The Blog is away until 13 September 2010.
August 2010 Archives
Understanding trader-speak is an art. My fellow blogger, Paul Hodges has written an insightful explanation of some classic trader expressions on his blog.
To these, the ICIS aromatics reporting team can add the following:
"I haven't done anything in the market this week, but I heard this low deal done."
= Please move the ICIS assessment down to this level.
"No, I don't know who was involved with that deal."
= It's my deal.
"No, I can't confirm that deal."
= It's my deal but I'm ashamed of it now.
"There's an armada of import shipments coming in to Rotterdam so prices are under pressure."
= I'm short and looking to buy.
"I'm a trader so not involved in contract prices, just interested to know what's going on."
= I've got a contract-related formula in my deals to supply, and it's agony waiting for you to publish that contract price.
A quick check of the EPCA website shows that 1,936 delegates have now signed up for the conference with just six weeks to go. That's overtaken last year's 1,900.
Flights are booked - and just in time, because one morning flight from
One new colleague tells me how excited he is to see that the chosen ICIS hotel has a bullet-proof presidential suite and inclusive room plus dental packages available. I hope he isn't disappointed.
Another contact bemoans the fact that when he was a producer, "everyone and his dog" wanted to have meetings with him, but now he's a trader, it's a rather different picture.
(photo Rex:The Houses of Parliament, and Chain Bridge, Budapest July 2010)
ICIS has announced a joint venture with specialist Former Soviet Union (FSU) based benchmark price provider MRC, to extend our presence in the Russian plastics market.
The announcement from ICIS and MRC went out on 12 August, including the news that the two companies will be holding a one-day "Russian Polymers Summit" on 14 October 2010 in Moscow.
In the same part of the world, our own correspondent Sergei B in Moscow has been struggling with the heatwave and smog, as he continues to cover petrochemical markets and news through the Russian summer. That will surely be a thing of the past by the time of the conference in October.
Click here for more on the conference.
Or here, to read the same in Russian.
Hardly a day goes by without some new development on the Aromatics Conference, which is all set for 23-24 November 2010 in a very stylish hotel in Berlin.
The Early Bird discount of €146 is available up to 3 September, and early delegates have been snapping up places at the discounted rate.
Top line speakers have been announced from: Shell, Polimeri, Dow, Total, Equipolymers, International eChem, CICCC, Nexant and more to come ...
Early registration fee (booking on or before 3rd September 2010) €749 + VAT (19%)
Standard registration fee (booking after 3rd September 2010) €895 + VAT (19%)
Click here for speakers and agenda, and to register.
The Aussie managing editor of ICIS Houston, Stephen Burns, was welcomed back to the heart of his team today after a brief trip over the border to renew his visa.
Petchem golfers take heed. Golf is still on the rise in the impressively developing economies of
The Nikkei has stopped publishing its monthly Nikkei Golf Index, tracking the average prices of golf club memberships which trade on a grey market. The index tracked
A third of
I'm expecting to see Anybots milling around in conference lobbies or corporate meeting rooms before the year is out. It's an internet-operated "telepresence robot" which can be manoeuvred from thousands of miles away using a laptop and headset, according to this article.
You can join in meetings, attend conferences, ask questions or wander round a chemical production plant (maybe not.)
The Anybot weighs 16 kg, sells for $15,000 and moves at 3.5 miles/hour, and has a video monitor so that those it meets can see the operator live. It could be your long-distance boss inside the stick-like body.
Apparently, the Anybot arouses a lot of interest for a few minutes, when it first arrives in the workplace, then people just forget about it. No, the Blog can't believe that at all. I think it would take a very long time to forget that you're talking to a robot, and the temptation to push it over or shut it accidentally in a room would be very strong indeed.
More petchem cycling news reaches the Blog this morning. Steve Lyons of LyondellBasell and Jim Thompson of Third Coast Chemicals took inspiration from the Tour de France starting in Rotterdam, and decided to ride the first stage on the day after the Tour riders had completed it. The first stage, Rotterdam to Brussels - which the Blog prefers to do in the comfort of the Thalys train - is a mere 223.5 km, and the Tour website shows the route in its full arduous detail.
Unfortunately the lads were unable to follow the exact route - not having the benefit of closed roads - and were often forced onto cycle paths.
"We also missed a couple of turns and so ended up riding 260 km on the day. Still not bad for a day's ride," said Steve.
