News in brief

13 June 2014 10:43 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

Asia

Ming Dih plans EPS expansion in Thailand
Taiwan’s Ming Dih Group plans to debottleneck its expandable polystyrene (EPS) plant in Thailand in August, a company source said. The plant is located in Bangkok and has an annual capacity of 40,000 tonnes. The expansion is expected to last for around three weeks, according to the source. “The expansion will add another 10,000 tonnes to our capacity a year”, the source said. The company operates a 180,000 tonne/year EPS unit in Taiwan and another 100,000 tonne/year plant in southern China.

Ningxia Jiemei to start methanol sales
China’s Ningxia Jiemei Fengyou plans to start methanol sales from mid-June, following the start-up of its 200,000 tonne/year coal-based methanol plant at Ningxia in northwest China in early June, a company source said. The unit has achieved on-spec production on its first start-up on 7 June, the source added. The construction work of the plant started in the third quarter of 2011, the source said. Ningxia Jiemei Fengyou is a subsidiary of Sichuan Lutianhua Co.

LG Chem runs phenol/acetone units at 100%
South Korea’s LG Chem is running its phenol/acetone plants in Yeosu and Daesan at 100% of capacity, a company source said. LG’s Yeosu and Deasan phenol/acetone units each can produce 300,000 tonnes/year of phenol and 180,000 tonnes/year of acetone. The company in early June increased the operating rate at its Daesan phenol/acetone plant to 100% capacity from 70-80% previously, as its captive phenol usage was boosted by the restart of its bisphenol A (BPA) unit at the same site, the source said. China’s Shanghai Wujing Chem acetic acid plant shut since 3 June.

Shanghai Wujing Chem acetic acid plant shut
Shanghai Wujing Chemical Co’s 450,000 tonne/year acetic acid plant in China has been shut since 3 June for an overhaul, and is expected resume production late this month, a company official said. The turnaround is expected to last two to three weeks, the official said. The company’s other 250,000 tonne/year acetic acid plant at the site is operating normally. The shutdown of the bigger plant limited Shanghai Wujing’s spot acetic acid cargoes available for export.

Hanbang shuts PTA unit for 10-day maintenance
China’s Hanbang Petrochemical shut its 600,000 tonne/year purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plant in Jiangsu province, according to a company source. The unit was shut for a scheduled 10-day maintenance, the source said. Several market participants noted that availability of PTA cargoes in the country remained limited, especially with several on-going scheduled turnarounds.

Advanced Biochemical shuts ECH plant
Advanced Biochemical (Thailand) on 7 June shut its 100,000 tonne/year epichlorohydrin (ECH) plant in Map Ta Phut for annual maintenance, a company source said. The plant is scheduled to be restarted on 21 June, the source said. Spot supply to regular buyers is not expected to be affected by the turnaround, the source said.

Yihai Kerry runs ECH plant at 30%
China’s Yihai Kerry is running its 50,000 tonne/year glycerine-based epichlorohydrin (ECH) plant at Lianyungang in Jiangsu province at 30% of capacity after restarting the unit in end-May, a company source said. The plant was taken off line for maintenance from 5 May to 30-31 May, the source said. The company may run the unit at similar capacity in the near term, the source said. Yihai Kerry has another 50,000 tonne/year line at the site, but this other unit has been idle since 2013. China has been in oversupply of ECH since last year, according to an industry source.

Samyang Innochem runs BPA plant at 100%
South Korea’s Samyang Innochem is running its 150,000 tonne/year bisphenol A (BPA) plant in Gunsan at 100% capacity after restarting it from a planned turnaround, a source close to the company said. The company’s second attempt at restarting the plant on 4 June was successful, after encountering mechanical issues at its first attempt which took place on 30 May, the source said. The plant was shut on 1 May to undergo a month-long maintenance.

IRPC faces propylene output cut after fire
The fire that damaged a diesel production unit on 9 June at Thai refiner IRPC’s 215,000 bbl/day Rayong refinery is expected to significantly cut the firm’s propylene production and may dampen its expansion plans at the site, a source close to the company said. The fire, which started at around 18:00 hours Thailand time (11:00 GMT) on 9 June at the vacuum gas oil (VGO) hydrotreater unit, was completely extinguished two hours later, the source said.


