News in brief

02 May 2014 10:06 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

Americas

US pending home sales rise in March
US pending home sales rose in March after eight months of decreases, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said, as buyers shook off a harsh winter and put down offers on homes. In its monthly report, the NAR said that its pending home sales index (PHSI) rose 3.4% to 97.4 from an upwardly revised 94.2 in February. The February figure originally had been reported at 93.9. The March 2014 number is 7.9% below March 2013’s index rate of 105.7.

Huntsman to complete MDI projects in Q4
Huntsman plans to complete its methyl di-p-phenylene isocyanate (IMDI) projects in the US and the Netherlands by the fourth quarter of this year, CEO Peter Huntsman said. Capacity will be increased at the plant in Geismar, Louisiana by more than 11% to 500,000 tonnes/year from 450,000 tonnes/year using improved process technology, the CEO said during a conference call on his company’s Q1 2014 earnings. At the Rotterdam facility, Huntsman plans to commission a new MDI splitter and downstream specialties manufacturing.

US Arabian American to expand C5 pentanes plant
Arabian American Development has received approval from the Texas Department of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to add capacity to its C5 pentanes plant in Silsbee, the US-based company announced. The adding of an additional process train, scheduled to be completed in late 2015, will add about 60% more capacity to meet future demand for C5s, CEO Nick Carter said in a news release.

Purchase of DuPont glass/vinyls approved
EU regulators approved Kuraray of Japan’s purchase of DuPont’s glass and vinyls unit, which includes the US-based firm’s vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) business. The EU gave its approval subject to Kuraray’s sale of DuPont’s polyvinyl butryal (PVB) film business in Germany. Kuraray agreed to divest that unit to mollify EU competiive concerns. Kuraray paid $543m for DuPont’s GLS/Vinyls unit.

US TCI Plastics to expand plastics export site
US-based TCI Plastics plans to expand its warehousing and packaging complex in the port of New Orleans in Louisiana, the state’s governor said. TCI will begin construction in mid-2014 on the 500,000 square foot (47,000 square metre) facility, Governor Bobby Jindal said in a statement. Construction should end in the third quarter of 2016. The project will cost TCI $36.5m, Jindal said.

US Honeywell to add nylon line in Virginia
Honeywell plans to expand nylon capacity at its Chesterfield facility in Virginia by 25% by the fourth quarter of 2015, the US-based producer announced. Honeywell is adding a 40,000 tonne/year line that could produce nylon 6 resins and nylon 6/6,6 copolymers and would expand capacity at the facility to 200,000 tonnes/year.

US Westlake Chemical files for IPO
Westlake Chemical has filed a registration statement for an initial public offering (IPO) of its limited partnership subsidiary, Westlake Chemical Partners LP, the US-based chemicals firm said. Westlake recently formed Westlake Chemical Partners to operate, acquire and develop ethylene production facilities and related assets. The partnership structure offers firms certain tax advantages.

Mexico Pemex posts $11.3m trade deficit in Q1
Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) posted an $11.3m trade deficit in petrochemical products in the first quarter of 2014 compared with a deficit of $4.6m in the prior-year period, according to statistics made available by the state-run energy company. Exports in the first three months came to $27.1m compared with $34.4m in the same period last year, while imports were $38.4m compared with $39.0m, the company said.

US Lion to expand EPDM plant, mulls cracker
US synthetic rubber producer Lion Copolymer plans to expand its production capacity for ethylene-propylene-diene monomer (EPDM) and is considering co-investing in a new ethane cracker. The EPDM expansion project will add a fifth line to the company’s plant in Geismar, Louisiana, increasing capacity by 60,000-80,000 tonnes/year, the company said. The new line will bring total EPDM capacity to more than 200,000 tonnes/year.

Q1 chem M&A deals reach $12.1bn − PwC
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the chemical industry reached $12.1bn in the first quarter, up 21% year on year, PwC US said. There were 29 chemical deals in the first quarter that each had a value of at least $50m, PwC said. That compares with 24 deals during Q1 2013 totalling $5.4bn, PwC said. Deal value grew by so much year on year because of the presence of what the PwC called mega-deals.


