This week's news in brief

13 July 2013 17:37 Source:ICIS Chemical Business
EUROPE

BASF TO RAISE BDO, PTMEG CAPACITIES IN US, CHINA
BASF plans to invest further at its sites in Geismar, Louisiana, and Caojing in China to produce additional volumes of, respectively, 1,4-butanediol (BDO) and polytetrahydrofuran (PolyTHF), or polytetramethylene ether glycol, PTMEG. The Germany-headquartered producer did not give volume increases for the fibre and plastics intermediates at the two sites but said its new investment would be in the double-digit million euros range.

SHELL NAMES VAN BEURDEN AS NEW CEO FROM JAN 2014
Anglo-Dutch energy major Shell said its current downstream director Ben van Buerden will replace Peter Voser as the company's CEO effective from 1 January next year. Voser will leave Shell at the end of March 2014. Van Beurden has been the company's downstream director and a member of Shell's executive committee since January this year. He has held a number of technical and commercial roles in Shell's upstream and downstream businesses, including 10 years in the LNG business.

CLARIANT IN ACTIVE TALKS TO SELL NON-CORE UNITS
Clariant chief financial officer Patrick Jany said the Switzerland-based chemical firm is in active talks with several businesses regarding the divestment of its leather services business unit and its detergents & intermediates business line. Jany did not disclose what companies the group was in talks with, or financial details. He said signing of the deal for the units is expected to be done by the end of 2013, with full completion expected in the second half of 2014.

CLARIANT INVESTMENT TO MOVE TO ORGANIC GROWTH
Switzerland-based chemical producer Clariant will focus future investment on organic growth and smaller bolt-on acquisitions to reinforce the financial performance of current business, chief financial officer Patrick Jany said. There will also be a shift in regional focus to the Association of Southeast Asia Nations, China, India and Latin America, he added.

KEMIRA MULLS OPTIONS FOR CHEMSOLUTIONS
Finnish water chemicals company Kemira is reviewing strategic options for what is left of its ChemSolutions segment. The company has employed Finnish bank SEB to help undertake the review. Kemira sold its shares in titanium dioxide (TiO2) producer Sachtlaben in the first quarter of 2013, and divested ChemSolutions' food and pharmaceuticals businesses. ChemSolutions is a non-core part of a portfolio focused on chemicals for "water intensive industries" such as pulp and paper, oil and gas, mining and water treatment, Kemira said.

VIVERGO OPENS NEW JV BIOETHANOL PLANT IN UK
The Vivergo bioethanol plant in Hull, the UK has officially opened, according to the company. The £350m ($522m, €407m) facility is a joint venture between UK-based AB Sugar and BP and US-based Dupont, and can produce 420m litres/year at full capacity - a third of the UK's current bioethanol demand. UK-based Vivergo said its bioethanol will offer greenhouse gas savings in excess of 50% compared to standard petrol - equivalent to the emissions of 180,000 UK cars a year.

GRUPA AZOTY SCRAPS ASIA CAPROLACTAM PROJECT
Polish chemical group Grupa Azoty has scrapped plans to build caprolactam (capro) production capacity in China or Taiwan but is exploring the alternative of building up its capro and/or polyamide 6 (nylon 6) output in Poland, a company source said. Grupa Azoty was put off by a large-scale increase in China's capro capacity, with some 600,000 tonnes/year brought on stream in the country last year alone, the source added.

EIGHT PARTIES DECLARE INTEREST IN KEM ONE SAS
The Commercial Court of Lyon was informed that eight parties have submitted letters of interest to acquire KEM ONE SAS, the upstream business of French vinyls producer KEM ONE. KEM ONE SAS was placed into receivership in March following the decision by owner Klesch Group to split the upstream and downstream parts of the business into separate entities. The court extended the deadline for firm offers to be placed by two additional months to allow potential buyers time to draw up formal offers.

EUROPE TO INVEST €3.8BN IN BIO-BASED PRODUCTS
The European Commission has proposed a €3.8bn ($4.9bn) public private partnership (PPP) in order to accelerate the commercialisation of biobased products in Europe, said Danish industrial biotechnology firm Novozymes. The commission will invest €1bn, while industry - made up of 48 companies in the biotech, chemical, energy, agro-food and pulp and paper sectors, including Novozymes - will put in €2.8bn between 2014 and 2020.