Americas

LyondellBasell declares FM on acetic, extends VAM
LyondellBasell declared force majeure on US acetic acid and extended its force majeure on vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) issued in March, citing utility and feedstock supply disruptions. Besides the force majeure on acetic acid, the producer issued a declaration in March on VAM, which uses acetic acid as a feedstock. LyondellBasell said both force majeures would take effect immediately. In late May, sources said LyondellBasell’s 544,000/tonne acetic acid unit in LaPorte had gone down because of problems getting carbon monoxide (CO) delivered. Since then, sources have said the 
plant is operating but at limited capacity.

Sasol, INEOS finalise JV for HDPE plant in Texas
Sasol and INEOS have reached a final investment decision to team up to build a 470,000 tonne/year high density polyethylene (HDPE) plant in La Porte, Texas, the companies announced. Sasol and INEOS will enter into a 50/50 joint venture to produce bimodal HDPE using INEOS’s Innovene S process technology. Sasol and INEOS will provide the ethylene required for production in proportion to their respective ownership positions. INEOS will operate the plant at its Battleground Manufacturing Complex in La Porte.

Turnaround at BASF oxo-alcohol plant
BASF’s oxo-alcohol plant in Freeport, Texas, is in turnaround, a source at the company confirmed. The scheduled maintenance turnaround began in late May and is expected to be completed by the end of June. A source at BASF said that the company had prepared for the turnaround and did not expect any tightness of supply during this month. BASF produces oxo-alcohols n-butanol (NBA) and 2-ethylhexanol (2-EH) at the facility, with yearly capacities of 240,000 tonnes and 160,000 tonnes respectively.

Robert Peterson New president of OxyChem
Robert Peterson has been appointed president of Occidental Petroleum’s OxyChem chlor-alkali and vinyls business, effective 1 August, the US-based energy and chemicals firm said. Peterson succeeds Chuck Anderson who will retire on 31 July. Peterson has been OxyChem’s senior vice president of basic chemicals since 2009.

PPG Industries to acquire Masterwork
US coatings and specialty materials firm PPG Industries has agreed to acquire architectural paint distributor Masterwork for an undisclosed sum, it said. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Masterwork operates a 13-store network throughout western Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. PPG expects to complete the acquisition in the third quarter. PPG said that the acquisition would further strengthen its network of company-owned stores.

Composites One to buy Nexeo assets
US distributor Composites One has agreed to acquire “essential composites distribution assets” from Nexeo Solutions for an undisclosed sum, it said. The acquisition, expected to close on 1 July, will allow Composites One to offer its product line and technical support and services to more customers in the US and Canada, it said. Composites One is described as a “leading distributor” of composite materials in North America.

Calumet joins JV to build GTL plant in Louisiana
Calumet Specialty Products is investing in a joint venture to construct a gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the company said. The plant will be owned and operated by the joint venture Juniper GTL, which is co-owned by SGC Energia and Great Northern Project Development. Calumet intends to invest $25m in exchange for an equity interest of approximately 22% in the joint venture. The Juniper plant is expected to produce 1,100 bbl/day of refined products, including waxes, drilling fluids, distillate and naphtha, from natural gas. The plant is expected to cost $135m and be operational by late 2015.

Solvay plant in Brazil not affected by drought
Solvay’s ethyl acetate (ETAC) operations in Paulinia, Brazil have not been affected by that region’s drought conditions, a source said. There had been talk in the market that petrochemical companies were being asked by the government to conserve water at its Brazil-based plants, and that production at certain plants had slowed. Solvay produces 135,000 tonnes/year of ETAC at the plant in Brazil, according to ICIS Plants & Projects.

TPC lifts force majeure on BD from Texas plant
US producer TPC Group has lifted its force majeure on butadiene (BD) from its Houston plant in Texas, effective on 6 June, a company source confirmed. TPC had declared the force majeure in early April because of production issues. Earlier this month, the company raised its allocation of BD to 100%. TPC’s plant in Houston has a capacity of 430,000 tonnes/year, according to ICIS plants and projects.


