This week's world news

12 October 2012 09:32 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

Americas

TPC Group lands Innospec takeover bid
US-based butadiene producer TPC Group received a takeover offer of $4446 (€33.8835.42) per share from UK-headquartered specialty chemicals company Innospec. Equity financing will be provided by Blackstone. The offer is higher than an earlier bid of $40 per share made in August by energy-focused private equity firm First Reserve and chemical industry-focused private investment firm SK Capital Partners.

Cytec to divest coating resins for $1.03bn
Cytec Industries will sell its coating resins subsidiary to private equity firm Advent International for $1.03bn (€793m), the US-based firms said. Advent will assume $118m of liabilities associated with the Cytec unit, which will bring the total value of the transaction to $1.15bn. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2013.

US OxyChem awards cracker contract
US petrochemical producer Occidental Chemical (OxyChem) has commissioned CB&I for the basic engineering design of a proposed cracker that will produced 1.2bn lb/year (544,320 tonnes/year) of ethylene, the US-based engineering firm. Feedstock from the cracker will be ethane-derived from domestic shale gas.

Utica Shale holds 38tcf of natural gas USGS
The Utica Shale contains a mean estimate of 38 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of technically recoverable natural gas, based on a range of 2161tcf, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said in its first assessment of the formation in the northeast US. The Utica has a mean estimate of 940m bbl of unconventional oil resources, based on a range of 590m1.39bn bbl. It has a mean estimate of 9m bbl of unconventional natural gas liquids (NGLs), based on a range of 4m16m bbl.

BP to divest Texas City refinery to Marathon
BP reached a deal to sell its Texas refinery and part of its retail and logistical network to US refiner Marathon Petroleum for $2.5bn (€1.9bn). The UK-based energy and chemicals firm expects the deal will close by early 2013.

Eastman advises of cracker power failure
US propylene producer Eastman Chemical reported a power failure on 9 October at its Longview cracker in Texas, said a filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Wednesday. The power failure shut down the propanol plant, causing high pressure in the reactor.

Brazil reduces biaxially oriented PP tariff to 2%
Brazil's Chamber of Foreign Trade temporarily lowered the nation's tariff on biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) from 16% to 2%, the chamber said on 8 October. In an effort to preserve supplies, the 180-day measure applies for companies that export a maximum of 960 tonnes of product.

La Coope FedereÉe and IFFCO to build urea plant
Quebec agricultural cooperative La Coop fédérée is partnering with the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Co-operative to build a Canadian dollar 1.20bn ($1.24bn) urea fertilizer plant in Becancour in northeast Montreal, state media reported on 9 October. La Coop fédérée would take about half of the plant's 1.2m tonne/year capacity, and the rest will be sold to Canadian and US markets. Construction will begin in 2014, and output will start in 2017.

Paseo biodiesel plant to be expanded by 40%
Paseo Biofuels' biodiesel plant in Kansas City, Missouri, will be expanded by 40%, the firm's stakeholders said on Tuesday. The plant currently produces 40m gal/year (151m litres/year) of biodiesel and 30m lb/year (14m kg/year) of food-grade glycerine. The expansion is expected to be completed by March 2013.

Chevron's California crude unit out for 2012
The central crude unit at US-based oil and gas company Chevron's Richmond refinery in California, US will remain shut through the end of the year. The unit, which produces 245,000 bbl/day, was shut down on 6 August following a fire. The site's production of motor fuel has been reduced since then.

Sun Chemical probes new jersey incident
US-based Sun Chemical is investigating an explosion on 9 October that injured seven workers at its printing inks chemical plant in East Rutherford, New Jersey, US. The company said the incident was contained inside the plant building and had no external contamination or environmental impact. The company did not say if, or to what extent, the accident affected production.

Valero restarts crude unit at Louisiana
US refiner Valero restarted the crude unit at its Meraux refinery in Louisiana after a fire caused it to be shut on 22 July, a company spokesperson said. Downstream production units were restarted on 6 August.


