News in Brief

13 December 2013 15:04 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

Europe

CELANESE TO SHUT DOWN PLANTS IN FRANCE, SPAIN
Celanese plans to shut down its acetic anhydride plant in Roussillon, France, and its vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) plant in Tarragona, Spain, the US-based acetyls producer said. Celanese announced the shutdowns after completing consultation processes in both countries. All activities at the plants should cease by the end of 2013, and Celanese plans to decommission both facilities. Celanese expects the shutdowns will cost it $100m-110m, including $35m-45m of non-cash asset impairments, the company said.

BRENNTAG PROMOTES WATERS TO EUROPE COO
Germany’s Brenntag has promoted Clare Waters to become chief operating officer of Brenntag Europe. Waters, who is managing director, distribution and organics, of Brenntag UK, will take up her new post on 2 January. She replaces Karsten Beckmann who was promoted to CEO of Brenntag Europe in October. One of Water’s key tasks will be to deepen relationships with the company’s key accounts in the region.

KEMIRA SELLS DISTRIBUTION UNIT TO BRENNTAG
Finland-based Kemira has sold its Danish hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid and caustic soda distribution business to Germany-based distributor Brenntag. The transaction is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2014. Financial details were not disclosed, but division revenues were around €15m ($21m) in 2012. Brenntag will operate the unit from its Danish locations in Vejle, Kalundborg and Hosten, as well as a new location in Copenhagen Harbour.

EUROPE BIOPLASTICS MARKET SHARE TO FALL
Europe’s share of the nascent bioplastics market is set to decline through to 2017 due to growing international competition, a professor at the Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (IfBB) said. Hans-Josef Endres said Europe was likely to comprise 400,000 tonnes of the estimated 6.2m tonnes of annual bioplastics production capacity expected to be onstream by 2017. Europe had 22.8% of the industry’s estimated 1.4m tonne/year capacity in 2012, Endres said, but this is likely to shrink to 6.8% by 2017.

STYROLUTION OPENS NEW SAN LOGISTICS CENTRE
European styrene acrylonitrile (SAN) and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) producer Styrolution has opened a specialty SAN logistics centre in Ludwigshafen, Germany. The company said automated packaging and storage facilities at the new centre will increase Styrolution’s ability to supply packaged and bulk goods.

KEMIRA RAMPS UP COAGULANT PRODUCTION
Finland-based Kemira has successfully ramped up production at its new coagulant plant in Dormagen, Germany. The plant has the largest polyaluminumchloride (PAX) production capacity in the world and is designed to produce the entire range of Kemira’s aluminum-based coagulants used for drinking water and municipal and industrial waste water treatment. Kemira’s plant was constructed on Bayer MaterialScience’s site, thus securing sustainable access to raw material in a long-term partnership.

VOPAK EXPECTS LOWER EBITDA IN 2013
Dutch logistics firm Vopak expects to post underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of around €750m in 2013. This compares with underlying EBITDA of €763.6m in 2012 and is within the €730m-780m range the company previously projected. The company added it will be “challenging” to exceed the EBITDA record of 2012 next year, partly on the back of recent divestments and an expected delay in contributions from new joint venture terminals in Asia.

EVONIK, LANZATECH COOPERATE IN BIOPLASTICS
Germany’s Evonik and US gas fermentation technology firm LanzaTech have signed a three-year agreement to research a route to bio-processed precursors for specialty plastics. The cooperation will combine LanzaTech’s synthetic biology and gas fermentation expertise with Evonik’s existing biotechnology platforms to investigate a route to the precursors from bio-derived synthesis gas. The synthesis gas could come from a variety of gasified biomass waste streams including forestry or residual agricultural products and gasified municipal waste.

BIOPLASTICS TO ADDRESS GLOBAL MEGATRENDS
Bioplastics producers are likely to be part of the solution to addressing global trends such as resource scarcity and global warming, the chairman of trade body European Bioplastics said. Francois de Bie invoked Charles Darwin’s maxim that the evolutionary survival is based on the ability to accurately perceive an environment and adapt to it as an analogy for how policymakers need to respond to environmental and demographic changes. It also applies to the bioplastics industry and the European market, he added.

