Week in Brief

24 January 2014 09:54 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

EUROPE

CROATIA LDPE PRODUCER DINA GETS TAKEOVER OFFER
Croatian low density polyethylene (LDPE) producer Dina Petrokemija has received a takeover offer that could see it resume and expand production, the company said. The offer was presented by investment fund Devon on behalf of an investor that Dina did not want to name at this stage. The investor had offered to take over the company’s debts, increase its capital and expand its production. Dina, located on the Adriatic island of Krk, has an indefinitely mothballed 90,000 tonne/year LDPE unit.

BASF INVESTS IN RESIN PRODUCTION EXPANSION
Germany-headquartered chemicals major BASF said it is to invest around €7m in expanding resin production at its site in Munster, Germany. The investment will see production capacity at the site, as well as an increased energy efficiency for heat generation and exhaust gas combustion due to an improved heating technique, BASF said. The company did not disclose the expected production capacity increase. The expansion is expected to be completed in 2016.

IMF RAISES GLOBAL GROWTH OUTLOOK
The IMF raised its growth forecast for the world economy to 3.7% in 2014 and 3.9% in 2015 on the back of an improvement in advanced economies. The institution said developing economies will see strong demand on the back of the recovery in advanced countries although domestic weaknesses in emerging markets remains a concern.

AGROFERT CEO BABIS STEPS DOWN
Billionaire Andrej Babis is stepping down from his role as CEO at central and eastern European fertilizer, chemical and food processing group Agrofert to become finance minister in the new Czech government, Agrofert said. Babis, the founder and owner of Agrofert, was resigning in order to avoid any conflict of interest, it added.

IEA FORECASTS 2014 OIL DEMAND GROWTH
The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast oil demand in 2014 would be stronger than in the previous year on the back of “the likelihood of stronger economic momentum”. The agency forecast global oil demand will grow by 1.3m bbl/day to 92.5m bbl/day, compared to an estimated 1.2m bbl/day demand growth in 2013, noting that OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) bloc nations seem to have swung back into growth in 2013 for the first time since 2010.

TURKEY’S ELA KIMYA EXPANDS DOTP CAPACITY
Turkish plasticizers producer Ela Kimya has completed a dioctyl terephthalate (DOTP) plant expansion in Tuzla and is set to begin diisononyl phthalate (DINP) production at the same site next month, a company source said. The company completed a 20,000 tonne/year expansion of its DOTP plant at the beginning of January, increasing its capacity to 60,000 tonnes/year from 40,000 tonnes/year. A new DINP plant at Tuzla with a nameplate capacity of 20,000 tonnes/year is scheduled to begin operations on 5 February.

ARKEMA TO INVEST IN CHINA ACRYLIC ACID
France’s Arkema is initially investing $240m in Jurong Chemical’s acrylic acid production in China. The two companies have formed a joint venture called Sunke, which will comprise the assets of Jurong Chemical’s acrylic acid production at Taixing in Jiangsu province.Jurong Chemical currently has two production lines at the site, each with an installed capacity of 160,000 tonnes/year. A third line with the same capacity is due to start up in the first quarter of 2015, according to Arkema.

THYSSENKRUPP MERGER STRENGTHENS PLANT TECH
Germany-based ThyssenKrupp has announced the merger of three separate plant technology business units under the mantle of ThyssenKrupp Industrial Solutions. The newly-combined Uhde, Polysius and Fördertechnik businesses now form a key segment, allowing the engineering and construction firm to “better exploit global market opportunities,” according to the company.

SABIC BOOSTS STEAM SUPPLY TO CARGILL
Saudi Arabia’s SABIC and US food group Cargill have unveiled a partnership to substantially boost the supply of steam from SABIC to Cargill at its site near Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands. The amount of steam provided to Cargill has increased four-fold from 12 to 45 tonnes per hour, reducing CO2 emissions by 30,000 tonnes – equivalent to halving CO2 emissions of all households in Bergen op Zoom, according to SABIC.


AMERICAS

NOVA PLANT THE FIRST TO CRACK MARCELLUS ETHANE
NOVA Chemicals’ plant in Corunna, Ontario, in Canada has cracked the first barrels of ethane from the Marcellus shale in the northeastern US, the company said. NOVA has plans to run up to 100% light feeds at the cracker. The cracker has a capacity of 1.8bn lb/year (816,000 tonnes/year) of ethylene, and NOVA plans to expand its ­capacity by 20%.

