News in brief

14 April 2014 00:00 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

ASIA

JX NIPPON OIL & ENERGY TO RESTART PX UNIT
Japan’s JX Nippon Oil & Energy planned to restart its paraxylene (PX) unit located at Chita within the week ending 11 April. The company on 3 April shut its aromatics facilities, which includes a 400,000 tonnes/year PX unit, in Chiba. “The PX unit was shut because of a technical issue at the boiler unit and [we] will restart [it] soon,” said a source.

LIANYUNGANG SODA ASH LOWERS OUTPUT
China’s Lianyungang Soda Ash Plant reduced the operating rate at its soda ash plant at Lianyungang in Jiangsu province to 70% during the week ended 4 April because of modification works at its boiler. The 1.3m tonne/year plant had been operating at 90% capacity since mid-October 2013. It was unclear when normal production would resume. Soda ash is primarily used in glassmaking, the manufacture of other inorganic chemicals, detergents, flue gas desulphurisation, water treatment and in pulp and paper manufacturing.

QINGHAI YANHU TO START UP SODA ASH PLANT IN MAY
China’s Qinghai Yanhu Industry plans to start up in May phase one of its soda ash plant which has a total production capacity of 1m tonnes/year. The first phase of the project, located in Qinghai province, has a capacity of 500,000 tonnes/year. It was unclear when the second phase with 500,000 tonnes/year of soda ash production capacity will be started up, depending on the performance of the domestic soda ash markets.

CHONGQING KABEILE TO START METHANOL SALES
Chongqing Kabeile plans to start sales from second half of April following the restart of its 850,000 tonne/year natural gas-based methanol plant at Chongqing in southwest China on 1 April,. The company is expected to achieve on-spec production at the plant in the week of 7-11 April. The plant was taken off line in early July 2013 because of tight supply of feedstock natural gas.

TONGKUN TO START UP NEW POLYESTER LINE
China’s Tongkun Group plans to start its 200,000 tonne/year polyester line at Jiaxing in Zhejiang province on 18 April. The main product of this line is polyester filament yarn (PFY), and the plant is expected to achieve on-spec product after 20 April. The company is also building another 200,000 tonne/year line at the same site.

FORMOSA TO RESTART MAILIAO EVA PLANTS
Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp (FPC) has scheduled to resume operations at its ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) plants in Mailiao on either 26 or 27 April following a one-month maintenance. The plants will produce EVA at full tilt after the restart. FPC operates a 72,000 tonne/year EVA/low density polyethylene (LDPE) swing plant as well as a 168,000 tonne/year tubular EVA plant at the Mailiao site.

ZEON RUNS NBR PLANT AT 100% IN APRIL
Japan-based Zeon is operating its 60,000 tonne/year nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) plant at Yamaguchi in western Japan at full capacity because of strong demand. “We are running at 100% capacity for NBR in April – the same [rate] as in March – due to strong demand from our term customers,” a source said. Zeon Corp supplies NBR mostly to its customers in the automotive industry.

ZEON MAY CUT SBR AND BR RUN RATES
Japan’s Zeon plans to cut the operating rate of its styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) and butadiene rubber (BR) plants in April by 10-20% if their margins are eroded. The Japanese synthetic rubber maker runs a 110,000 tonne/year SBR plant and 65,000 tonne/year BR plant at Yamaguchi in western Japan. Spot offers for SBR non-oil grade 1502 and BR were at $1,850-1,900/tonne CFR (cost and freight) southeast (SE) Asia for April shipments, up by $50-100/tonne from the previous month because of higher feedstock butadiene (BD) cost.

SHELL TO COMPLETE ETHOXYLATION PLANTS Q1 ’15
Shell’s construction of ethoxylation facilities at Jurong Island, Singapore is set to be completed in the first quarter of 2015. Shell launched the official groundbreaking in April 2013 for two ethoxylation units with a combined capacity of 140,000 tonnes/year. These will add to Shell’s existing capacities for alcohol ethoxylates at 40,000 tonnes/year from its acquisition of its partner’s shares in Ethylene Glycols (Singapore) in 2010.