(photo: ASO/Le Tour)
After the Blog's restaurant review of San Antonio went out to general acclaim, it seemed appropriate to provide petchem travellers to Houston with the same level of service.
Ouisie's Table (pronounced Weezies)
Great southern food with delightful service. It's buzzy at lunchtime, but quieter in the evening. The deep fried oysters and the assortment of tiny breads were perfection.
Bright and cheerful diner in the departures level in Terminal D in Houston airport (IAH) where you can get a last fix of Texan food, cheese on everything, although the wisdom of eating a huge portion of salted food before a nine hour flight is questionable.
Cheap-as-chips bar and diner in a shack within walking distance (unheard of in Houston) of the ICIS office on West Alabama @ Buffalo Speedway. Site of competitive international shuffleboard matches (see photo.) Popular with oil and petchem traders. For non-Texans, it's like being in a movie set. Free lite beers in a bucket on a promotion the night I was there, and a live band and dance floor.
Picturesque decking terrace under old oak trees, and a cosy dark bar, but the main restaurant looked a bit dull. It's often voted best restaurant in Houston for outdoor dining, so of course out of the question in summer. Nothing exciting on the menu, but the salads were good. And am I the only one to find the name amusing?
The new ICIS Heren office in Dusseldorf is up and running, I hear from my colleague Simon on returning from his first visit.
The new German-based editorial team is going to "improve the quality and quantity of reporting on continental European gas markets and facilitate closer contact with the German energy industry," says Simon in the launch press release.
Photos: 1 view from the window of ICIS Heren office, Dusseldorf
2 inside office
Antonia Jenney, senior commercial manager, aromatics Europe, at Dow Europe GmbH in Horgen, Switzerland, is moving to the position of Product Director PP and HDPE, Dow Europe/IMEA at Dow Chemical Company - Chemicals & Plastics, I hear from Truong today.
Her aromatics position will be taken by Mr Eide Garcia, formerly Latin America Product Manager at Dow Chemical in Brazil.
Did anyone spot the petchem link in the brilliant new 21st-century Sherlock on BBC TV? Wasn't it obvious?
In the second of three episodes, "The Blind Banker," Sherlock Holmes is investigating the murder of a bank trader who has recently returned from two round-the-world trips via Dalian, home of the Dalian Commodity Exchange (DCE), much reported in ICIS news as the site of wild gambling on polymers (LLDPE and PVC) futures.
At once we know that this trader is a crook.
The second petchem link, less obvious perhaps, is that the lead actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, has an unusual name which is uncannily similar to my ex-ICIS friend, Janet Cumberpatch. I suspect some Caribbean connection.
Inspired by the ICIS Training "Beginner's Course in Petrochemicals," which recommended a visit to London's Science Museum exhibition "Plasticity," our own Helena took her nine year-old nephew for a day of plastics, science and museum café food.
"It's better than an old fort," was his acute observation.
Plasticity has exhibits from the history of plastics, including:
The Birth of Plastics - Baekeland's invention and the rapid spread of plastics as a useful material.
Plastic Dreams - the widespread use of plastics since their introduction, and the properties and uses of key plastics including polythene, polyurethane, polyester, nylon and acrylic.
Plastics Now - plastics today and the environmental implications of their use.
Plastic Futures - cutting-edge prototype products and expert views about new sources of plastics, and new ways to reduce waste and use plastics more responsibly.
Scare stories about chemicals surface at the rate of about one a month, but this front page headline, "Plastic food tubs cut sperm counts," caught the attention of my colleague Paul in this morning's Metro.
He particularly liked the proximity of the headline to the photo of the three ageing Hollywood stars.
Skimming through the article to see why old research should rate a front page headline today, I see that there has been some new research at Harvard University but that this has been discounted by the UK's Food Standards Agency (bottom paragraph), who said that exposure to BPA via plastics was "well below levels considered harmful."
Gordon Adams of INEOS is currently gearing up for a 1,000 mile cycle ride from the southernmost tip of England to the northernmost tip of Scotland to raise money for Cancer Research.
Adams, business manager butadiene and C4s at INEOS, is pictured here in the yellow top with his friend Rob, also taking part in the charity bike ride from Land's End to John O'Groats.
Apart from raising money for a charity that helps thousands and touches the lives of countless others, they say on their website that there is a very good reason to donate:
"Will the cycle hurt? Yes, but we are willing to suffer the blisters, boils and body odour! All you have to do is sit back in your comfy armchair and donate!!"
