News in brief

08 November 2013 10:00 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

AMERICAS

REXTAC TO BUILD PDH PLANT, PP UNITS
REXtac has started developing an integrated propane dehydrogenation (PDH) and polypropylene (PP) project near its existing complex in Odessa, Texas, US. REXtac bought the complex from Flint Hills Resources in 2009. REXtac has chosen Fluor to begin preliminary front end engineering and design (FEED) work on a 300,000 tonne/year PDH plant and two integrated PP lines with more than 270,000 tonnes/year of capacity. The project will include integrated fractionation and storage facilities for natural gas liquids (NGLs). Production should start in mid-2016.

CP CHEM COMPLETES NAO STUDY, WILL SEEK APPROVAL
US-based Chevron Phillips Chemical (CP Chem) has completed a study to expand its capacity for normal alpha olefin (NAO) at Baytown, Texas, US by at least 20% and it plans to seek final project approval in the first quarter of 2014. Construction could begin in the first quarter, and the project could be completed in the second quarter of 2015, CP Chem said.

SOLVAY TO BUILD ALKOXYLATION FACILITY
Solvay will build and operate a large-scale alkoxylation unit in Pasadena, Texas, US at an integrated industrial facility of LyondellBasell’s Equistar Chemicals affiliate, in order to serve a growing North American market. The Belgium-based producer said it will invest nearly €40m ($54m) into the unit, which is expected to be operational in 2015. Equistar will supply the ethylene oxide raw material to the facility. Through the alkoxylation process, key monomers are produced that serve downstream surfactant manufacturing.

STYROLUTION TO START TEXAS CITY TURNAROUND
Styrolution will begin a planned 65-day shutdown at its Texas City styrene monomer (SM) facility in Texas, US, a source with the company said on 5 November. The company announced back in early September that it would go on scheduled maintenance to improve production efficiencies and further strengthen its technological position. The facility has styrene capacity of 485,000 tonnes/year.

NOVA RESTARTS PENNSYLVANIA EPS PLANT
NOVA Chemicals has completed a maintenance shutdown of its 81,500 tonnes/year expandable polystyrene (EPS) plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania, US. The shutdown, which began on 21 October and lasted for two weeks, followed the restart earlier this month of the company’s 45,000 tonnes/year plant in Painesville, Ohio, which was shut down for maintenance for one week in late September. Both plants are now fully operational.

HARRS HEADS UP CHEMICALS AT HOULIHAN LOKEY
Global investment bank Houlihan Lokey has brought on Leland Harrs as a managing director and head of chemicals coverage. He is based in New York. “With more than 20 years of experience in the chemicals sector, Lee brings a tremendous wealth of sector knowledge to the Industrials platform,” said Jim Lavelle, co-head of the Industrials group. “He has an extensive track record covering corporates and sponsors in both the US and Europe, and his expertise will prove invaluable as we continue to grow the Industrials franchise at Houlihan Lokey.”

CITGO TO DELAY SOLVENTS START-UP AT REFINERY
CITGO said in a letter to customers that the start up of its hydrocarbon solvents production units at its Lemont refinery in Illinois, US has been delayed until the week of 11 November. The refiner’s notice comes as it looks to bring production back on line following a fire in late October. The CITGO operation also has a 65,000 tonne/year benzene production line and a 65,000 tonne/year toluene production line.

JOEL MARCUS WINS WINTHROP-SEARS MEDAL
The winner of the 2013 Winthrop-Sears Medal for entrepreneurial achievement is Joel S. Marcus, founder, chairman, and CEO of Alexandria Real Estate Equities. The medal will be presented to Marcus at The Chemists’ Club’s 116th annual Egg Nog dinner on 13 December 13 at the New York Academy of Sciences. Roland Stefandl, president of The Chemists’ Club, noted that Marcus is the first non-scientist to win the award. He highlighted the extraordinary impact of Marcus’ “cluster model” on accelerating the progress of research in the life sciences.

GREEN PLAINS TO BUY BIOFUEL ENERGY PLANTS
Green Plains Renewable Energy has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire BioFuel Energy’s two US ethanol plants in Wood River, Nebraska, and Fairmont, Minnesota, which have a combined capacity of 220m gal/year (833m litres/year). The acquisition, valued at $101m (€75m) plus working capital, is expected to close in the fourth quarter. Green Plains will work to restart the Fairmont plant, which is expected to return to production by the end of the year.

