News in brief

08 May 2014 17:24 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

Europe

Germany’s BASF starts up new plasticizer plant
BASF has started up its new 100,000 tonnes/year non-phthalate plasticizer plant in Ludwigshafen, Germany, the chemicals major said. The new plant doubles the company’s capacity for its non-phthalate plasticizer Hexamoll DINCH at the site, it said in a statement. “The plant has started up successfully and the expanded capacity is available from now on,” the company said. BASF’s Hexamoll DINCH plasticizer is used in food packaging, medical devices and toys, the firm said.

Evonik CEO says big deal possible
Evonik is considering a number of smaller deals but will not rule out a bigger acquisition of more than €1bn. The Germany-based specialty chemicals major’s CEO, Klaus Engel, said that while Evonik would not “rush into any adventures”, it will not to stand by as the industry continues to consolidate. Engel declined to comment on speculation that Evonik is interested in Bayer’s MaterialScience (BMS) business. Evonik was monitoring developments “very, very closely”, he told analysts when asked specifically about BMS.

Joint collaboration for new monitoring system
Dutch paints and coatings major AkzoNobel and Belgium’s Solvay are jointly collaborating with Ernst & Young to develop a monitoring system that tracks and quantifies the use of renewable raw materials in paints, coatings and other applications. “The partnership builds on last year’s agreement between AkzoNobel and Solvay, whereby the company progressively increases the use of Solvay’s bio-based epichlorohydrin, or Epicerol, in its coatings products,” AkzoNobel said.

Germany’s Brenntag Q1 net profit rises 3.4%
Brenntag’s first-quarter net profit rose 3.4% year on year to €72.1m, supported by strong performance in Europe and the US, the chemicals distributor said. Its sales rose by 2.9% to €2.42bn on a constant currency basis while operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was up 2.8% at €164m. “While the economies in the developed regions North America and Europe are clearly recovering, the markets in the emerging regions hold challenges,” said CEO Steven Holland.

France’s Arkema swings to Q1 net profit
Arkema posted a first-quarter net profit of €77m, reversing a €30m loss incurred in the previous corresponding period, on the back of higher margins at its high performance materials segment and lower one-off expenses, the French producer said. But sales for the first three months of 2014 fell 2.6% year on year to €1.52bn, with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) falling 9% to €213m, the company said.

Planned maintenance at BASF’s TDI plant
Planned maintenance is underway at BASF’s toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) plant at Schwarzheide in Germany, a company source confirmed. The scheduled maintenance began on 3 May and it is expected to last for around three weeks. The process involves a complete plant shutdown, with contracts to be covered from stocks, added the source. The nameplate capacity for TDI at the Schwarzheide site is 80,000 tonnes/year, as confirmed by the company source.

Borealis contracts Jacobs for XLPE Project
Austria-headquartered Borealis has contracted US-based engineering company Jacobs to work on a project to increase production capacity of cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) as its site in Stenungsund, Sweden. The contract includes the engineering, procurement, project management and construction management services for the project, Jacobs said, without disclosing financial details.

Americas

Vantage Pipeline moving US ethane into Canada
A second company has received purity ethane in Canada from a US source, this time from North Dakota, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said. Canada’s Mistral Energy confirmed receiving the ethane as part of the inaugural shipment from the Vantage Pipeline, which runs from the Williston basin in North Dakota across the US-Canadian border and through Saskatchewan before connecting with the Alberta Ethane Gathering System (AEGS) near Empress, Alberta, the EIA said. Mistral’s confirmation comes nearly five months after Canada-based NOVA Chemicals announced it had started receiving ethane at its Sarnia, Ontario cracker from the Marcellus shale play in Pennsylvania. Prior to these pipeline shipments, ethane had not been shipped to Canada in the past 25 years, the EIA said.