Europe

Solvay and Sibur join in surfactants venture
Belgian chemicals group Solvay and Russian petrochemical giant Sibur have agreed to form a joint venture for the production of surfactants and oilfield process chemicals in Russia, the companies said. Known as Ruspav, the jointly held company will be based near Sibur's petrochemical operations in Dzerzhinsk, 400km (248 miles) east of Moscow, and is expected to come onstream in 2015. The agreement was signed in London.

Momentive's SER plant sees the end - EPCA '12
Momentive is in the process of closing its solid epoxy resins (SER) plant in Wesseling, Germany, a source at the US-based specialty chemicals producer said. "We are in the process of closing the plant down. There are only a few weeks left," the source added on the sidelines of the European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) conference. Momentive announced in March 2012 that it intended to close the plant permanently.

Upturn not seen in chem tanker market - EPCA '12
The European chemical tanker shipping market is not likely to witness an upturn for at least another five years, sources said. Speaking on the sidelines of the 46th annual European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) meeting in Budapest, Hungary, market participants said they did not expect to witness a resurgence in demand for the shipment of chemicals until the global economy picks up. "We are now realistically looking at 2017 as the year when freight rates will raise to a level considered healthy," one shipowner said.

Chem industry is key to preserve earth - Crotty
The chemical industry can play a vital role in helping preserve the earth's resources, a top European industry official said, citing the impact an expanding population can have on the planet. "I firmly believe that our industry holds the key to resolving those twin challenges that face the world," said Tom Crotty, president of the European Petrochemical Association (EPCA), referring to the need to meet the demands of a growing population, while at the same time reducing the impact of human life on the ecology of the earth.

EU chemicals production drops 2.2% in July - Cefic
EU chemicals production fell by 2.2% year on year in July, with basic inorganics the only sector to avoid a slump, trade association Cefic reported. Representing the 11th consecutive month of year-on-year production declines, the data indicates that EU chemicals production remains 5.9% below the industry's 2007 peak, Cefic said. EU chemicals production was down 2.4% for the first seven months of the year compared with the same period of 2011. Output levels were down across all chemical sectors apart from basic inorganics, which saw a year-on-year increase of 0.9%.

Second Nord Stream gas pipeline comes on line
The second pipeline of the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream twin-pipeline system has come on stream, bolstering the gas flow security of Europe's chemical and other industries, the Nord Stream international consortium said. The capacity of the system, which consists of pipelines weighing 4m tonnes and runs along the bottom of the Baltic Sea, has with the opening of the second line risen from 27.5 billion cubic metres/year to 55 billion cubic metres/year, it added. The first line of the system went into operation in November last year.

UK looks at tax breaks for shale gas hunt
The UK government is considering introducing a preferential tax regime for shale gas exploration to stimulate investment in the sector, UK chancellor George Osborne said. Following the announcement of several sets of tax relief measures in recent months to encourage North Sea oil and gas extraction, the measures would be intended to encourage the development of the UK shale gas industry at a point when the sector is still at an extremely early stage, the chancellor added.

Bernstein's outlook for Bayer and BASF dips
Bernstein Research has lowered its performance forecasts for German chemicals majors BASF and Bayer for 2013 because of low operating rates, the analyst said. The company cut BASF's earnings per share (EPS) growth forecast for 2013 to 7% from 15%, while reducing Bayer's EPS growth forecast to 10% from 12%. "As we look to 2013, we expect ongoing low operating rates will translate into little margin improvement," Bernstein said in an analyst note.

Shell taps van Beurden as downstream director
Shell has named Ben van Beurden, its current executive vice president of chemicals, as the new director of its downstream operations, the Anglo-Dutch energy company said. He replaces Mark Williams, who is to leave the company after 33 years. The appointment will be effective from 1 January 2013. Shell declined to comment on who would be filling van Beurden's former role.

