News in brief

23 June 2014 00:00 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

Europe

DOMO TO RESUME CAPRO PRODUCTION END OF JUNE
Domo Caproleuna is on schedule to resume caprolactam production out of its plant in Leuna, Germany, at the end of June. “We are still in shutdown. We will be back the last week of June,” a source said. The annual maintenance turnaround at the 160,000 tonne/year unit started in early June. This coincides with an unplanned outage at Schchkeinoazot JSC’s 50,000 tonne/year plant in Tula, Russia, which is due back up in the second-half of July.

LANXESS STARTS UP NEW RUBBER PRODUCTION LINE
Germany-based LANXESS has started up the €18m expansion of its polychloroprene solid rubber facility in Dormagen, increasing the site’s total production capacity by 10% to 63,000 tonnes/year, the specialty chemicals firm said. The company produces at the site its Baypren branded solid rubber, which it said helps cut water consumption and waste gas emissions by reducing production steps, conserving resources and eliminating the need for gas to dry the rubber when manufacturing product.

EUROZONE APRIL CONSTRUCTION UP ON YEAR
The construction industry in the eurozone is showing signs of a recovery with production in the sector in April rising 8% year on year, while the EU as a whole saw a 7.2% increase over the same period, European statistical agency Eurostat said. Construction sector growth in the eurozone was supported by gains of 9.4% in building construction and 2.8% in civil engineering.

GERMANY INVESTOR CONFIDENCE FALLS AGAIN
German investor confidence fell for the sixth straight month in June on signs that growth in Europe’s largest economy is slowing down in the current second quarter. Mannheim-based ZEW centre for European economic research said that its monthly economic expectations index for Germany fell 3.3 points to 29.8 in June. The index is based on a survey of 234 financial market analysts. June’s decline was less marked than May’s when the index lost 10.1 points from April.

PCC ROKITA IPO RAISES €24M FOR POLYOLS
Poland’s PCC Rokita is to spend up to zloty (Zl) 98.3m (€23.7m) raised from an initial public offering (IPO) on expanding its polyurethane (PU) systems and polyols capacities and on research and development. The successful IPO meant PCC Rokita could pursue a Zl 50m investment plan which over the next three years would see its polyols capacity rise from 20,000 tonnes/year to 50,000 tonnes/year and its PU systems capacity grow from 100,000 tonnes/year to 130,000 tonnes/year.

UNCONVENTIONAL OIL REVOLUTION TO EXPAND
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said the “unconventional supply revolution” taking place in North America is likely expand to other countries by 2019 but stated global oil demand growth is slowing down on the back of OPEC capacity facing headwinds. In its Medium-Term Oil Market Report 2014, the agency said many countries will try to replicate the US “success story” by 2019 with the extraction of shale gas and light, tight oil (LTO).

EU PASSENGER CAR REGISTRATIONS RISE
Demand for new passenger cars in the EU increased for the ninth consecutive month with a 4.5% year-on-year rise in registrations in May, the industry body the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) said. However, in absolute figures, the ACEA added that the total of 1,093,448 units registered marked the second lowest result to date for a month of May since the industry body began the series in 2003 with the enlarged EU.

ECHA IDENTIFIES CHEMS OF HIGH CONCERN
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has added four more chemicals to the EU’s Candidate List of toxic chemicals, it said, including the bleaching agent sodium perborate. The ECHA said it had added cadmium chloride; branched and linear forms of 1,2-benzenedicarboxylic acid, dihexyl ester; sodium peroxometaborate; and sodium perborate (the sodium salt of perboric acid) to the Candidate List which now includes 155 substances.

AKZONOBEL MAKES MAELYS CASTELLA ITS NEW CFO
AkzoNobel has appointed Maelys Castella as its new CFO, effective from 15 September this year, the Dutch paints and coatings major said. Castella succeeds Keith Nichols, who will be leaving the company, AkzoNobel said in a statement. Castella has worked for French industrial gases group Air Liquide for the past 14 years, most recently as group deputy CFO. She will be based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Americas

AIR PRODUCTS APPOINTS GHASEMI AS CEO
US-based Air Products has named Rockwood CEO Seifi Ghasemi as its new chairman, president and CEO, effective from 1 July. Ghasemi will occupy the position held by John McGlade who will retire on 30 June, having held the position of president and CEO Air Products since 2007, and chairman of the board since 2008. Ghasemi has been the chairman and CEO of US-based specialty chemicals producer Rockwood since 2001. Rockwood has named CFO Robert Zatta as acting CEO, effective 1 July. Rockwood said it would soon start a process to find a new CEO, and said Zatta would be one of the candidates.

NOVA SHUTS EPS PLANT FOR MAINTENANCE
Expandable polystyrene (EPS) producer NOVA Chemicals started a turnaround at its Monaca plant in Pennsylvania, US, a company spokesman said. The turnaround began on 16 June, and is expected to last for five days, sources said. The turnaround is contributing to snug supply in the US EPS market, particularly as supplier inventory levels were already low following a three-week long outage at Flint Hills Resources EPS plant in Peru, Illinois, US.

SHELL TAKES CANADIAN STYRENE PLANT DOWN
Shell Canada confirmed that its styrene plant in Alberta, Canada, will be off line for the remainder of June. Trade sources had said the facility, which has a styrene capacity of 45,000 tonnes/year, would be off line for the month. The company did not say exactly when the facility went down or if it was planned or unplanned downtime. However, the downtime comes as US styrene supply has gotten tighter because of recent or ongoing production issues. As a result, many US styrene producers are sold out of material for June.