Europe

Dekkers declines to ‘add fuel to the fire’ on BMS
The CEO of Bayer declined on 28 April to comment on market rumours that it may be negotiating the sale of Bayer MaterialScience (BMS). “I can’t say anything specific because I don’t want to add fuel to the fire,” Bayer group CEO Marijn Dekkers said. A Bloomberg report citing inside sources claimed that Bayer is exploring the sale of BMS to focus on its healthcare business, after Evonik reportedly showed interest in the unit several months ago.

Bayer Q1 profit strengthens
A 22.7% year-on-year jump in first-quarter net profit for Germany’s Bayer was backed by a strong performance by its MaterialScience division. The company’s first-quarter net income stood at €1.42bn, while Bayer MaterialScience’s (BMS) earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) was €219m compared to €42m during the same period in 2013, the company said. Bayer’s group EBIT grew by 18.4% year on year to €2.1bn in the first quarter of 2014 while sales increased 2.8% to €10.56bn.

Arkema inaugurates new Jarrie electrolysis unit
France-based specialty chemical company Arkema has inaugurated an electrolysis unit at its chlorochemicals and hydrogen peroxide site in Jarrie. €100m was invested, which included €60m from Arkema, to replace the site’s mercury-based electrolysis chlorine production process with a 70,000 tonne/year membrane-based electrolysis process. Arkema said the investment enabled the facility to adapt to the latest regulations on industrial risks.

Shell to close base oils unit at Pernis
Shell will stop base oils production at its Pernis refinery in the Netherlands for commercial reasons. The company intends to close the entire Pernis base oil complex, which has a capacity of 370,000 tonnes/year, because high energy, operational and maintenance costs make it uncompetitive. The complex, which consists of two main production units, and makes base oils, waxes and process oils, will be closed in phases, with the second unit scheduled for closure by the end of the 2015.

Proviron declares force majeure on liquid PA
Liquid phthalic anhydride (PA) producer Proviron has declared force majeure at its 100,000 tonne/year plant in Ostend, Belgium, a company source confirmed, caused by an emergency shutdown at one of its reactors on Saturday 26 April. The source from Proviron confirmed the plant restarted production on 28 April at reduced capacity. It is not yet clear how long the force majeure will be in place.

Lower prices drive down Yara Q1 profit
Yara International’s net profit for the first quarter of 2014 fell 21.4% year on year despite strong demand and increased volumes, due in part to falling prices across its product lines. The Norway-based fertilizer producer’s net profit for the quarter fell to Norwegian kroner (NKr) 1.77bn (€213.25m) despite a 4.9% year-on-year increase in sales to NKr21.7bn and a 13.2% increase in volumes to 8.39m tonnes.

Total Q1 refining and chemicals profit falls
French oil and gas major Total said its refining and chemicals business’ adjusted net operating income fell 21% year on year to $346m in the first quarter of 2014 on the back of a deterioration in European refining. The company added that the deterioration was partially offset by better petrochemical and refining margins in the US, which benefited its Port Arthur integrated platform, improvements in specialty chemicals, and ongoing cost saving and efficiency plans.

Swiss Clariant swings to Q1 net loss
Clariant swung to a first-quarter net loss of Swiss francs (Swfr) 48m from a profit of Swfr50 in the same period last year, partly weighed down by unfavourable currency development and an impairment charge, the Switzerland-headquarters specialty chemicals maker said. Its continuing operations posted a March-quarter net loss of Swfr39m, a reversal of the Swfr38m profit in the same period last year, because of an Swfr84m impairment charge related to the divestment of ASK Chemicals joint venture.

Clariant opens masterbatches site
Switzerland-based Clariant has opened a new colour concentrates production site in Konstantynow Lodzki, near Lodz in central Poland. The investment, valued at zloty (Zl) 38m (€9m), would enable Clariant to double the production capacity of colour concentrates for its masterbatches business unit and would create in excess of 150 jobs. The 6,800-square metre site, constructed over the past 12 months in the Lodz special economic zone, covers a production hall, laboratory and warehouse as well as offices.

