News in brief

29 September 2013 10:06 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

EUROPE

NO SHALE GAS UPGRADE FOR GRANGEMOUTH: INEOS
INEOS would upgrade the infrastructure at its Grangemouth, UK, site to allow the import of US shale-derived ethane, but the facility is insufficiently competitive to justify the investment at present, the chairman of its UK petrochemicals division, Calum MacLean, said. The company announced plans last year to upgrade its Rafnes, Norway, site, but Grangemouth remains loss-making, according to Calum MacLean.

AKZONOBEL TO BOOK CHARGES IN Q4 2013
AkzoNobel expects to book the majority of its restructuring charges of €256m ($346m) in October-December this year, the Netherlands-based paints and coatings firm. AkzoNobel in its second-quarter report said. It had identified further efficiency and cost saving measures that would require €120m of restructuring charges in the second half of this year. In addition to a previously planned programme, the restructuring charges expected to be incurred in the second half of this year will total €256m, the company said.

RUSSIA’S POLIEF GETS TAX BREAK FOR PET PROJECT
Russian chemicals producer POLIEF has received tax break approval for a capacity expansion at its bottle-grade polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plant, the regional government of the Bashkortostan region said. The regional government body said that it has concluded an agreement with the company to support an ongoing project to increase PET capacity from 140,000 tonnes/year to 210,000 tonnes/year Based in Blagoveschensk, Bashkortostan, POLIEF started PET production in 2008.

EVONIK ANNOUNCES COST RESTRUCTURING
Evonik will pursue a raft of measures to reduce its administrative costs, including up to €250m ($338m) cost savings by 2016, a reduction in executive board numbers, and job cuts, the Germany-based specialty chemicals company said. The company attributed the cutbacks to an over-large administrative burden that is not necessary for its current corporate structure. Evonik’s executive board will be reduced to four from six members from the beginning of 2014. The company added that administrative costs had increased by 26% since 2008.

GERMANY’S SGL EXPECTS €50M COST SAVINGS IN 2013
SGL Group expects to realise about €50m ($68m) in savings this year following the implementation of a cost savings programme that was announced earlier in 2013, the German producer said. The measures are aimed at achieving savings of around €150m by the end of 2015. “SGL Group responds to the difficult market conditions, characterised especially by unsatisfactory price developments in graphite electrodes, a cyclical downturn in our graphite specialties business as well as ongoing losses in the business area carbon fibres & composites due to delays in the development and start-up phase,” it added.

SEPTEMBER FLASH PMI DATA SHOWS RECOVERY: MARKIT
London-headquartered analyst Markit said that its flash eurozone purchasing managers’ index (PMI) composite output figure indicates that the economic recovery is gathering pace. The index has risen to a 27-month high of 52.1 in September from 51.5 in August, according to the firm. The rise, the sixth consecutive increase, was not mirrored by the flash eurozone manufacturing PMI figure, which edged down to a two-month low of 51.1 in September from August’s 51.4. On the PMI scale, anything below 50 signifies economic contraction.

UK MELROB ACQUIRES SUPPLIER EUROLABS
UK chemicals distributor Melrob Group said it had completed the acquisition of Eurolabs, a supplier of organics and intermediates to the pharmaceutical, agrochemical and specialty chemicals sectors. Eurolabs is to be added to the Melrob Life Sciences Business Group, and has the capacity to supply chemicals in quantities ranging from research programmes through to pilot plant, up to production-level orders, Melrob said. The acquisition is intended to bolster Melrob’s European footprint following its success in Asia.

BASF TO BUILD PU EPOXY-BASED SYSTEMS CENTRE
BASF is building an expertise centre in Germany to develop and produce polyurethane (PU) and epoxy-based systems for flooring and waterproofing, the chemicals major said. Construction at Oldenburg is expected to be complete by the end of 2014. BASF is also investing in logistics, research, sales and service at the centre. “Our new centre underlines our strategic and operational target to expand and develop permanently and sustainably our Performance Flooring und Waterproofing segments,” said Roland Nowicki, vice president of construction chemicals in Europe.

CZECH SPOLCHEMIE TO START NEW PERC CYCLE
Czech producer Spolchemie said it is initiating a new perchloroethylene (perc) production campaign. The producer was restarting its 15,000 tonne/year perc plant in Usti nad Labem on 26 September which will run until 4 October. The source added that a second campaign is scheduled to start on 21 October. “We are not sure how long [the second production campaign will go on for],” the source said. “It will be based on demand levels [at that time].”

