News in brief

07 March 2014 10:50 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

ASIA

SICHUAN EXPECTS ON-SPEC PE, PP IN MAR
China’s Sichuan Petrochemical plans to produce on-spec polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) at its new plants in Sichuan province in early March, a company source said. The company has been conducting trial runs at the PE and PP plants after starting them up on 25 February, the source added. Sichuan Petrochemical has a 300,000 tonne/year linear low density PE (LLDPE) plant, a 300,000 tonne/year high density PE (HDPE) plant and a 450,000 tonne/year PP plant

BASF TO BUILD NEW AMINES PLANT IN CHINA
BASF said it will build a new world-scale specialty amines plant at its existing wholly owned site in China’s Nanjing Chemical Industry Park. The plant will mainly produce dimethylaminopropylamine (DMAPA) and polyetheramines and is scheduled to come on stream in late 2015. The new plant complements BASF’s existing facilities in Ludwigshafen, Germany, and in the US at Geismar, Louisiana, the company said.

CONGESTION AT PHILIPPINE PORTS CHOKES IMPORTS
Delivery of chemical imports into the Philippines is being delayed by congestions at the Port of Manila (POM) and at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) since the week of 28 February, industry sources said .The port congestion was blamed on the proposed day-time ban on trucks in the Philippine capital that sparked protests by truckers on 24-26 February, they said. “Nothing has been coming in since the congestion,” a local converter said, referring to resin imports, raising concerns that this might lead to higher prices.

ALFA LAVAL WINS ORDER FOR VIETNAM PLANT
Alfa Laval has won an order worth around Swedish kronor (SKr) 55m ($8.53m) to supply heat exchangers to an undisclosed refinery and petrochemical plant in Vietnam, the Swedish engineering firm said. The Alfa Laval Packinox heat exchangers will be used in the production of mixed xylenes, which are utilised in the production of synthetic nylons and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. “The order is booked in the process industry segment,” the company said. The delivery for the order is scheduled for next year, it added.

PLASCHEM PARK TO BOOST DOWNSTREAM GROWTH
A plastic park, located next to Sadara Chemical Company’s upcoming petrochemical complex in Saudi Arabia, is set to boost growth in downstream sectors, according to a senior company official. The close proximity between the Plaschem Park and Sadara complex – with 26 units - will create a world-scale manufacturing centre in Jubail, Mohammad Alazzaz, Manager, Value Parks at Sadara Chemical Company said. “We expect more value chain opportunities. There will be a multiplier effect [for plastic convertors] with more finished products [produced],” Alazzaz said. He was speaking at the Saudi Downstream conference in the port city of Yanbu.

OCI TO SHUT TDI UNIT FOR MAINTENANCE
South Korea’s OCI Co will shut its 50,000 tonne/year toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) unit in Gunsan for one week to conduct a turnaround, a source close to the company said. The TDI unit will be off line from 10-16 March and is scheduled to resume production on 17 March, the source added.

XINJIANG TIANYE ACHIEVES ON-SPEC CAUSTIC SODA
China’s Xinjiang Tianye Chemical has achieved on-spec production at its new 150,000 tonne/year solid caustic soda plant in the week of 3 March, a source close to the company said. The plant in Xinjiang ­province was started up on 23 February this year.

YISHENG PETROCHEMICAL SHUTS PTA UNIT
China’s Yisheng Petrochemical shut its 2m tonne/year purified terephthalic acid (PTA) unit in Hainan on 4 March, a company source said. However, the source did not provide further details on the exact duration of the shutdown. The company announced in end-February that it planned to shut its two PTA units in Dalian and Hainan with a combined capacity of 4.2m tonnes/year in March. The source has not disclosed when the 2.2m tonne/year PTA unit in Dalian will be shut.

NUC ETHYLENE SUPPLY NOT AFFECTED BY REFINERY FIRE
NUC Corporation’s ethylene supply from Tonen General Sekiyu was not affected by the recent fire at Tonen’s refinery in Kawasaki, Japan, a Tonen spokesperson said. A resid hydroconversion unit at Tonen General Sekiyu’s Kawasaki refinery caught fire on 1 March but all the other facilities at Kawasaki, including a 515,000 tonne/year naphtha cracker, was not affected by the fire, the spokesperson said. The polyethylene (PE) plants at Kawasaki operated by NUC Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tonen General Sekiyu, were in normal operation, he said.