PPG INVESTS $40M TO BRAZIL COATINGS SITE
US-based PPG Industries plans to invest $40m to expand its coatings manufacturing facility at Sumare in Brazil’s Sao Paulo state. The expansion project will add a 65,000-square-foot plant for on-site resin production. The resin will be used to manufacture PPG’s electrocoat products to meet growing demand from automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and industrial coatings customers in the region. PPG expects to complete the project in 2015.

MITSUBISHI RAYON, MITSUI IN MMA VENTURE
Mitsubishi Rayon Co (MRC) and trading firm Mitsui & Co have signed a memorandum of understanding for a methyl methacrylate (MMA) monomer joint venture in the US, the two Japanese companies said. MRC and Mitsui will begin detailed feasibility studies to establish the US-based joint venture with a new world-scale production facility. MRC will be the majority shareholder. The joint venture plans to build and start up a new 250,000 tonne/year MMA plant in the US at an unspecified location at the end of 2018.

WILLIAMS DELAYS RESTART OF GEISMAR CRACKER
Williams expects to start up its expanded and rebuilt Geismar cracker in late July instead of late June, with ethylene sales starting in mid-August, it said. Not only is the work at Geismar taking longer, it is also costing more money, the company said. Williams now expects the project to cost $715m, up by $65m. The Geismar cracker was in midst of a turnaround for an expansion when an explosion occurred in June 2013 that led to two deaths and numerous injuries. The expanded plant will have a capacity of 885,000 tonnes/year, up from 613,000 tonnes/year.

CP CHEM STARTS UP 1-HEXENE PLANT
Chevron Phillips Chemical has completed the start-up of a 1-hexene plant, which will supply customers’ and the company’s own polyethylene (PE) facilities. The plant is an addition at the Cedar Bayou facility in Baytown, Texas, US. The hexene will be used as a feedstock at the company’s planned PE plants in Old Ocean, Texas, spokeswoman Teresa Roberts said. With a capacity of 250,000 tonnes/year, the 1-hexene plant is the world’s largest on-purpose 1-hexene plant.

US EPA ISSUES GHG PERMIT FOR ASCEND PDH PLANT
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a greenhouse gas permit for a propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plant that Ascend Performance Materials plans to build in Chocolate Bayou, Texas. Ascend is developing the plant under the name C3 Petrochemicals. It will be in Chocolate Bayou, Texas, in Brazoria County, and it will have a capacity of 1.17m tonnes/year. Ascend should complete the plant in Q3 2015. The EPA said that the PDH unit will use a continuous catalytic regenerator that does not use combustion or steam, resulting in fewer greenhouse gases. The cost of the plant is $1.2bn, the EPA said.

NOVA USES FIRST BAKKEN ETHANE AT ALBERTA COMPLEX
Canada-based NOVA Chemicals has begun using the first barrels of ethane from North Dakota’s Bakken shale region at its cracking complex in Joffre, north of Calgary in Alberta province, Canada. The ethane was produced at a processing plant in Tioga, North Dakota, US and shipped across the border into Alberta via the Vantage Pipeline, which connects to the Alberta Ethane Gathering System (AEGS). Vantage has an initial design capacity of 40,000 bbl/day but is expandable to more than 60,000 bbl/day, “a volume that reflects more than 20% of Alberta’s existing installed ethylene production capacity,” NOVA said.

Asia

CHINA’S TOSOH SHUTS ITS GUANGZHOU PVC UNIT
China’s Guangzhou Tosoh has shut down its 220,000 tonne/year PVC unit at Guangzhou on 9 June for maintenance, a company source said. The shutdown will last for around three days and it the plant will restart on 12 June, the source added. The unit was operated at around 100% of capacity before it was taken off line. Guangzhou Tosoh has offered its June PVC products at yuan (CNY) 7,300/tonne ($1,170/tonne) EXW (ex-works) on 22 May, and deal prices were at around CNY 7,100/tonne EXW, according to the company.

NINGXIA JIEMEI FENGYOU 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. Construction of the plant started in the third quarter of 2011, the source said, without disclosing the financial details of the project.

JAPAN’S APRIL PLASTIC FEEDSTOCKS OUTPUT FALLS
Japan’s production of plastic feedstocks decreased by 1.1% year on year to 818,800 tonnes in April, official data from the Japan Plastics Industry Federation (JPIF) showed. Among these resins, production of polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) rose by 5.3% year on year to 18,317 tonnes in April, while output of foamed polyurethanes (PU) increased by 7.3% to 16,359 tonnes, according to the federation. Production of polycarbonate (PC) fell by 19% year on year to 21,046 tonnes.

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.

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.

CHINA’S HANBANG SHUTS PTA UNIT FOR MAINTENANCE
China’s Hanbang Petrochemical on Tuesday 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 turnaround

ADVANCED BIOCHEMICAL SHUTS ECH PLANT
Advanced Biochemical (Thailand) on 7 June shut its 100,000 tonne/year epichlorohydrin 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. Further details on the unit’s operating rate prior to the turnaround could not be confirmed. Spot supply to regular buyers is not expected to be affected, the source said.

SINOPEC YANGZI RUNS NORMALLY AFTER FIRE
China’s Sinopec Yangzi is running all its units normally, after a fire broke out at a sulphur recovery unit early in the afternoon, a company source said. “So far, the fire has no impact on our crude throughput,” according to the company source. The fire happened at a downstream chemical plant and has been put out, the company source added. Located at Nanjing in east China, Sinopec Yangzi has a crude refining capacity of 160,000 bbl/day.

CHINA’S YIHAI KERRY RUNS JIANGSU 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.

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.

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