GERMAN BUSINESS CONFIDENCE UP IN SEPT
Germany’s business climate improved for the fifth consecutive month in September, as companies continue to be optimistic about their business expectations, an economics research group said. Munich-based Ifo said that its business climate index for Germany rose to 107.7 in September from 107.6 in August. The index is based on about 7,000 monthly survey responses from firms in manufacturing, construction, wholesaling and retailing. “The German economy made a confident start to the autumn,” Ifo said.

AMERICAS

ACC’S CAB INDEX SHOWS GROWTH INTO 2015
The US economy continues to improve, and growth is expected to expand into 2015, the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) chemical activity barometer (CAB) indicated. The CAB rose by 0.4% in September from August on a three-month moving average (3MMA) to reach 93.2. The September 3MMA barometer is up 3.3% year on year and indicated growth in chemical equities, downstream inventory, new orders and production.

LINDE BREAKS GROUND ON TEXAS GAS LIQUEFIER
Linde North America has broken ground on a new industrial gases liquefier in La Porte, Texas, the company announced. The plant will produce liquid oxygen, nitrogen and argon at Linde’s new air separation unit, which broke ground in May as part of a $200m (€148m) investment that includes a gasification train and supporting facilities and equipment. Until the plant comes on stream in the first quarter of 2015, Linde will serve customers from nearby plants in Texas and Louisiana.

BASF PARTNERSHIP TO MAKE COMPOSTABLE BIOPOLYMERS
BASF has formed a strategic manufacturing partnership with US polyolefin compounder Heritage Plastics to produce ecovio compostable products in North America, the Germany-based chemicals major announced. Production will begin in September at the Heritage facility in Picayune, Mississippi, enabling BASF to manufacture the biopolymers outside of Europe. BASF’s ecovio products have been commercially available in the US, Canada and Mexico since 2007, but production took place in Germany.

AIR LIQUIDE TO ACQUIRE MEXICO AIR SEPARATION UNIT
Air Liquide plans to acquire Altos Hornos de Mexico’s (AHMSA) air separation unit and build a new €45m ($61m) unit at AHMSA’s Monclova site in Coahuila, the France-based industrial gases supplier announced. The agreements with AHMSA follow Air Liquide’s spring inauguration of another air separation unit at the site. The three air separation units in Monclova will provide oxygen, nitrogen and argon for AHMSA, as well as strengthen Air Liquide’s supply in the region.

INEOS RESTARTS GREEN LAKE ACN PLANT
INEOS has restarted its 545,000 tonne/year acrylonitrile (ACN) plant in Green Lake,Texas, sources said. The plant closed in late August for routine maintenance and is running at reduced capacities, sources said. The added supply from the INEOS plant over the next week or so is not expected to lower spot prices, because demand is expected to be robust.

CP CHEMICAL SHUTS DOWN TEXAS CRACKER
US Chevron Phillips Chemical (CP Chem) shut down its No 33 Sweeny cracker in Texas because of transformer issues, sources said. An owl hit a transformer at the site, which led to instability in some unit operations and necessitated the shutdown, according to sources. Among the units shut down was the company’s No 33 cracker, which has an ethylene capacity of 907,000 tonnes/year. A company spokesperson declined to comment, citing company policy.

OKLAHOMA CHEM BLAST UNDER INVESTIGATION
A chemical plant in rural Oklahoma caused a fire on 20 September, triggered by exploding drums of methanol and other chemicals, a fire official said. No one was injured from the fire that broke out at the Danlin Chemicals facility, which supplies chemicals for the oil and gas industry. Much of the heat came from burning methanol, which Danlin bought to blend with other chemicals stored at the 13-acre (5-ha) site. The chemicals burned with no runoff.

ALBEMARLE REALIGNING 2014 BUSINESS OPERATIONS
Albemarle will realign itself into two global business units (GBUs) effective 1 January 2014 in hopes of creating customer focus and enhancing innovation and growth, the US specialty chemical producer announced. The Performance Chemicals GBU will include specialty chemicals, fire safety solutions and fine chemistry services, putting the company’s bromine, mineral and custom manufacturing assets within one unit. The Catalyst Solutions GBU will include refinery catalyst solutions, performance catalyst solutions and antioxidants.

