action. The issues were resolved and restart of the site commenced on 25 October. INEOS also owns and operates a 245,000 tonne/year BD unit in Cologne, Germany.

Total Antwerp refinery explosion kills two
An explosion at Total’s 17m tonne/year refinery on 19 November in Antwerp, Belgium, has killed two workers. The energy and petrochemicals major said that because of the explosion, it stopped part of the refinery’s installations and activated an emergency plan. The explosion occurred at around 14:00 GMT during maintenance at a steam system of a gasoline-producing unit. There was no fire, and no hydrocarbons were released into the atmosphere, the company said.

Chemical industry to discuss EU-US free trade
Senior members of the UK chemicals industry convened in London to discuss the proposed EU-US free trade agreement with government ministers, according to the UK Cabinet Office. Representatives of groups including Huntsman, Synthomer, INEOS, Solvay and Dow Chemical met with Michael Fallon, UK Minister of State for business and energy, and Member of Parliament Kenneth Clarke in Whitehall to discuss the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) regulatory reforms.

Bidders narrow for KEM ONE
Bidding for the upstream business of KEM ONE has moved forward, with two offers advanced enough to be presented to its committee, and buy-out firm Sun European Partners withdrawing from the race, the France-based vinyls producer said. Buy-out firm OpenGate Capital and industrialist Alain de Krassny have declared their offers are advanced enough to be presented to members of KEM ONE’s joint consultative committee, the company said.

Poland’s Ciech to divest non-soda ash units in ‘14
Poland-based Ciech is set to next year complete a divestment strategy that will pay down debt and turn it into a solely soda ash-producing company. It said the move is likely to see the company divest units producing agrochemicals, epoxy and polyester resins, and polyurethanes. Ciech is to simultaneously underline its renewed commitment to its sole remaining production segment by kicking off a two-year project to expand its soda ash capacity from 2.2m tonnes/year to 2.4m tonnes/year, it added.

Italy’s Versalis restarts cracker at priolo
Italian petrochemicals producer Versalis has restarted its cracker at Priolo and it has been producing on-spec material since 18 November. A company source said. “It [the restart] was delayed two-three days, but we are now on-spec”. Planned maintenance at the cracker, which is one of four owned and operated by Versalis in Europe, started at the end of August, but the cracker had been running at reduced rates since mid-July because of technical reasons.

Scotland may develop biochemicals facility
The Scottish government is seeking to develop its nascent industrial biotechnology sector, and is considering the development of a biochemicals facility in the country, a body dedicated to the country’s economic growth said. Scotland is looking to develop annual turnover for its industrial biotechnology sector from £189m today to £900m by 2025, according to Scottish Enterprise. One of the measures being pursued is an investigation into the potential for the development of a biorefining and biochemicals facility in the country.

EU Jan-Aug trade surplus up 2.2% as exports fall
The EU chemical products trade surplus for January to August increased by 2.2% from the same period last year, official data from agency Eurostat showed. The chemicals trade surplus rose to €78.2bn ($105.7bn) from €76.5bn in the same period of 2012, according to Eurostat data. Non-seasonally adjusted data showed that chemical exports from the EU28 fell by 1% year on year to €183.8bn, while imports declined to €105.6bn.

Russian tycoon takes 21.75% stake in Uralkali
The investment vehicle of Russian businessman Mikhail Prokhorov said it has agreed to acquire a 21.75% stake in fertilizer producer Uralkali from a foundation controlled by fellow tycoon Suleyman Kerimov. The purchase price was not disclosed, but investment vehicle ONEXIM Group said the deal does not require any regulatory approvals, and is expected to close shortly. Earlier reports in the Russia media estimated the price tag for the stake at $3.7bn. Uralkali’s market capitalisation is $16.35bn.


AMERICAS

NOVA chemicals to restart idled EPS line
NOVA Chemicals plans to restart an expandable polystyrene (EPS) line at its Monaca plant in Pennsylvania, US which had been idled since 2010. Recent tightness in the market, as well as stronger than normal demand, has convinced the company to increase production and restart the line. For now, the restarted line will not be running at its full 100m lbs/year capacity, but will be started and stopped as warranted by demand.