I see that some of the donations come with graphic comments about the range of injuries his friends expect him to sustain.
Says our own Nel, "I am sure Gordon would appreciate more industry support - please go to http://www.justgiving.com/LandsEndToJohnOGroats2010"
European travellers to the US no longer have to fill in the green visa waiver form - just the ESTA form online and the blue customs form on the plane. Apparently the green immigration form expired quietly in early July 2010. It took the cabin crew some time to explain this to those of us who have spent a lifetime filling in two forms and were not to be dissuaded. Not filling in the green form saves valuable minutes on the 10-hour flight, leaving even more time to find things to do to fill the yawning hours of boredom.
So goodbye green form.
No more will English children tackle with glee the crucial questions:
Have you ever been a communist? YES OR NO
Have you ever been a terrorist? YES OR NO
I always thought the YES/NO boxes a bit restrictive, leaving no room for essay-style answers beginning with ..."Well, I used to be a freedom fighter. Does that count as a terrorist?" or "I donated tins to the miners' strike. Does that count in America as a communist?"
Even taxi firms have CRM systems now, I am impressed to find when I have to call my number two local firm because my usual one can't oblige. They have caller ID, call me by name, remember my address and when I get into the car, the driver asks if I would like to listen to BBC Radio 4. Is that service or what?
On the way to the airport, the driver asks me what "deception" means. It's an unusual question from a taxi driver, but after we've covered that one, I go on to explain what a "tunnel" is. He is improving his English by listening to Radio 4 news, because in Afghanistan he was a physicist.
I tell him that there is a great Afghan grocers in Brentford called Maiwand (he explains that Maiwand is a village in Afghanistan and that the owners must be Pashtun) where you can buy Alphonse mangoes, and that my son is a physicist. By the time we reach the airport, he has successfully secured my future taxi business, but what a waste of his talent, and what a waste to his country.
The Blog turned into one of the paparazzi on spotting ZZ Top (Zee Zee Top) returning home from their European tour on the flight to Houston today. They looked quite cheerful as the celebrity minder girl from Heathrow marshalled them through the VIP extra-fast track, but the Blog couldn't help but notice that the one with the white beard (Billy Gibbons?) was very short when he took his cowboy boots off to go through security.
The Blog turned into one of the paparazzi on spotting ZZ Top (Zee Zee Top) returning home from their European tour on the flight to Houston today.
They looked quite cheerful as the celebrity minder girl from Heathrow marshalled them through the VIP extra-fast track, but the Blog couldn't help but notice that the one with the white beard (Billy Gibbons?) was very short when he took his cowboy boots off to go through security.
It's not that I'm a grumpy traveller, but there are some things which I just hate about long-haul flights ...
It's not that I'm a grumpy traveller, but there are some things which I just hate about long-haul flights ...
1 The way they switch the lights out at 3pm, everyone dons eyeshades and is instantly asleep, and I'm the only one awake all through the fake night.
2 The one film I want to see (eg TOY STORY 3 which came out four weeks ago in the UK and for which I brought extra tissues specially) will not be showing on board, despite the airline's boast of having 100 online movies on demand.
3 The way my feet get cold no matter how many flight socks I put on.
4 The flush noise in the WC sets my teeth on edge.
Petchem parents should be warned that the next
Each pack contains 24 rubbery plastic bands, shaped like animals or fish or musical instruments. Celebs are wearing them, and they should be coming to
Heinz Beanz is launching its Fridge Pack, a plastic jar which contains as much baked beans as two and a half cans and is resealable, so that it can be stored in the fridge for up to five days, according to an article in the 31 July issue of The Grocer. Heinz is forecasting first-year sales of £10 million, which is a lot of plastic jars. First, I'm glad I don't have to write this stuff - three columns on baked beans in a jar, no thanks. And second, I'm glad that the question of whether baked beans can be stored for one or five days is of no relevance at all to my life.
Heinz Beanz is launching its Fridge Pack, a plastic jar which contains as much baked beans as two and a half cans and is resealable, so that it can be stored in the fridge for up to five days, according to an article in the 31 July issue of The Grocer.
Heinz is forecasting first-year sales of £10 million, which is a lot of plastic jars.
First, I'm glad I don't have to write this stuff - three columns on baked beans in a jar, no thanks. And second, I'm glad that the question of whether baked beans can be stored for one or five days is of no relevance at all to my life.