Europe

INEOS wins contract for Turkmenistan project
INEOS’ Innovene S technology process has been selected by South Korea’s Hyundai and state gas company Turkmengas for use in a new Turkmenistan petrochemicals complex. A 386,000 tonne/year high-density polyethylene (HDPE) unit will be developed using Innovene S technology at the complex, alongside a 50,000 tonne/year compounding unit. The unit is to produce HDPE pipe, among other products, INEOS added.

SABIC prepares BD unit for turnaround
SABIC Europe’s butadiene (BD) producing unit in Geleen, the Netherlands, is preparing to go offline for planned maintenance. “It’s coming down according to schedule,” a source said, adding that the unit would be down for two to three weeks. The Geleen unit has the capacity to produce 130,000 tonnes/year of BD, according to ICIS data. Maintenance is currently under way at SABIC’s 100,000 tonnes/year BD unit in Wilton, UK, alongside the scheduled turnaround at a nearby 865,000 tonne/year cracker.

Slovnaft completes LDPE silos; launch on target
The construction of 28 silos that are a key element of the €300m ‘LDPE 4’ investment at Slovnaft in Slovakia has been completed, the company said. LDPE 4 aims to replace Slovnaft’s existing seven low density polyethylene (LDPE) production lines, which have a combined output of approximately 175,000 tonnes/year, with a plant that should deliver 220,000 tonnes/year of LDPE and operate in conjunction with a brand new LDPE logistics centre.

Croatia court to try MOL CEO on graft charges
A Croatian court will try the CEO of Hungarian group MOL on corruption charges in absentia. The Zagreb Country Court said Zsolt Hernadi, who has declined to submit himself to interrogation in Croatia, should be tried on charges related to a MOL agreement with jailed former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader which gave it control of refiner INA. Hernadi has been charged with giving Sanader €10m in exchange for the management rights at INA, which MOL obtained without becoming the company’s majority owner.

Turkish billionaire in talks for Eti Soda
Initial talks have taken place with a view to Turkish billionaire Murat Ulker acquiring local soda ash producer Eti Soda from the Ciner Group. An Eti Soda source said Ulker’s Istanbul-based private equity firm Gozde Girisim Sermayesi Yatirim Ortakligi is pursuing the purchase of all or part of conglomerate Ciner’s 74% stake in the company. Ciner and China’s Tianchen Engineering Corporation are building what is expected to be the world’s largest soda ash facility, near Ankara, by early 2017.

China gas demand to nearly double by 2019
China’s gas demand is likely to nearly double by 2019, compensating for a slight slowdown in growth in some other regions as booming North American demand trends spread to the Asian superpower, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said. The EIA said current demand levels for natural gas in North America, prompted by the rise of shale-derived supplies, represents a “golden age”, and this level of demand is likely to be increasingly mirrored in China over the next few years.

Momentive opens auto glazing coatings unit
US firm Momentive Performance Materials (MPM) has opened an automotive glazing coatings facility in Leverkusen, Germany. The new facility will enable original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and others to test Momentive’s coating materials in an industrial-scale setting. Customers will be able to coat production-sized automobile parts in realistic conditions, providing a preview of mass production. The facility offers both thermal and UV-cure capacities, providing customers the opportunity to scale up from test specimen-size to production-sized prototype testing, MPM said.

INEOS ChlorVinyls maintenance nearly done
Planned maintenance at INEOS ChlorVinyls’s membrane cell room in Runcorn, the UK, is nearing completion, a company source said. Maintenance started in early May. One of the membrane lines is back on stream, while the other membrane line is in restart mode. The site also has a mercury cell room, which was unaffected by the turnaround. The Runcorn site has the capacity to produce 430,000 tonnes/year for the membrane cell room and 277,000 tonnes/year for the mercury cell room.

Europe tanker freight rates under pressure
Freight rates for chemical shipments in Europe have come under further pressure owing to the intense competition between shipowners, sources said. Low consumption of chemicals continues to impact demand of shipments in Europe, leading to increasing competition between operators for the few spot enquiries seen in the market. One ship operator commented it was struggling to find employment for its open vessels in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA) region, Mediterranean, and around the UK.

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