APLA ’13: ExxonMobil eyes South America cracker
An ExxonMobil official said the US company is looking at its “notable absence” of steam crackers in South America. Vice president Dwight Tozer said demand for polyethylene (PE) in South America will grow significantly, averaging 4% annually, as a result of an expanding middle class in the region. The US will export resin to South America, but there is enormous potential for projects in the region, he said at the Latin American Petrochemical Association (APLA) meeting in Cartagena, Colombia.

APLA ’13: Petroquimica Suape to start- PET lines
Petroquimica Suape will be starting up its two new bottle-grade grade polyethylene terephthalate (PET) production lines in Pernambuco state in northeast Brazil by the end of January, a company source said. Each of the two lines has a capacity of 230,000 tonnes/year, and they are now in the pre-commissioning and pre-marketing stage. Suape plans to export product to the other countries in South America after Brazil’s requirements are met.

APLA ’13: Venezuela PVC production restored
Venezuelan polyvinyl chloride (PVC) producer Pequiven’s plant is running normally and PVC imports are arriving, an industry source said. Pequiven’s PVC plant restarted in October after a mechanical failure caused the facility to shut down for several weeks for repairs. Because of the unexpected shutdown, resin availability became very short in Venezuela as local supplies were depleted while imports from the US and Colombia had not yet arrived. The Venezuelan PVC market is expected to regain balance in December-January.

APLA ’13: Colombia 2014 PET demand to rise 8-10%
Colombia’s polyethylene terephthalate (PET) demand growth is projected at 8-10% for 2014, an industry participant said. Healthy PET growth is expected despite challenges, including the 10% duty that is applied to PET resin imported into Columbia that leave pre-form makers in the country at a disadvantage against pre-forms from Ecuador which enjoy a duty advantage into Colombia.

APLA ’13: Suape boots filament production
Petroquimica Suape expects production at its new polyester filament plant to reach 85,000 tonnes/year in 2014, a company source said. The texturised polyester filament facility started up in 2010 and has been gradually scaling up production. Suape’s production is expected to fulfill 40% of Brazil’s filament requirements.

APLA ’13: Alunorte FM hits caustic soda
Brazilian alumina producer Alunorte’s force majeure (FM) earlier this year had a severe impact on the caustic soda supply/demand balance in the Americas, a source in Latin America said. Although the force majeure appears to have been lifted, according to the source, Alunorte’s operating rate and caustic soda consumption remain significantly reduced.

ONEOK to expand Bakken gas processing
US-based ONEOK Partners will invest between $650m-780m (€481m-577m) through Q2 2016 to build a new natural gas processing facility and conduct a second expansion of the Bakken NGL Pipeline. ONEOK plans to build the Lonesome Creek facility in North Dakota. Also, the company plans to expand the Bakken NGL Pipeline’s capacity to 160,000 bbl/day from 135,000 bbl/day. The line currently is being upgraded to 135,000 bbl/day from 60,000 bbl/day, a project to be completed in Q3 2014.

Enterprise starts up 8th fractionator in Texas
Enterprise Products Partners has started up its eighth natural gas liquids (NGL) fractionator at its Mont Belvieu complex in Texas, US. The new unit has capacity to fractionate 85,000 bbl/day of NGLs, bringing Enterprise’s total fractionation capacity at the Mont Belvieu complex to 655,000 bbl/day.

Valspar Q4 profit falls 14% as sales rise 8%
Valspar reported a 14% year-on-year decline in its fiscal 2013 fourth-quarter net income, to $63.5m (€47m), mainly because of restructuring and acquisition-related charges, the US-based paint and coatings firm said. The company saw the benefit of new business wins in all product lines, but these were offset by weakness in certain end markets and international regions, as has been the case throughout 2013.