Bioplastics output to rise fivefold globally
A near-fivefold increase in worldwide bioplastics output from 1.2m tonnes in 2011 to 5.8m tonnes in 2016 can be expected, according to latest forecasts that have made previous, more conservative estimates obsolete, industry association European Bioplastics said. By far the strongest growth will be in the biobased, non-biodegradable bioplastics group, especially in regard to biobased "drop-in" solution versions of bulk plastics with a renewable raw material base, such as polyethylene (PE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), it added.

Clariant opens german flame retardant unit
Switzerland-based specialty chemical company Clariant International has opened a second production unit for its Exolit OP halogen-free flame retardant at the firm's Hurth-Knapsack plant in Germany. Exolit OP is used primarily in the electronics and electrical engineering sector. The new facility doubles the capacity for the firm's diethyl phosphinic acid aluminium salt (DEPAL)-based flame retardants, it said without specifying details. Financial details of the new production unit were not disclosed as yet.


Asia

Ellba declares force majeure on SM and PO
Ellba Eastern has declared force majeure on supply of styrene monomer (SM) and propylene oxide (PO) on 7 October, following an unexpected shutdown at its Singapore plant. The company's plant in Jurong Island that can produce 550,000 tonnes/year of SM and 250,000 tonnes/year of PO had a "mechanical breakdown", Ellba said in a notification sent to clients.

Sinopec closes units due to emissions issues
China's Sinopec Guangzhou has shut its 5.2m tonne/year crude distillation unit (CDU) and three auxiliary units because of emissions issues on 29 September, while operations continue at its cracker and downstream units. The auxillary units include a 1.5m tonne/year catalytic cracker, a 1m tonne/year coker and a 400,000 tonne/year reformer.

Kumho P&B chemicals shuts BPA units...
South Korea's Kumho P&B Chemicals shut its No 2 and No 3 bisphenol A (BPA) plants in Yeosu on 9 October for planned turnaround. The 130,000 tonne/year No 2 line and the 150,000 tonne/year No 3 line will be restarted on 28 October.

... And cuts acetone exports after expansion
South Korea's Kumho P&B Chemicals will have to cut exports of acetone as it expects to increase captive consumption of the chemical, in line with the expansion of its downstream methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) plant in 2013. Capacity expansion at its 30,000 tonne/year MIBK plant in Yeosu has started in September and is expected to complete in three-and-a-half months when its MIBK capacity will rise to 55,000 tonnes/year.

Mitsubishi to shut POM unit at end of October
Japan's Mitsubishi Engineering Plastics is planning to shut its 20,000 tonne/year polyoxymethylene (POM) or polyacetal plant in Yokkaichi in end-October for around a month of maintenance. The firm also handles sales and marketing of output from a 55,000 tonne/year unit in Map Ta Phut, Thailand, owned by Thai Polyacetal Co. The plant is not due for maintenance for the rest of 2012.

Polyplastics Taiwan plans POM turnaround
Polyplastics Taiwan plans to shut its 25,000 tonne/year polyacetal (POM) resin facility at the Daliao district of Kaohsiung in February or March 2013 for a turnaround. The exact date of the turnaround has yet to be decided, but the shutdown duration could be a month. The company is a joint venture between Polyplastics Japan and Taiwan's Chang Chun Group.

China's Sinopec to raise October base oil output
China's largest oil refiner Sinopec plans to increase its base oil production for October to about 110,000 tonnes, up by 10% from September. The rise will mainly come from its expanded 150,000 tonne/year Jinan base oil plant that restarted in early October.


Middle East

Sadara chemical reaches agreement with Dow
Dow Chemical will market and sell the majority of plastics and specialty chemical products produced by Sadara Chemical, its joint venture with state oil firm Saudi Aramco. Dow will serve existing customers and target new ones in fast-growing Asia-Pacific regions, and countries in central and eastern Europe. Sadara will market the products in the Middle East.

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