DOW CHEMICAL TARGETS VORAPEL POLYOLS
Dow Chemical is targeting its Vorapel polyols for products that can be used to repair pipes, bridges and other infrastructure, executives with the company said. Vorapel is a polyether polyol that is used to make polyurethanes that are hydrophobic and resistant to chemicals. In addition, Vorapel has good durability, long shelf-life and low viscosity, allowing it to be incorporated into spray systems. These and its hydrophobic properties make resulting elastomers ideal for products used to repair bridges and pipes.

ASIA

LG CHEM CITES RECESSION IN INDIA PROJECT PULL-OUT
LG Chem decided to withdraw from a joint venture (JV) petrochemical project in India with Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) because of the weakened state of the global economy, a spokesperson of the South Korean firm said. “It is not a sudden decision,” the spokesperson said in an e-mail to ICIS. “We have thought about the business thoroughly and have decided to completely withdraw [from the project] due to the ongoing global economic recession,” he said. LG Chem and BPCL had agreed in July 2012 to build a fluid catalytic cracker in Kochi that will produce 500,000 tonnes/year 
of propylene.

CPC TO RESTART NO 6 CRACKER ON 3 OCTOBER
Taiwan’s CPC Corp is expected to restart its 720,000 tonne/year No 6 cracker in Linyuan on 3 October after about three weeks of maintenance, a company source said. The company’s Dalin residual fluid catalytic cracker (RFCC), which was shut since early August for a turnaround, is likely to resume operations in mid-October, the source said. The restart schedule was pushed back by 5-7 days after maintenance work at the plant failed to meet the government’s regulations. The RFCC in Dalin can produce 400,000-450,000 tonnes/year of propylene.

PTTGC TO RAMP UP PRODUCTION AT CRACKER
Thailand’s PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) plans to ramp up production at its 515,000 tonne/year I-4 No 1 cracker in Map Ta Phut after the facility was restarted as scheduled on 22 September, a company source said. The cracker, which mainly uses naphtha as a feedstock, had resumed operations in early September following a turnaround that started on 1 August, but was subsequently taken off line because of technical issues. PTT also runs three other gas crackers – with a combined nameplate ethylene capacity of 1.86m tonnes/year – at the same site.

KUKDO TO START TRIAL RUNS AT NEW EPOXY RESINS UNIT
China’s Kukdo Chemical (Kunshan), a subsidiary of South Korea’s Kukdo Chemical, will begin trial runs at its new 100,000 tonne/year epoxy resins unit on 3 November, a company source said. The new unit will boost the company’s overall epoxy resins capacity at its Kunshan production site to 160,000 tonnes/year, the source said. The plant will run at 50% of capacity in November, with full operations aimed in January next year.

KALTIM METHANOL TO SHUT BONTANG PLANT IN NOV
Indonesia’s Kaltim Methanol Industri (KMI) plans to shut its 660,000 tonne/year methanol plant at Bontang in eastern Kalimantan for maintenance in November, a company source said. The plant will be shut for 45 days from 1 November, the source said. Market participants said this turnaround was a regular annual shutdown and hence the company would have prepared stock for this. KMI is the sole methanol producer in Indonesia.

AKZONOBEL TO INVEST €50M IN NEW CHINA PLANTS
AkzoNobel is planning to invest more than €50m ($68m) in China to build new manufacturing facilities for its powder coatings and decorative paints businesses, the Dutch firm said. The facilities will be located in Chengdu, with the powder coatings facility scheduled to start operations in 2014 and the decorative paints plant starting production in 2015. The company did not provide additional details about the new facilities.

INDIAN OIL, BP FIRM UP ON GUJARAT ACETIC ACID PLANT
Indian Oil Corp Ltd (IOC) will construct a 1m tonne/year acetic acid plant in Gujarat worth $800m (€592m), in collaboration with UK’s BP, an official from the Indian energy firm said. IOC and BP had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) last year on the greenfield project, the official said. The proposed plant slated for start-up in 2015-16 will use BP’s proprietary process technology that will use petcoke as feedstock to produce acetic acid, the official said.

SAMSUNG FINE CHEMICALS STARTS UP NEW ECH PLANT
South Korea’s Samsung Fine Chemicals started production at its new 60,000 tonne/year epichlorohydrin (ECH) plant in Ulsan on 19 September, a company source said. The company’s total ECH nameplate capacity at the site is now 120,000 tonnes/year and the new plant is running at more than 80% capacity, the source said.