PROVIRON, US THIRD COAST SIGN BRAKE FLUIDS DEAL
Belgian chemicals firm Proviron has agreed to produce brake fluids for US-based Third Coast International at a plant near Antwerp, Belgium, the companies said. Under the agreement, Proviron and Third Coast aim to supply enough brake fluid raw materials and formulate finished brake fluids to meet the needs of 10m cars/year on the European market, they said.

AMERICAS

DOW ENDS BRIEF SHUTDOWN AT FREEPORT CRACKER
Dow Chemical said its Freeport cracker in Texas was restarted after a brief shutdown on 10 July. The site experienced loss of steam on 9 July, leading to a total unit shutdown, according to a filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). This led to emissions of ethylene, propylene and other hydrocarbons. The Freeport site has a combined ethylene capacity of 1.655m tonnes/year.

FORMOSA LIFTS FORCE MAJEURE ON PP AND HDPE
US polymers producer Formosa Plastics has lifted force majeure declarations for both polypropylene (PP) and high molecular weight (HMW) high density polyethylene (HDPE), a company spokesman said. The company declared force majeure on HMW HDPE in May, following a flash fire at its Point Comfort complex in Texas on 2 May. Formosa Plastics declared force majeure on PP on 11 June, based on unplanned outages at its plant in Point Comfort, Texas.

BRASKEM REPORTS TEXAS PP PLANT EMISSIONS
Braskem Americas reported a release of emissions at its polypropylene (PP) plant in LaPorte, Texas, according to a filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The plant's C-line facility experienced high pressure and diverted to the C-flare. It was not clear whether the unit was actually shut down, or whether there was any lost production at the plant. Braskem Americas operates a 390,000 tonne/year PP plant at the facility, according to ICIS plants and projects.

KRONOS SELECTS TIO2 DISTRIBUTORS FOR NE US
E.W. Kaufmann and Monson Companies have been selected as new distributors of titanium dioxide (TiO2) products produced by US-based Kronos Worldwide, the distributors' parent company KODA announced. As of 1 August, E.W. Kaufmann will distribute Kronos' coatings, adhesives, sealants, elastomers and printing ink products in the northeastern US, while in the same area Monson will distribute the TiO2 producer's plastics, rubber and miscellaneous markets products.

TRAFFIC ON HOUSTON SHIP CHANNEL DIPS 3% IN JUNE
Chemical tanker traffic on the Houston Ship Channel dipped about 3% in June, according to waterway data. Data from the Greater Houston Port Bureau (GHPB) showed 113 chemical tanker arrivals on the ship channel in June, compared with 117 in the same month of 2012. LPG vessel traffic on the waterway rose 10% to 44 ships in June, compared with 40 in the same month of 2012. Crude tanker traffic fell by 9% in June year on year to 225 vessels, compared with 248 tankers in June 2012.

GAS CUTBACKS OVER FOR TRINIDAD METHANOL FIRMS
The latest round of natural gas curtailments for methanol producers in Trinidad appears to be over, sources said. Cutbacks of 10-20% for most of June have ended, according to a source close to methanol plants at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate. The island's seven methanol plants, with a combined capacity of 6.2m tonnes/year, supply most of the methanol in the US market. A leak in late June caused a new curtailment of 20% for 4-5 days, but production has now resumed at normal levels, the source said.

HUNTSMAN ACQUIRES POLYOLS MAKER OXID
US-based Huntsman has signed a definitive agreement to buy polyols manufacturer Oxid for an undisclosed sum. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter. The addition of Oxid's Terol specialty polyols to Huntsman's existing methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate product portfolio will strengthen its offer to key downstream insulation markets in North America and provide new opportunities globally, said Anthony Hankins, president of Huntsman's polyurethanes (PU) division.

CLARIANT TO OPEN MINING, OIL HQ IN HOUSTON IN SEP
Clariant will inaugurate its oil and mining services global headquarters campus in Houston, Texas, US, on 26 September 2013, the Switzerland-headquartered chemical company said. The campus includes two 32,000 sq ft (3,000sqm) buildings containing offices for both the global business unit and North American operations, a global and regional oil services technical centre, a regional mining technical centre and an employee training facility.

CHESAPEAKE TO SELL SHALE ASSETS TO EXCO
Chesapeake Energy has agreed to a $1bn (€770m) deal to sell shale oil and gas assets in Texas and Louisiana to EXCO Resources, the US-based energy firm said. Under the deal, EXCO will acquire 55,000 net acres in the Northern Eagle Ford Shale, Texas, and 9,600 net acres in Haynesville Shale, Louisiana. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2013.