PTT PHENOL TO RUN BPA PLANT AT 100%
Thai producer PTT Phenol resumed operations at its 150,000 tonne/year bisphenol A (BPA) plant at Map Ta Phut in Thailand after completing scheduled maintenance. The BPA plant was taken off line on 26 February for the turnaround. PTT Phenol is a subsidiary of Thai energy major PTT.

EUROPE

SABIC LIFTS BD FORCE MAJEURE AT GELEEN
The butadiene (BD) force majeure declared by SABIC as a result of technical problems at its Geleen, Netherlands unit, has been lifted. “We resumed our supplies as of 1 April, meaning that the FM was ended as well,” a company spokesperson said. The unit, which has the capacity to produce 130,000 tonnes/year, experienced technical issues over the 8-9 March weekend which led to the production of off-spec BD.

PE PLAYERS DISPUTE PRICE DIRECTION
Polyethylene (PE) buyers and sellers in Europe are disputing the direction of prices for April, following the settlement of the monthly ethylene contract at a reduction of €15/tonne, sources said on 3 April. There was a marked difference between the opinion of several large buyers and some major producers over price ideas. “We have already been offered [a] rollover by several suppliers,” said one buyer, and several others told the same story. Some producers did not agree. “We are targeting higher prices on very tight supply and poor margins,” said one producer.

STYRON TO CONVERT UNIT TO PRODUCE ND-BR
Styron said it will convert its nickel butadiene rubber (Ni-BR) production train in Schkopau, Germany, to produce neodymium butadiene rubber (Nd-BR) to meet the increasing demand for green and ultra-high tyres globally. The conversion of the Ni-BR production line in Schkopau will begin this year and is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2015. The converted Nd-BR production line will supply customers around the world.

CLARIANT AND ASHLAND TO SELL ASK JV
Clariant and Ashland said they have entered into a definitive agreement to sell their joint venture, ASK Chemicals headquartered in Hilden, Germany, to investment funds affiliated with Rhone, a London and New York-based private equity investment firm. The enterprise value of the transaction before debt and assumed liabilities amounts to €257m. After adjusting for debt and assumed liabilities, total pre-tax proceeds to the sellers will be approximately €149m, which includes €128m in cash and a €21m buyer note.

WESTERN ECONOMIES STRENGTHENING
The momentum of economic recovery is gathering pace across the US and EU, but is likely to be slightly weaker in emerging markets and developing economies over the next couple of years, the International Monetary Foundation (IMF) said. The organisation cut global projected growth over the next two years by 0.1 percentage points, to 3.6% in 2014 and 3.9% in 2015, due to a weaker external financial environment for emerging markets.

40% OF UK CHEMS FIRMS TO UP SPENDING
The UK’s chemical companies are increasingly optimistic about their business prospects during the next 12 months as they expect sales to increase while 40% plan to increase spending and 25% to hire more staff, the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) said. At the highest level since the CIA started conducting the survey three years ago, 55% of companies expect sales to increase during the next 12 months while only 6% expect them to fall.

EUROPE PVC MOVES TOWARDS VINYLSPLUS
Some progress has been made towards meeting the sustainability standard outlined by European polyvinyl chloride (PVC) industry VinylPlus programme, with 444,468 tonnes of PVC recycled in 2013, the general manager of industry body the Council of European Vinyls Manufacturers (ECVM) said. The 2013 figure represents a 22% year on year increase, bringing the industry closer to meeting the 800,000 tonne/year PVC recycling target, said ECVM general manager Brigitte Dero at the British Plastics Federation PVC conference 2014 in Brighton, UK. VinylPlus also outlines a 20% reduction in energy consumption between 2011 and 2020, she added.

YARA ACQUIRES STAKE IN SOX BUSINESS
Yara is to acquire a 63% stake at fellow Norwegian sulphur oxide supplier Green Tech Marine (GTM) in order to expand its emissions control business, the Oslo-headquartered company said. Yara wants to gain an advantage in what it expects will be a rapid expansion in emissions control within the shipping industry in the coming years as the sector adapts to the new regulations implemented by the International Maritime Organisation.

