News in brief

04 July 2014 10:13 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

Europe

INEOS to acquire BASF’s 50% Styrolution stake
INEOS is to acquire an additional 50% stake in styrenics producer Styrolution from joint venture partner BASF for €1.1bn, the Switzerland-headquartered chemicals producer said. Giving INEOS sole ownership of the business, the deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year. The purchase is subject to regulatory approval, with Styrolution to remain an independent company until completion of the deal, and to become a subsidiary of INEOS Industries Holding once the sale has received the green light.

Poland’s Lotos acquires land for €3bn site
Grupa Lotos said it is to acquire 13 acres of land next to its Gdansk refinery in northern Poland to potentially build a €3bn petrochemical complex in a joint venture with Grupa Azoty. The planned complex could eventually rank as Europe’s third big petrochemicals cluster behind Ludwigshafen, home to Germany’s BASF main site, and the Port of Antwerp, according to second largest Polish refiner Lotos and largest Polish chemical producer Azoty.

Bayer to close Darmstadt polycarbonate plant
Germany-based Bayer is to close its plastic polycarbonate production facility in Darmstadt as a result of market overcapacity and weak demand. The closure will affect 90 employees at the Bayer MaterialScience (BMS) site, with European customers to be supplied from sites in Nera Montoro, Italy, and Tielt, Belgium. The decision to shutter the site follows a review of Bayer’s global polycarbonate business, which concluded customer demand is insufficient to absorb overcapacities.

Dutch Vopak to divest smaller terminals
Vopak plans to divest 15 of its smaller terminals that contribute about 4% to overall earnings following a review of its business operations, the Dutch logistics firm said. The company updated its terminal portfolio criteria to cover major hubs that support intercontinental products flows; terminals facilitating growth in the global gas markets; import distribution terminals in major markets with structure deficits; and industrial and chemicals terminals, in the Americas, the Middle East and Asia.

Domo acquires flexible packaging business
Domo Chemicals has acquired CFP Flexible Packaging Spa, an Italy-based producer of biaxially-oriented polyamide film, from private equity firm Bridgepoint, the Belgium-headquartered chemicals producer said. CFP produces specialty films for the packaging industry and has around 100 employees, Domo said. Domo specialises in nylon 6 and caprolactam production, and the purchase fits into its plans to expand, and to strengthen its nylon 6 value chain. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Spolchemie plans ECH, epoxy resins turnaround
Spolchemie, the Czech Republic-based epoxy resins manufacturer, is planning an 18 day maintenance shutdown of its liquid epoxy resins (LER) plant from 15 August, a company source said. The plant, located in Usti nad Labem, has a capacity of 60,000 tonnes/year. Furthermore, Spolchemie also plans a subsequent maintenance turnaround at its 26,000 tonne/year epichlorohydrin (ECH) plant from the 6-15 September. A company source said the shutdowns have been timed to coincide with the seasonal summer lull in demand.

OMV completes divestment stake in refiner Bayernoil
Austria’s energy and petrochemicals major OMV said it has completed the sale of its 45% stake in Germany-based refiner Bayernoil to Varo Energy. OMV did not disclose financial details but it said the sale was part of a divestment programme that targets up to €1bn in proceeds by the end of 2014. “With the sale of Bayernoil, OMV’s optimisation of the refinery portfolio is completed,” added Manfred Leitner, OMV executive board member.

Vencorex TDI, chloralkali ops in restart mode
Vencorex is in the process of restarting its French Le-Pont-de-Claix manufacturing site which produces chemicals such as chlorine, caustic soda and toluene di-isocyanate (TDI), following the end of a recent labour dispute which had led to a plant shutdown, said a company source. Operations at Le-Pont-de-Claix are now being ramped up step by step. Precise details about the duration of the shutdown period and labour disturbance were not available.