HAOHUA SODA ASH PLANT UNDER MAINTENANCE
Southwest China Haohua Chemical Co shut its 500,000 tonne/year soda ash plant at Zigong in Sichuan province on 1 March for routine maintenance, sources close to the company said. The plant, which can produce 350,000 tonnes/year of light-grade soda ash and 150,000 tonnes/year of dense-grade soda ash, is scheduled to remain shut for 15 days, sources added. However, the exact duration of the shutdown might be adjusted based on the domestic market sentiment, sources said.


AMERICAS

BAYER BUYS DUPONT’S ANILINE FACILITY IN TEXAS
Germany-based Bayer has purchased DuPont’s aniline facility in Baytown, Texas, US. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The DuPont aniline facility is located within Bayer’s Baytown complex, the company’s largest manufacturing facility in the US. Aniline is a feedstock used to manufacture methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), a chemical used to produce rigid polyurethane foams for insulation in the construction industry, as well as coatings, adhesives, sealants, elastomers and binders.

ASHLAND TO CLOSE CANADA UPR, GELCOATS PLANT
US-based Ashland will close down its unsaturated polyester resin (UPR) and gelcoats manufacturing facility in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada in June. A downturn in the economy, the closure of several composites customers in northwest North America and the closing of the rail spur in Kelowna last summer were cited as factors contributing to the closure. Ashland will make UPR and gelcoats at its six remaining facilities in North America. The company recently completed capital investments at four of the six plants.

MICHELIN TO CUT PRODUCTION AT CANADA PLANT
France-based Michelin plans to reduce production of small-size tyres at its plant in Granton in Canada’s Nova Scotia province, affecting 500 jobs. Grant Ferguson, president of Michelin in Canada, said that the move was driven by declining demand for small-size car tyres in North America. The production and job cuts at Granton will be implemented in two phases over the coming 18 months, Ferguson said in an interview on Canadian state television. The plant employs about 1,000 workers.

US FEBRUARY AUTO SALES FALL SLIGHTLY
US February auto sales fell by a slight 0.03% year over year, according to an AutoData report, marking the third consecutive month of declining auto sales in the US. US February auto sales of passenger cars and light trucks totalled 1.1939 units, down from 1.1942m units during the same month of last year, the US-based research firm said. Year-to-date sales reached 2.2065m units, 1.4% lower than the 2.2388m units sold in January and February of 2013.

WILLIAMS PARTNERS BUYS CANADA ASSETS FOR $1.2BN
Williams Partners has completed its acquisition Canadian assets from Williams for $1.2bn. The deal was originally announced on 26 February. The assets include an Alberta oil sands off-gas processing plant near Fort McMurray, about 260 miles (418km) of natural gas liquids (NGL) and olefins pipelines, and an NGL/olefins fractionation facility and butylene/butane splitter in Redwater. The Redwater facility is currently being expanded to provide additional fractionation business to Williams Partners related to the development of off-gas processing at the CNRL Horizon upgrader facility retained by Williams.

PPG COMPLETES BUY OF HI-TEMP COATINGS
PPG Industries has completed the purchase of Hi-Temp Coatings Technology, the US-based coatings producer said. Hi-Temp supplies high-temperature-resistant and insulative coatings. Such coatings withstand extreme temperatures, protecting both carbon-steel and stainless-steel substrates. The coatings are used in refineries, petrochemical plants, pulp and paper mills, and power plants.

US MANUFACTURING EXPANDS IN FEBRUARY
US manufacturing expanded in February despite cold winter weather that chilled some business environments, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said. In its monthly survey known as the purchasing managers index (PMI), the institute said that manufacturing grew for the ninth consecutive month and the overall US economy for the 57th straight month. February’s PMI registered at 53.2%, up 1.9 percentage points from January’s 51.3%.

BILL KLESSE TO STEP DOWN AS VALERO CEO
US-based Valero Energy announced its CEO, Bill Klesse, will step down effective 1 May 2014. Klesse, who will remain a Valero director and chairman of the board, will be succeeded by Joe Gorder, who became the company’s president and chief operating officer in 2012. Gorder has also been elected a director by the board of directors. Klesse became CEO in 2005 and was named chairman of the board in 2007.