Flint Hills force majeure still impacting TMA
A force majeure on trimellitic anhydride (TMA) at Flint Hills Resources’s plant in Joliet, Illinois, US, is continuing to cause tight supply and elevated prices for plasticizer trioctyl trimellitate (TOTM) in the US, a distributor said. Flint Hills Resources declared a force majeure in North America on 21 February for the supply of TMA and purified isophthalic acid after operational and mechanical issues related to waste water treatment and weather-related mechanical failures at the plant. TOTM is produced by the esterification of oxo-alcohol 2-ethylhexanol (2-EH) with TMA. TOTM is typically used for cable and wire insulation and in automotive interiors.

US manufacturing growth to continue in 2014
Manufacturing supply management executives showed an overall average expectation of 5.3% revenue growth in the industry, according to a survey released by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM). The survey of purchasing and supply managers in 18 categories included manufacturers of chemical, plastic, electronic, wood, textile, mineral and many other products. Executives’ revenue expectations for 2014 in the April survey were 0.9 percentage points higher than in the December survey, which predicted 4.4% growth.

Accella acquires two rubber companies
US-based Accella Performance Materials, a private equity-owned producer of polyurethanes, plastisols and recycled rubber, has acquired a producer of ethylene-propylene-diene monomer (EPDM) and a rolled rubber products manufacturer. The two businesses will form a new company, known as Ultimate RB. Formerly known as Dash Multi-Corp, Accella was acquired by Arsenal Capital Partners in late 2012 as a platform for purchases in the PU, vinyls and coatings sectors.

Fuller opens $10m plant in Colombia
H.B. Fuller has opened a $10m plant in Rionegro, Colombia, the US-based adhesives producer said. In addition to the plant, Rionegro will also have a technical laboratory for hygienic product. The plant will supply hot-melt and water-based adhesives for the hygienic, packaging and corrugate and assembly markets, the company said. The laboratory will help Fuller meet demand from the region’s growing nonwoven hygiene market.

PotashCorp to shut down sulphuric acid plant
PotashCorp will shut down its 500,000 tonne/year sulphuric acid facility in Geismar, Louisiana, US during the first half of 2015, the company confirmed. PotashCorp said that continued operation would be uneconomic due to expected increases in production costs. Market sources had said that the plant was closing due to a mandated $100m upgrade from the US Enivronmental Protection Agency (EPA), but PotashCorp denied that assertion. Honeywell was heard to be supplied by the plant. Sources speculated that producers Cornerstone and DuPont would take over the supply provided by the Geismar location.

Petrobras to reduce 12.4% of workforce
Brazil’s Petrobras will reduce its workforce by 12.4% through a voluntary buyout scheme that was launched in January to cut costs and finance spending, the state-controlled energy giant announced. A total of 8,298 workers signed up to the Voluntary Redundancy Incentive Plan (PIDV), 55% of whom are expected to leave the company this year. Petrobras expects the plan will save the company around Brazilian reais (R) 13bn ($5.8bn) through 2018.

Westlake Chemical Q1 net income up 28%
US-based Westlake Chemical’s Q1 net income in 2014 rose 28% year on year to $158.0m on the back of higher sales. Net sales totaled $1.03bn, an increase of $163.1m compared with Q1 2013, mainly because of higher sales volumes for polyethylene (PE) and ethylene, higher sales prices for most of the group’s major products and sales contributed by its specialty polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe business, acquired in May 2013.


Asia

FPC runs Mailiao EVA plants at full rates
Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp (FPC) is currently operating its ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) plants in Mailiao at full capacity following recent completion of month-long maintenance at the units, a company official said. 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 site. “The plants were restarted around 26/27 April and now we are running at full rates,” the official said. EVA resins have applications in sports shoe soles, sandals, wire and cable coatings, hot-melt adhesives, as well as in solar panels.

Zhejiang Weitai Rubber delays SBR test run
China’s Zhejiang Weitai Rubber delayed the test run at its new 100,000 tonne/year styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) plant in Zhejiang province to 8 May due to some technical issues, market sources said. The plant was originally scheduled to start trial runs on 25 April, market sources said.