ASIA

CHINA’S YIHUA TORAY STARTS NEW PET FILM LINE
Yihua Toray Polyester Film Co has successfully started up its new 15,000 tonne/year polyethylene terephthalate (PET) film line at Yizheng in Jiangsu province on 4 November, its part-owner Chinese petrochemical giant Sinopec said. Yihua Toray is a 50:50 joint venture between the Asset Management Co of Sinopec, and Japan’s Toray Industries. The Sino-Japanese firm has four other PET lines at the site with a total capacity of almost 30,000 tonnes/year.

FUSHUN PETROCHEMICAL RESTARTS PE, PP PLANTS
Fushun Petrochemical restarted its polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) plants on 6 November in Liaoning province after a prolonged shutdown, a source close to the company said. These include a 140,000 tonne/year high density polyethylene (HDPE) unit, a 350,000 tonne/year HDPE unit and a 450,000 tonne/year HDPE/linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) swing plant, and two PP plants - a 300,000 tonne/year unit and a 90,000 tonne/year unit. The plants were shut for maintenance on 15 May.

JX NIPPON OIL ACHIEVES ON-SPEC C3
Japan’s JX Nippon Oil and Energy has attained on-spec propylene production at its olefins conversion unit (OCU) in Kawasaki after the facility resumed operations on 4 November, after nearly a month of shutdown, a company source said. The facility, which can produce around 140,000 tonnes/year of propylene, was shut on 8 October.

WANHUA TO SHUT NINGBO PMDI PLANT IN DEC
China’s Wanhua Chemical Group plans to shut one of its two 450,000 tonne/year polymeric methylene di-isocyanate (PMDI) plants at Ningbo in early December for maintenance, a company source said. The plant in Zhejiang province will remain shut for 14 days. The scheduled shutdown of the Ningbo-based plant will have little impact on PMDI and polyether polyols supply, according to some market players.

HANWHA CHEMICAL RESTARTS YEOSU ECH PLANT
South Korea’s Hanwha Chemical has restarted its 25,000 tonne/year epichlorohydrin (ECH) plant in Yeosu on 5 November, a company source said. The plant was shut for maintenance on 14 October.

UNIVERSAL ROBINA TO START UP NEW ETHANOL UNIT
The Philippines’ Universal Robina is expected to start ethanol production in the first half of 2014, according to a source close to the matter. “Initially, the company expects its plant to come on line by March [2014] but that’s a bit too ambitious as it hasn’t even started trial runs yet,” the source said. The facility at Manjuyod in Negros Oriental, can produce 30m litres of ethanol per year.

SHANDONG LIHUAYI TO SHUT PHENOL/ACETONE UNIT
China’s Shandong Lihuayi plans to shut its phenol/acetone plant at Dongying in Shandong province on 14 November as it prepares to switch to a new power supply substation, a company source said. The plant, which has phenol capacity of 220,000 tonnes/year and acetone capacity of 130,000 tonnes/year, will remain off line until 20 November because of the anticipated disruption to its electricity supply, the source said.

SHAOXING SANYUAN TO SHUT PP PLANTS IN NOV
Shaoxing Sanyuan Petrochemical plans to shut its two polypropylene (PP) plants with a combined capacity of 500,000 tonnes/year at Shaoxing in China’s Zhejiang province for maintenance from 20 December, a company source said. The 300,000 tonne/year and 200,000 tonne/year PP plants will be down for 10-15 days. Meanwhile, the producer plans to start trial runs at its 
450,000 tonne/year propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit at the site on 20 November.

KALTIM METHANOL TO SHUT PLANT BY 18 NOV
Indonesia’s Kaltim Methanol Industri (KMI) plans to shut its 660,000 tonne/year methanol plant at Bontang in eastern Kalimantan for 40 days of annual maintenance, tentatively from 18 November, a company source said. The shutdown was initially set for early November but was delayed because of late arrival of maintenance parts.

MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA
YANSAB EXTENDS SHUTDOWN OF COMPLEX
Yanbu National Petrochemical Co (Yansab) has extended the shutdown of its petrochemical complex and now expects to begin the process of restarting operations by 10 November. The company cited “a technical failure” as the cause of the shutdown on 23 October, and initially indicated that the complex will be restarted after two weeks. Yansab’s complex has the capacity to produce 1.3m tonnes/year of ethylene and 400,000 tonnes/year of propylene, among other products.