CHEVRON INVESTS IN HOUSTON EXPANSION

US energy major Chevron is making a multi-million dollar capital investment to expand its Houston facilities in Texas and create over 1,700 jobs. As part of the expansion, Chevron plans to construct a new 1.7m sq ft (158,000sqm) office tower in downtown to house professional, technical and administrative personnel to accommodate its growth in Houston to support its global operations.

ASIA

GHCL DELAYS SODA ASH TURNAROUND TO OCT
India's GHCL has delayed plans to shut its 850,000 tonne/year soda ash plant in Gujarat to October instead of July on the back of buoyant domestic demand. The plant was originally scheduled to undergo 15 days of maintenance this month. Actual shutdown dates in October have yet to be fixed.

SINOPEC MAOMING C2 OUTPUT HITS RECORD HIGH
China's Sinopec Maoming Co has produced record ethylene output of 555,400 tonnes in the first half of this year, up 3.5% year on year. Sinopec Maoming has two naphtha crackers in Guangdong province with a combined ethylene capacity of 1.02m tonnes/year. The firm's ethylene output is kept primarily for captive use to produce derivatives such as polyethylene (PE).

LG CHEM TO SHUT SBR AND BR PLANTS IN JULY
South Korea's LG Chem will bring forward the turnaround of its styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) and butadiene rubber (BR) plants from September to July because of prevailing poor market conditions. "We will shut the SBR plant for five days and the BR plant for 10 days in mid-July instead of the original schedule in September," a company source said. LG Chem runs a 135,000 tonne/year SBR plant and an 180,000 tonne/year BR plant at Daesan.

SINOPEC MAKES PROGRESS ON NEW LUBRICANTS PLANT
China's Sinopec has started commissioning works at its new lubricants plant in Singapore. Construction of the yuan (CNY) 560m ($91m) plant, which has an initial capacity of 100,000 tonnes/year, started in July 2011.The project secured a temporary occupation permit from the Singapore's Building And Construction Authority (BCA) on 5 July, and is due for official inauguration soon.

FORMOSA RUNS MAILIAO CRACKERS AT 90-95%
Taiwan's Formosa Petrochemical Corp (FPCC) is currently operating its crackers in Mailiao at 90-95% of capacity. FPCC's three crackers have a combined ethylene nameplate capacity of 2.93m tonnes/year. The company previously reduced the run rates at the crackers to around 85% at the end of May because of a prolonged shutdown at a derivative line at that time.

CPC LIKELY TO DELAY START-UP OF CRACKER
Taiwan's CPC Corp is unlikely to start up its new 600,000 tonne/year No 6 cracker in Linyuan in the week ending 14 July, as approval from the Taiwan government is still pending. "We have not done test runs at the cracker yet, [as it is still] pending government approval," a company official said. The start-up of the Linyuan cracker was previously delayed to July from end-June, as the producer needed approval from the government to conduct test runs at the facility.

CLARIANT, WILMAR CLEARED FOR AMINES JV
Clariant International and Singapore-listed agribusiness group Wilmar International have secured regulatory clearance to set up their Singapore-headquartered global amines 50:50 joint venture, which is now in operation. The joint venture has its own amines production in Germany and China, as well as access to amine capacities in Brazil and Mexico. For amine derivatives, the firm has access to around a dozen Clariant multi-purpose plants globally.

CHINA SELECTS DELIVERY POINTS FOR BITUMEN
China's Shanghai Futures Exchange (SHFE) has selected seven refiner-based storages and three commercial storages as delivery points for bitumen futures trading. The seven refiner sites included two subsidiaries of PetroChina, two of Sinopec, two of China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and one independent refiner based in Jiangsu. Four are located in Jiangsu, two in Shandong, and one in Guangdong. Bitumen futures trading in Shanghai is likely to begin after August.

BEIHAI LNG TERMINAL TO BE ON STREAM IN 2015
Sinopec is set to commence operations at its new 3m tonne/year liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Beihai in Guangxi in the second half of 2015. The Chinese oil and gas major obtained approval on 25 June from the country's National Development and Reform Commission for the construction of the terminal. Sinopec plans to build four 160,000 cubic metre (cbm) LNG storage tanks for the project's first phase. Its handling capacity will then be expanded to 5m tonnes/year in the second phase.

CHINA JUNE CPI RISES BY 2.7% TO FOUR-MONTH HIGH
China's consumer price index (CPI) increased by 2.7% year on year in June, a new high in the four months from March. The CPI for the first half of 2013 increased by 2.4% year on year, the data showed. Consumer prices are not expected to increase significantly in the second half of this year.

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