Shaanxi Petroleum building MTO unit
China’s Shaanxi Petroleum Chemical Engineering and Construction Co is building a 100,000 tonne/year methanol-to-aromatics plant in Shaanxi province. The company, a subsidiary of Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum Chemical Engineering Co, has signed a Chinese yuan (CNY) 140m ($22.36m) construction contract with Shaanxi Baodan Chemical Group.

Jiangsu Yangnong Kumho restarts epoxy resins
China’s Jiangsu Yangnong Kumho Chemical restarted its 120,000 tonne/year epoxy resins plant in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province on 1 May after completing a brief turnaround, a company source said. The plant was shut on 26 April 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 epoxy resins production process, the source said.

Dushanzi to restart HDPE/LLDPE swing line
China’s Dushanzi Petrochemical is planning to restart its 300,000 tonne/year high density polyethylene (HDPE)/ linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) swing line in Xinjiang province on 20 May, a company source said. The line was shut on 11 April for regular maintenance, the source said. Local distributors said the supply of LLDPE will increase as the company is one of the major producers in China. Dushanzi Petrochemical is a subsidiary of PetroChina.

BYACO resumes 80% rate at acetic acid unit
BP YPC Acetyls Company (BYACO) Nanjing has resumed production at its 500,000 tonne/year acetic acid plant located at Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on 4 May, following an unplanned five-day outage, according to a company official. The plant was shut on 29 April, the official said, but the cause of the outage remained unclear. The plant was running at 80% capacity prior to the outage and it has since recovered to 80% capacity production by 5 May after the outage, the official added.

Sinopec SABIC Tianjin shuts phenol/acetone
China’s Sinopec SABIC Tianjin Petrochemical on 2 May shut its 350,000 tonne/year phenol/acetone unit at Binhai in Tianjin for around 20 days of maintenance, a company source said. The plant has capacity of 220,000 tonnes/year of phenol and 130,000 tonnes/year of acetone.

Shandong Dongyue runs chloromethane unit 100%
China’s Shandong Dongyue Chemical ramped up the operating rate of its 320,000 tonne/year chloromethane unit and is currently running the plant at 100% capacity, a company source said. “[The operating rate] was ramped up… on the back of healthy demand in the domestic market,” the source said. The company had previously been running at close to 70-80% of nameplate capacity.


Middle East & Africa

ICIIC runs LAB plant at above nameplate
Iran Chemical Industries Investment Co (ICIIC) is currently running its linear alkyl benzene (LAB) plant in Esfahan, Iran, at above 100% production rate amid stable demand, a company source said. The plant’s nameplate capacity is at 75,000 tonnes/year, the source said. However, it is currently manufacturing at 110,000 tonnes/year, the source added. The company does not have any planned maintenance for the unit in 2014, but it is expecting to shut down the unit for maintenance in May 2015, the source said.

Trains to complement trucks in Mideast
Trains will likely complement trucks in the delivery of petrochemicals in the Middle East as the region expands its capacity, CEO of state-owned Saudi Railway Company (SAR) Rumaih Al Rumaih said. “Trains are not going to replace trucks. Rail is going to complement other means of transportation. Rail is relatively new in the region. With upcoming petrochemical expansions in the region, we cannot just stay on the roads,” he said at the 6th Gulf Petrochemical and Chemical Association (GPCA) Supply Chain Conference in Dubai.

Sipchem affiliate’s BDO plant back up
International Diol Company, an affiliate of Saudi International Petrochemical Company (Sipchem), has resumed normal operations at its butanediol (BDO) plant after undergoing maintenance and repairs for more than a month, the parent company said on 6 May. All plant units were shut on 1 April. Sipchem expects the maintenance to impact positively on BDO plant operations, with increased reliability and efficiency at all its facilities.

Correction
In the Plants & Projects section of the 7 April 2014 issue, we listed Invista’s planned 300,000 tonne/year adiponitrile (ADN) project as being planned to start up in mid-2015. In fact, the targeted start-up date is 2018.

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