BP Q1 petchem profit falls to $4m
BP’s petrochemicals business reported an underlying replacement cost profit before interest and tax of $4m in the first quarter, compared with $59m in the same period of 2013, weighed by the turnaround at a production site in China. The energy major said: “The March shut-down of the SECCO site in China for a two-month turnaround negatively impacted the results,” adding: “The petrochemicals environment continues to be challenging with excess supply affecting product margins, particularly in the aromatics business”.


Asia

Japan March chemical output falls 2.3%
Japan’s production of chemicals in March fell by 2.3% from the previous month, official data from the country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) showed. Its plastics output slipped by 2.4% from February, based on the data. The country’s overall industrial production last month grew by 0.3% from February, and posted a stronger growth of 7% on a year-on-year basis, according to the ministry.

Japan’s Showa Denko restarts Oita cracker
Japan’s Showa Denko has restarted its 690,000 tonne/year naphtha cracker in Oita after a scheduled maintenance, a company source said. The cracker resumed operations on 26 April after it was taken off line on 13 March, the source said.

Altana’s Actega opens coatings, sealants plant
Germany’s Altana subsidiary Actega has opened a new laboratory building for coatings and sealants in Foshan, China, as part of a €30m investment in the country in which divisions Elantas and BYK are also taking part, the specialty chemicals manufacturer said . Altana’s electrical insulation division Elantas has increased its capacity to produce wire enamels at its plant in Tongling.

PCG to run both methanol units at above 90% in May
Malaysia’s PETRONAS Chemical Group (PCG) plans to run its two methanol units in Labuan at above 90% in May, a company source said. Its 660,000 tonne/year No 1 methanol unit was restarted close to 10 days ago from an unplanned shutdown and now both lines are “running well”, according to the source. The company has a separate 1.7m tonne/year No 2 methanol plant at the same site.

OUCC runs Kaohsiung ethanolamines unit at 40%
Oriental Union Chemical Corp (OUCC) is operating one of its two 40,000 tonne/year ethanolamines units in Kaohsiung at 40%, a source close to the company said. The other ethanolamines unit at the same site remains shut and there is no plan to restart it, the source added.

OUCC to shut Nanjing ethanolamines unit
Oriental Union Chemical Corp (OUCC) is on schedule to shut its 40,000 tonne/year ethanolamines plant at Nanjing, China, for a regular maintenance starting from late May, said a source close to the company. The turnaround will last for a month, he added. Meanwhile, the plant is being operated at 60% capacity, the source said.

Zhejiang Juhua runs chloromethane unit at 70%
Zhejiang Juhua Co is currently running its 400,000 tonne/year chloromethane unit in Zhejiang province at 70%, a company source said. There is no immediate plan to ramp up the operating rate, given the current market fundamentals, the source added. Spot methylene chloride prices have been facing upward pressure due to higher feedstock chlorine prices, China-based producers said.

Singapore’s TPC restarts EVA unit on 9 May
Polyolefin Co (Singapore) Pte Ltd (TPC) plans to restart operations at its 70,000 tonne/year ethylene vinyl acetate/low density polyethylene (EVA/LDPE) swing plant on Jurong Island on 9 May following a two-week shutdown, sources familiar with the company said. The plant, which was operating at full capacity prior to shutdown, was taken off line during the weekend of 26 April for cleaning works, they said.

Singapore’s TPC restarts EVA unit on 9 May
The Polyolefin Co (Singapore) Pte Ltd (TPC) plans to restart operations at its 70,000 tonne/year ethylene vinyl acetate/low density polyethylene (EVA/LDPE) swing plant on Jurong Island on 9 May following a two-week shutdown, sources familiar with the company said. The plant, which was operating at full capacity prior to shutdown, was taken off line during the weekend of 26 April for cleaning works, they said.

Jiangsu Yangnong Kumho shuts epoxy resins plant
China’s Jiangsu Yangnong Kumho Chemical has shut its 120,000 tonne/year epoxy resins plant in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province for a brief turnaround, a company source said. The plant was shut on 26 April and was scheduled to restart on 1 May, the source said. The unit was shut because of a disruption to its power supply due to annual maintenance on the power source by the authorities. The power is used to generate steam needed in the epoxy resins production process, the source said.

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