TRANSCANADA TO OPEN LEG OF KEYSTONE XL
TransCanada will begin deliveries on the southern leg of its controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline project, the Calgary-based energy infrastructure firm said. The southern leg of the system, known as Gulf Coast Project, runs from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the US Gulf Coast. The 485-mile (780 km), 36-inch crude oil pipeline has an initial capacity of 700,000 bbl/day, according to TransCanada. It does not require White House approval, unlike the 1,179-mile northern Keystone XL which crosses the Canada-US border and would enable shipments of Canadian oil-sands crude oil to refineries on the US Gulf Coast.

US CONTRACTORS PLAN TO HIRE AND BUY EQUIPMENT
US construction firm owners are more optimistic about their prospects this year than since before the recession, a survey indicated, with many contractors planning to hire more workers and buy or lease additional equipment. The Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA) said that many of its member firms “plan to start hiring again, and most contractors predict demand will either grow or remain stable in virtually every market segment this year”.

W VIRGINIA TO GET NEW LAW ON TANK SAFETY
West Virginia Governor Earl Tomblin said he will seek new legislation to regulate above-ground storage tanks in his state to help prevent another chemical spill that contaminated water supplies in the state capital earlier this month. Tomblin said the proposed legislation “includes reasonable, common sense provisions to regulate above-ground storage tanks across the state, including those located in areas of critical concern near our public water supplies and distribution systems”.

US MOVE TO CUT BIOFUELS MANDATE TO BE TESTED
The federal government’s plan to reduce the mandated amount of biofuels used in the US in 2014 might be overturned by a court ruling, said Jonathan Coppess, an attorney and professor of agricultural economics at the University of Illinois. He argues that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may have acted beyond its statutory authority. The EPA proposes lowering its annual mandate for biofuels consumption to blend 15.2bn gal (57.5bn litres) of ethanol and other renewable fuels into the gasoline supply in 2014 instead of the scheduled 18bn gal.

BRAZIL CHEMICALS DEFICIT HITS RECORD $32BN
Brazil’s chemicals trade deficit increased by 13.6% in 2013 to reach $32bn, chemical association Abiquim said. Despite a deceleration in import levels in recent months, the country’s chemicals trade deficit hit a new historical record during the year, Abiquim said. Brazil imported $46.1bn in chemical products in 2013, up 7.3% year on year.

BRAZIL IMPOSES ANTI-­DUMPING DUTIES ON PP
Brazil’s chamber of foreign trade (Camex) has imposed anti-dumping duties on polypropylene (PP) resin imports from South Africa, South Korea and India for a period of up to six months, the government agency said. The surcharges on producers from these countries are in the $26.11-161.96/tonne range, the chamber said. The anti-dumping investigation was carried out by Brazil’s foreign trade secretariat (Secex) following a request by Braskem in July 2012.

CHEMICAL SHIPPING TO RECOVER IN 2014
Ship broker Netco expects 2014 to be a year of recovery for the chemical shipping market. The too-many-ships syndrome that plagued the industry for years has disappeared, with an “obvious void in new-building deliveries,” Netco said in its 2013 year end market report. “Global demand is expected to increase by most predictions in 2014 and cheaper new US produced feedstocks will start to hit the export market with a fevered pitch by the second half of the year,” Netco said.

US OIL, RAIL INDUSTRIES CONFIRM SAFETY MEETING
Top executives from the US oil and rail industries met with US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx to discuss improvements to rail transport and railcar safety following a string of recent accidents, an official said. However, no specific agreement was reached on what measures would be taken, and by when, to improve tank railcar safety. “The meeting was about rail safety in general, and not specifically about railcars,” said Brian Straessle, spokesman for oil and gas industry trade group American Petroleum Institute (API).


ASIA

EXXONMOBIL BOOSTS OUTPUT IN SINGAPORE
ExxonMobil has started operations at a new hydrotreater at its Singapore refinery, boosting the facility’s low-sulphur diesel capacity to around 25m litres/day, the energy major said. More than 9m litres/day of the increased capacity can meet ultra-low sulphur diesel specifications, the company said in a statement. “The addition of the new hydrotreater to our Singapore refinery will help meet the growing demand for fuels in Asia Pacific,” ExxonMobil Asia Pacific chairman and managing director Matthew Aguiar said in the statement. ExxonMobil expects diesel demand to grow by about 75% between 2010-2040, mainly from commercial transportation.