Cabot fined by EPA, agrees to cut emissions
US-based carbon black producer Cabot has entered into an agreement decree with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in which it will control its air emissions and pay a civil fine of $975,000 (€721,500). Cabot will reduce its emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter from its Franklin and Ville Platte plants in Louisiana and its Pampa plant in Texas.


ASIA

Pakistan begins PVC antidumping probe
Pakistan has begun an investigation into alleged dumping of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) by Taiwanese and South Korean companies following complaints from a domestic producer. The investigation on possible PVC dumping started on 18 November will cover 1 October 2012 to 30 September 2013, while the determination of injury to the domestic market will be over three years from October 2010, according to a document from Pakistan’s National Tariff Commission.

Kukdo Chem testing new China epoxy resins unit
Kukdo Chemical (Kunshan) has been conducting trial runs at its new 100,000 tonne/year epoxy resins unit in China since 5 November, a company source said. The plant – which can produce 65,000 tonnes/year of liquid epoxy resins (LER) and 35,000 tonnes/year of specialty epoxy resins – is running at less than half its capacity. Run rates will be adjusted depending on market conditions when actual production begins in January next year

S Korea’s KPX delays polyols unit shutdown
South Korea’s KPX Chemical has delayed a planned partial shutdown of its polyether polyols plant in Ulsan to early next month from mid-November, a company source said. Higher demand for polyether polyols in Asia and the Middle East prompted the delay. KPX Chemical’s plant in Ulsan produces 227,000 tonnes/year of polyether polyols.

Tangshan Zhonghao to start new ADA unit in H1
China’s Tangshan Zhonghao Chemical plans to start up its new 150,000 tonne/year adipic acid (ADA) unit in Hebei province in the first half of next year, a source close to the company said. Construction work on the new unit in Tangshan city was completed on 16 November 2013

Taiwan’s Chang Chun starts China ECH units
Taiwan’s Chang Chun started up one of its two new 48,000 tonne/year epichlorohydrin (ECH) units in China’s Liaoning province Panjin in October, a company source said. The current operating rate of the running ECH plant in Panjin, as well as the start-up schedule of the second unit at the site, was not provided.

Philippines’ DFE Chemical drops PS unit shutdown
Philippine-based producer DFE Chemical has decided to continue running its 30,000 tonne/year polystyrene (PS) facility in Manila throughout December after securing sufficient feedstock styrene monomer (SM), a company source said. The company has lowered the operating rate of the PS unit in November to conserve feedstock.

India keeps duty on nonyl phenol imports
India is extending its anti-dumping duty (ADD) on nonyl phenol imports from Taiwan, following a “sunset review” of the duty imposed in August 2007, a government official said. The Directorate General of Antidumping and Allied Duties (DGAD) under the Ministry of Commerce recommended the extension after a one-year review of the duty in August 2012. The same ADD rates of between $163.62-364.48/tonne will apply.

PETRONAS Chemicals shuts methanol unit
Malaysia’s PETRONAS Chemicals Group (PCG) has shut its 1.7m tonne/year No 2 methanol plant at Labuan in November for maintenance, a company source said. The shutdown will tentatively last 50 days, the source added. The company’s 660,000 tonne/year No 1 methanol unit at the same site is currently operating at around 70% of capacity.

Indonesia’s KMI shuts plant for maintenance
Indonesia’s Kaltim Methanol Industri (KMI) shut its 660,000 tonne/year methanol plant at Bontang in eastern Kalimantan on 18 November for 40 days of annual maintenance, a company source said. The shutdown had been delayed from early November because of late arrival of maintenance parts. The company is not offering any spot cargoes and will focus on its contractual obligations.

China’s Sinopec Maoming builds new MTBE unit
China’s Sinopec Maoming has started building its new 100,000 tonne/year methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) unit in Guangdong province, with start-up slated in end-2014, the company in a statement said. MTBE output from the yuan (CNY) 81.3m plant will be used as feedstock for the company’s planned isononyl alcohol unit at the same site.


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