Americas

LION COPOLYMER TO CLOSE SBR PLANT BY FEB
US-based Lion Copolymer will temporarily close its styrene-butadiene-rubber (SBR) plant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, by 3 February because of economic conditions. Lion has yet to determine how long the closure will last. “Declining market conditions for domestically produced replacement tyres and conveyor belting, global overcapacity of SBR supply and volatility in key raw materials have resulted in unfavourable SBR market conditions in the recent years,” said Jesse Zeringue, president of Lion Copolymer. The SBR plant in Baton Rouge has a capacity of 130,000 tonnes/year, according to a source at the company.

CITGO TO WITHDRAW FROM US MX NEGOTIATIONS
Citgo will not participate in US mixed xylenes (MX) contract negotiations in 2014, according to a source close to the company. Details of Citgo’s decision to withdraw from the MX contract negotiation process were not disclosed. It was not the first time aromatics players have withdrawn from the MX contract process. Back in January 2012, the MX contract between BP and Citgo was dissolved, as negotiations were said to be not representative of the entire market and the negotiated volume was deemed too small.

SOCMA CALLS FOR US TARIFF RELIEF
The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) is calling for the re-authorisation of the miscellaneous tariff bill (MTB), which would provide tariff relief for US companies that import chemicals not available in the country. Companies seeking tariff relief under the MTB must work with lawmakers, who would then submit bills for exempting individual chemicals. These individual bills are typically combined into one larger bill to be passed. The duties on chemical imports can add 5-25% to total cost, SOCMA said. The MTB lapsed at the end of 2012.

US BUSINESS REVENUES, CAPX TO GROW IN 2014
Purchasing and supply managers are optimistic about 2014, with growth in revenues, capital expenditures (CAPX) and employment expected, according to a survey. In its semiannual Report on Business survey, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said manufacturing respondents expect in 2014 a 4% increase in revenues, an 8% jump in CAPX and a 2.4% rise in employment. Respondents were rather bullish on the 2014 business outlook, with 41% predicting the first half of 2014 will be better than H1 2013 and 44% expecting no change. Only 15% expect 2014 to be worse.

ECONOMISTS SEE US GDP UP 2.8% IN 2014
US GDP should grow by 2.8% in 2014, down slightly from an earlier estimate in September but faster than the 2.1% expected for 2013, according to the results of a survey of economists. Most of the 51 panelists who participated in the survey expect that the Federal Reserve will begin to rein in its programme of quantitative easing in the first half of 2014, according to the report by the National Association for Business Economists (NABE). In addition, growth will be further tempered by reductions in government spending - also called sequestration cuts.

KEMIRA COMPLETES BRAZIL COAGULANTS SALE
Finland-based Kemira has completed the divestment of its Brazilian iron and aluminium coagulant businesses to Brazil’s Bauminas Quimica for an undisclosed sum. The divestment included coagulant business related assets, liabilities and personnel of Kemira WaterSolutions Brazil, shares in water treatment chemicals firm Nheel Quimica, along with three coagulants manufacturing sites.

CALUMET ACQUIRES LUBE DISTRIBUTOR BEL-RAY
US-based fuel products producer Calumet Specialty Products Partners acquired high-performance lubricants distributor Bel-Ray, Calumet said. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. “Bel-Ray will join an existing portfolio of market-leading specialty products brands that include our Royal Purple line of high-performance synthetic lubricants and our Penreco line of FDA-registered food-grade products,” said Jennifer Straumins, president and chief operating officer of Calumet.

PRAXAIR PURIFYING CO2 AT VIRGINIA PLANT
US-based Praxair has started up its carbon-dioxide (CO2) purification plant at Honeywell’s resins and chemicals complex in Hopewell, Virginia. Under a long-term agreement, Praxair will purchase CO2 from Honeywell, which is a byproduct of the company’s caprolactam plant. Praxair’s new plant can purify and liquefy up to 450 tons/day of CO2, the company said. The purified CO2 is used in such industries as food and beverage; healthcare; oil recovery; metal fabrication; chemicals and wastewater.

ELEKEIROZ ACQUIRES AIR PRODUCTS PLANT IN BRAZIL
Elekeiroz has acquired an oxo-gas plant in Bahia from US-based Air Products, the Brazil-based oxo-alcohols producer said. The plant will provide feedstock for the company’s oxo-alcohol production, which includes butanol, octanol and 2-ethyl hexanoic acid. The cost of buying the plant is Brazilian reais (R) 70m ($30m, €22m). The company already produces oxo-gas at its site in Camacari.