LENZING APPOINTS NEW CFO RIEGLER
Austrian textile and polymer manufacturer Lenzing said it has appointed Thomas Riegler as the firm’s new chief financial officer (CFO) for a period of three years effective from 1 June this year. As a result of the appointment, Lenzing’s management board will consist of four members as of 1 June 2014: Peter Untersperger, CEO and chairman of the management board; Friedrich Weninger, chief operating officer; Robert van de Kerkhof, chief commercial officer and Riegler as CFO.

AMERICAS

SHERWIN-WILLIAMS BACKS OUT OF COMEX DEAL
US-based Sherwin-Williams is terminating its agreement to acquire Mexican paint and coatings manufacturer Comex. According to the agreement, either party could terminate without material breach if the acquisition had not closed by 31 March, the company said. However, the sellers had notified Sherwin-Williams that they believed it had not used commercially reasonable efforts to complete the acquisition, as required. Sherwin-Williams filed a request with the New York Supreme Court to declare that the company had used commercially reasonable efforts and had not breached the agreement.

D4 PRODUCERS AGREE TO EPA TESTING
Five US-based chemicals producers have agreed to a testing programme for a solvent with multiple applications in order to determine its potential environmental effects, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said. The companies are Dow Corning, Evonik, Momentive Performance Materials USA, Shin-Etsu Silicones of America and Wacker Chemical. The companies have agreed to an enforceable consent agreement (ECA), the EPA said, to conduct a detailed environmental analysis of octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane, also known as D4. The producers must submit a draft research and study plan, which will be subject to EPA approval.

US COURT OVERTURNS $920M AWARD TO DUPONT
A US federal appeals court overturned a jury verdict which had found South Korean producer Kolon Industries liable for misappropriation of DuPont’s trade secrets in producing Kevlar aramid fibres. The jury had awarded the US-based DuPont $919.9m in damages at the conclusion of a seven-week trial in September 2011. The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the verdict, due to a “fundamental error” during the trial in which certain evidence Kolon had sought to present was excluded, according to court documents.

VALERO DELAYS START-UP OF METHANOL PLANT
US refiner Valero said that it has delayed the projected start-up date of a methanol plant in Louisiana until 2018, which is two years later the original schedule when plans to build the plant were announced last year. The company’s original announcement in July 2013 said it would build a 1.6m tonne/year methanol plant in Saint Charles that would begin running in the first quarter of 2016. Valero spokesman Bill Day said the start-up date for the unit had been pushed back because the company was doing a cost analysis.

ENERGY CHANGES FUEL COATINGS INNOVATION
Changes to the energy complex are driving innovation in the coatings industry, said the chief technology officer of US-based PPG Industries said. “Changes in energy are driving a revolution in the materials and processes used to manufacture products in a number of industries served by the coatings and specialty materials sector,” said Chuck Kahle during his keynote address at the American Coatings Show in Atlanta, Georgia, US. “All of this is resulting in more efficient operations for buildings, lighter and more efficient modes of transportation, and lower-cost manufacturing processes, ultimately contributing toward sustainability of our environment, economies and society.”

CARGILL INVESTS IN RIVERTOP RENEWABLE
US agribusiness group Cargill has taken part in a $26m financing round for renewable chemicals producer Rivertop Renewable. Other participants in Rivertop’s financing round included investment firm First Green Partners and existing Rivertop investors. Brian Silvey, vice president of corn milling in North America at Cargill, said: “Cargill’s investment in Rivertop is strategic given the compatibility of our expertise and resources in multiple feedstocks, worldwide facilities and access to key industries.”

MEADOWS-SMITH NAMED CEO OF BIOCONSORTIA
Newly formed agricultural biotechnology firm BioConsortia has named Marcus Meadows-Smith as CEO. BioConsortia rapidly identifies microbes that cooperate to form consortia that significantly improve crop yields, it claims. Meadows-Smith will lead BioConsortia through the business development and commercialisation phase for the company’s “microbial consortia” products. Meadows-Smith was CEO of biopesticide company AgraQuest, which was sold to Bayer CropScience for nearly $500m in 2012.

PRAXAIR TO BUILD NEW STEAM METHANE REFORMER
US-based industrial gases firm Praxair said it is building a steam methane reformer to increase the supply of hydrogen for its liquid hydrogen plant at Niagara Falls in New York. When completed in 2015, Praxair’s liquid hydrogen production capacity in Niagara Falls will increase by 50%.

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