SMC TO SHUT METHANOL PLANT IN Q2 2014
Oman’s Salalah Methanol Co (SMC) will shut its 3,125 tonne/day methanol plant in Salalah for a 50-day scheduled turnaround in the second quarter of 2014, a company source said. The shutdown of the plant should not have any significant effect on supply, according to market participants.

EUROPE
IMPACT OF UK SHALE DRILLING NOT SEVERE
Fears over the impact of widespread shale gas drilling on water supplies in the UK is overstated, the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) said. In a report, the CIA concedes shale gas fracking does require a large amount of water, but the 10-30m litre per well figure cited by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change is roughly the same as the monthly water use of a golf course. The CIA estimated the water impact of fracking 100 wells would be 0.03% of current usage.

SABIC BEGINS NETHERLANDS CRACKER START-UP
SABIC Europe has begun the restart of its Olefins 4 cracker in Geleen, the Netherlands, following a planned maintenance turnaround. “After a thorough turnaround, SABIC has begun start-up of Geleen cracker Olefins 4. Start-up will take about a week,” a company source said. The source added the start-up would be carefully executed because of the integration with upgrade projects. The No 4 cracker has the capacity to produce 675,000 tonnes/year of ethylene and was shut for maintenance on 15-16 September.

VERSALIS BRINDISI BD EXTRACTION UNIT RESTART
Italy-based Versalis’ butadiene (BD) extraction unit in Brindisi was expected to restart in the week ended 8 November following maintenance, a company source said. Maintenance at the 145,000 tonne/year facility was originally slated to take place at the end of August but was taken offline a couple of weeks earlier because of poor market conditions. Versalis owns and operates two BD extraction units in Italy. The other is a 140,000 tonne/year unit in Ravenna.

SIBUR OPENS NEW BOPP PLANT IN SIBERIA
Russia-based petrochemicals producer SIBUR announced the opening of a new biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) plant in Tomsk, Siberia. Launched by BIAXPLEN, the BOPP producer that SIBUR acquired last year, the 38,000 tonne/year facility required an investment of Russian rubles (Rb) 2.4bn (€54.7m, $73.8m), excluding VAT. The facility is located on the site of SIBUR’s Tomskneftekhim plant, which is the company’s key polypropylene supplier.

VOPAK Q3 OP PROFIT FALLS 9% ON FOREX
Vopak’s group operating profit fell by 9% year on year to €131.9m in the third quarter, partly on adverse foreign exchange effects, the Netherlands-based liquid bulk tank storage service provider said. The company’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) excluding exceptional items were down 5% year on year at €185.6m. “Vopak continues to expect to realise an EBITDA within its earlier communicated EBITDA outlook range of between €730-780m for the full year 2013,” the company said.

BRENNTAG Q3 NET PROFIT GROWS 3.1%
Germany-based chemical distributor Brenntag posted a 3.1% year-on-year increase in third-quarter net profit to €80.9m ($109m), with sales inching up 0.6%. Sales for the quarter were €2.49bn compared with €2.47bn in the same period last year. Operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) grew 9.1% year on year to €183.2m.

EC LAUNCHES PROBE INTO INEOS/SOLVAY PVC
The European Commission has launched an in-depth investigation into a proposed multi-billion-euro merger of Europe’s two largest producers of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – the units of Switzerland-based INEOS and Belgium-based Solvay. The Commission said it must ensure that proper competition on the markets of suspension PVC and sodium hypochlorite would prevail.

BASF FILES CHALLENGE TO EU PESTICIDE BAN
Germany-based chemicals giant BASF said it has filed legal action against the European Commission’s decision to restrict the use of pesticide Fipronil in the EU over concerns that it may be harming bee populations in the region. The company claims that the decision to restrict the use of the insecticide in the region is down to disproportionate caution in the absence of a scientific consensus on the matter.

THYSSENKRUPP TO FORM JV WITH DE NORA
Germany’s ThyssenKrupp said it has agreed to form an electrolysis joint venture (JV) with Italy-based De Nora. The JV will combine the two companies’ engineering, procurement and construction activities for electrolysis plants under the name ThyssenKrupp Uhde Chlorine Engineers. The planned JV will have annual sales “in the mid three-digit million euro range”. ThyssenKrupp Uhde Chlorine Engineers will be headquartered in Dortmund, Germany.

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