EUROPE

SOLVAY, INEOS PROPOSE PVC ASSET DISPOSALS
Solvay and INEOS would be willing to dispose of assets to clear any competition concerns the European Commission could raise regarding their proposed polyvinyl chloride (PVC) joint venture, the two companies said. The two chemical majors propose as part of the remedy package, submitted to the Commission on 27 February, the possible divestment at the PVC plants in Schkopau in Germany, Beek in the Netherlands and Mazingarbe in France.

OILTANKING MAKES CHANGES TO MANAGEMENT
German tank storage provider Oiltanking and its parent firm Marquard & Bahls have made new top management changes following the planned departure of Carlin Conner. Conner is currently the managing director of Oiltanking and member of the executive board of Marquard & Bahls. Conner will leave the company on 31 March. “Effective immediately, Christian Flach and Julio Tellechea will jointly take over the management of the Oiltanking organisation,” Oiltanking said.

TECHNIP WINS CONTRACT FOR CCS PROJECT
French engineering firm Technip said it has been awarded a contract by Shell UK to provide the front-end engineering design (FEED) for the world’s first commercial gas carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The project is designed to capture, compress and transport by pipeline 1m tonnes/year of carbon dioxide to an offshore gas reservoir for long-term storage beneath the North Sea, the company said in a statement.

BASF TO SELL POLYAD TO PRIVATE EQUITY
Germany-based BASF has agreed to sell its plastic additives segment PolyAd Services to US-based private equity firm Edgewater Capital Partners for an undisclosed amount. PolyAd Services manufactures a variety of plastic applications in industries, such as automotive, construction, packaging and electronics. Diego Lopez, senior vice president at the BASF’s Performance Chemicals North America division, said the sale will allow the company to focus more on core business areas.

EVONIK ACQUIRES SILICIC ACID FIRM SILBOND
Evonik Industries has acquired US-based silicic acid esters supplier Silbond Corp, the Germany-based industrial group said. Evonik said the transaction, with a purchase price in the mid-double-digit million euro range, closed on 28 February. Silbond, which manufactures the silicic acid tetraethoxysilane (TEOS), used in a wide variety of applications including the electronics industry and in chemical applications such as coatings, is based in Weston, Michigan, and has 60 employees.

NESTE, DONG TO WORK ON RENEWABLE DIESEL
Finnish refiner Neste Oil has joined forces with DONG Energy to develop a process for the production of renewable diesel and aviation fuel from forestry and agricultural residues. Neste said the cooperation with Denmark’s DONG was focused on “microbial oil” produced from residues such as straw. Microbial oil can, in turn, be used as a feedstock for renewable diesel and aviation fuel.

HUNTSMAN SEES EU INVESTIGATING TIO2 DEAL
Huntsman expects the European Commission to initiate an “in-depth investigation” of its proposed acquisition of Rockwood’s titanium dioxide (TiO2) operations and related businesses, the CEO of the US-based producer said. The deal was announced in September last year. US authorities already cleared it in December. In an update, Huntsman CEO Peter Huntsman said that it was “not out of the ordinary” for the Commission to examine such deals more closely in a “phase II in-depth investigation”.

EU’S CHEMICAL PRODUCER PRICES RISE IN JAN
EU and eurozone chemical producer prices rose in January compared with December, 0.2% and 0.1% respectively, despite a fall in overall industrial producer prices in both areas, said EU statistical agency Eurostat. Chemical producer prices continued its upwards trend that started in December following three consecutive months of decline. Traditionally, January’s chemical producer prices register increases. The last January in which the prices fell was in 2009, at the centre of the financial crisis.

BAYER MATERIALSCIENCE EARNINGS DOWN 25.5%
Bayer’s fourth-quarter net profit increased 24.3% year on year to €455m, in spite of a 25.5% earnings decline at its material science business, the German specialty chemicals firm said. Sales for the three months ending December 2013 grew to €9.89bn from €9.86bn in the previous corresponding period, with operating profit declining 10.2% year on year to €655m. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose 2.3% to €1.40bn.

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