INVISTA, CPI TO DEVELOP PROCESS TECH FOR CHEMS
INVISTA and the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) plan to develop gas-fermentation-based process technologies for industrial chemicals, the US-based producer said. INVISTA is already involved in developing bio-based industrial chemicals. In the past, it has announced collaborations with UK-based Ingenza, Portugal-based SilicoLife and US-based Arzeda. INVISTA will bring its biotechnology and catalysis capabilities to its collaboration with CPI, along with its knowledge of the chemicals industry. CPI will contribute its applied knowledge in science and engineering as well as its capabilities in new process and product development.

METHANEX TO BUILD FLEET OF FLEX-FUEL VESSELS
Methanex’s shipping subsidiary has agreed to build as many as nine flex-fuel vessels, with six to be delivered in 2016, the Canada-based producer said. The methanol producer’s Waterfront Shipping will replace older vessels in its fleet with new 50,000-tonne ships that will run on methanol, fuel oil, marine diesel oil or gas oil. Methanex’s release did not state the total cost of the vessels. Methanol is a sulphur-free fuel. Tightening environmental regulations require that shippers use cleaner-burning fuels.


Asia

BLUESTAR SHUTS POM FACILITY FOR MAINTENANCE
China National Bluestar has shut its 60,000 tonne/year polyacetal (POM) plant in Shanghai early in December for scheduled maintenance and expects to restart the plant after the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays next year, a source close to the company said. However, the exact duration of the shutdown was not specified. The POM market is currently facing high methanol feedstock costs.

INDONESIA PROJECT PLAN TO BE FINALISED IN 2014
PTT Global Chemical and Pertamina have agreed to finalise the details of their proposed joint venture world-scale petrochemical complex in Indonesia by early next year. The two companies signed a heads of agreement (HoA) to proceed with the project that is targeted to start commercial operations by 2018. The companies are targeting to conclude the project feasibility study refinement stage by the second quarter of 2014.

RELIANCE TO START UP NEW BENZENE UNIT IN H2 2015
India’s Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) plans to start up its new benzene plant in Jamnagar in the second half of 2015, a company source said. The new facility has a nameplate capacity of 500,000 tonnes/year, according to the source. RIL’s existing benzene plants in Jamnagar, Hazira and Boroda currently have a combined capacity of 800,000 tonnes/year and are running at full capacity.

HAOPU TO START UP YANTAI BR UNIT IN MAY
China’s Haopu New Material Science and Technology will start up its new 60,000 tonne/year butadiene rubber (BR) at Yantai in Shandong province in May 2014, a source close to the company said. China National Chemical Engineering Group Co started installation works at the plant on 6 December.

JIUTAI TO START UP CHINA MTO PROJECT IN 2015
China’s Inner Mongolia Jiutai Energy plans to bring on stream its 600,000 tonne/year methanol-to-olefin (MTO) project at Erdos in 2015, a source close to the company said. The yuan (CNY) 8.28bn project is expected to produce 250,000 tonnes/year of polyethylene (PE) and 350,000 tonnes/year of polypropylene (PP), as well as 60,000 tonnes/year of butadiene; 25,000 tonnes/year of butane-1; and 168,000 tonnes/year of oil products and liquefied petroleum gas.

CANGZHOU DAHUA ACHIEVES ON-SPEC CAUSTIC
China’s Cangzhou Dahua Chemical achieved on-spec caustic soda and liquid chlorine products at its new 160,000 tonne/year plant on 6 December, the company said. The yuan (CNY) 4.6bn plant will supply chlorine feedstock for the company’s existing 80,000 tonne/year toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) plant at the same site

PCG TO RESTART LABUAN METHANOL UNIT END-DEC
Malaysia’s PETRONAS Chemicals Group (PCG) plans to restart its 1.7m tonne/year No 2 methanol plant in Labuan by end of December, a company source said. The plant was shut in mid-November for 50 days of maintenance. The company’s 660,000 tonne/year No 1 methanol unit at the same site is operating at around normal rates, the source said, without specifying the rate of production.

ASIA MAY RECEIVE 2M TONNES OF NAPHTHA IN JAN
Asia may receive up to 2m tonnes of arbitrage naphtha supply from the western markets during January, including volumes which are likely to be spilled over from December, traders said. Previously, the deep-sea inflows were being estimated at 1.55m tonnes for arrival in January.

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