BASF TO OPEN IN KOREA THERMOPLASTICS UNIT
BASF is inaugurating a new 6,000 tonne/year high performance thermoplastics unit in Yeosu, South Korea, the German chemicals major said. The plant will produce the company’s Ultrason polyarylsulfone high performance thermoplastics, it said in a statement. “The production of our high performance plastic specialty Ultrason in [South] Korea supports our goal to locally produce approximately 75% of all BASF products we sell in Asia-Pacific by 2020, and demonstrates our commitment to this fast growing market,” said Raimar Jahn, BASF’s president at its performance materials business unit.

INDIA’S ISRL PRODUCES E-SBR AT NEW PANIPAT PLANT
Indian Synthetic Rubber (ISRL) has produced on-spec material at its new 120,000 tonne/year emulsion styrene butadiene rubber (E-SBR) plant at Panipat, a company source said. “We have started to make offers and will focus on the domestic market,” the source said. The new E-SBR plant, India’s first, has completed its test runs, the source said. The plant was inaugurated on 29 November 2013. ISRL is a joint venture of Indian Oil, Taiwan Synthetic Rubber Corp (TSRC) and Japan’s Marubeni Corp.

MITSUBISHI PLASTICS TO BUILD INDONESIA FILM UNIT
Japanese chemical producer Mitsubishi Plastics plans to build a new plant producing 240m sqm/year of polyolefin-based film in Merak, Indonesia due to expected increase in demand, the company said. The plant, Mitsubishi Plastics’ first-ever production facility of the film in Indonesia, will be built at the production site of MC PET Film Indonesia, the company’s subsidiary, Mitsubishi Plastics said in a statement. Commercial operation is expected to start in the first half of 2015, the company said. Mitsubishi Plastics plans to invest yen (Y) 1.5bn ($14.4m) for the plant, it added.

JAPAN’S TEIJIN TO END PX PRODUCTION IN MARCH ‘14
Japanese chemical producer Teijin plans to close its 290,000 tonne/year paraxylene (PX) plant at Matsushima and end all production of PX in March 2014, the company said. The move is because the PX business has become unprofitable due to the imbalance of its demand and supply because many chemical companies in the world have been building new PX plants, Teijin said in a statement. Its profitability is not expected to improve in the future, the company added. As of March 2013, Teijin’s external sales of PX stood at yen (Y) 36.1bn ($347m) for the full year, the company said. As a result of the termination of PX production, Teijin plans to register an extraordinary loss of Y1bn, it said.

LG CHEM ACETONE-BASED IPA PLANTS REMAIN SHUT
South Korean producer LG Chem’s two acetone-based isopropanol (IPA) plants in Yeosu remained shut since 1 January as a result of persistently weak margins because of firm feedstock acetone prices, a company source said. No restart date has been confirmed, although the source said it could be end-February or end-March. The two plants have a combined nameplate capacity of 105,000 tonnes/year. Its third 45,000 tonne/year Yeosu plant that uses the more competitively priced feedstock propylene continues to operate at full capacity, the source said.

AKZONOBEL RUNS AMINES PLANT AT 70% RATE
AkzoNobel is running its 80,000 tonne/year ethanolamines plant at Ningbo in Zhejiang, China, at 70% capacity, a source close to the Dutch-headquartered producer said. The January run rates were similar to the levels in December, he added. The supply of amines across all grades has tightened lately in China owing to domestic plant maintenance, as well as other plant maintenance from a major supplier in southeast Asia, other market sources said.


MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA

PP PRODUCTION PROBLEMS ONGOING AT EGYPT PLANT
Production issues at the Egyptian Propylene and Polypropylene Company’s (EPPC) 400,000 tonnes/year polypropylene (PP) plant in Port Said, Egypt, are ongoing following technical issues in December, a source at the company confirmed on 20 January. “We didn’t produce anything [in January],” the source said. The source added that hopefully production will have restarted by 1 February.

By Will Beacham