Americas

US Univar files for initial public offering
US chemical distributor Univar has filed a registration statement with regulators for an initial public offering (IPO). Univar has yet to determine the number of shares it will issue or the price range. The lead book-running managers are Deutsche Bank Securities, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Other book-running managers include Barclays, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan, Jefferies and Morgan Stanley. In 2013, Univar held the top market position in North America and the No 2 position in Europe, according to the registration statement.

Brazil Braskem plans to build PE plant in Texas
Braskem plans to build a new polyethylene (PE) plant at its complex in La Porte, Texas, the resins producer announced. The new plant will produce ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) under Braskem’s trade name UTEC. The product has excellent mechanical properties, is eight times lighter than steel and lasts 10 times longer than high density PE (HDPE), Braskem said. UTEC is used in the construction, agriculture, automotive, textile, pulp and paper, food and beverage, coal and mining, high performance fibres, battery separators and waste-water treatment industries.

US automobile sales rise 1.4% in June year on year
US automobile sales reached 1.42m in June, up 1.4% from 1.40m in June 3013, according to Autodata statistics. June car sales were 703,000, down 0.8% from 709,000 from the same time last year, according to Autodata, which compiles the sales statistics released from auto makers. Light truck sales reached 718,000, up 3.2% from 696,000 from June 2013, Autodata said.

US manufacturing grows in June for 13th month
US manufacturing industries expanded in June for the 13th consecutive month, a key survey said, but the rate of growth eased slightly from the pace seen in May. In its monthly purchasing managers index (PMI), the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said that the index fell by a slim 0.1 percentage point to 55.3% for June, down from the May reading of 55.4%.

US PPG completes acquisition of distributor
US coatings and specialty materials firm PPG Industries has completed the acquisition of architectural paint distributor Masterwork Paint, the company said. The acquisition of Masterwork’s 13-store network in western Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York will expand PPG’s network of company-owned stores, it said. PPG distributes through three channels: company-owned stores, independent dealers and home centres. Financial details were not disclosed. The deal was first announced on 10 June.

US CP Chem to expand alpha olefins capacity
Chevron Phillips Chemical plans to expand alpha olefins capacity at its Cedar Bayou plant in Baytown, Texas, the US-based producer said. The project should be completed in July 2015, and it will increase capacity by 100,000 tonnes/year. S&B Engineers and Constructors will handle the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC). The company’s board of directors approved the project, and it received an environmental permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

US PPG to acquire Mexico coatings firm Comex
PPG Industries is to acquire Mexican coatings firm Consorcio Comex in a deal valued at $2.3bn, the US-based firm said. Mexico City-based Comex makes coatings and related products which it sells through around 3,600 independently owned stores. The privately held company, which employs around 3,900 people, had sales of approximately $1bn in 2013. It has eight manufacturing facilities and six distribution centres.

US ethane production at record high
US ethane production set another record high in the month of April, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said. Ethane production rose to 33.123m bbl in the month of April, according to the latest statistics released from the EIA. That’s a month-on-month increase of 1.0% and year-on-year increase of 19.8%. Ethane is abundant in the massive shale gas fields of the US. So much so, that analysts estimate ethane rejection at 200,000-300,000 bbl/day. Even at those levels, ethane production has hit an all-time high for two months in a row.

Dow Texas VAM plant on 50% allocation
Dow Chemical’s Texas vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) plant has put customers on 50% sales control and may be down, customers said. A Dow spokeswoman issued a statement saying, “We are currently troubleshooting an issue with our VAM assets and are in the process of 
evaluating the path forward.” A state filing by Dow on 26 June said a tube leak in the reactor caused ethylene emissions at its 365,000 tonnes/year VAM unit in Texas City.


Asia

China to build new Shanghai MDI plant
China will have a new 240,000 tonne/year crude methyl diphenylmethane diisocyanate (MDI) plant in Shanghai that will be jointly built by five companies, including Germany’s BASF and US’ Huntsman, the two foreign partners said. The three Chinese partners are Shanghai Hua Yi (Group) Co, Shanghai Chlor-Akali Chemical Co and Sinopec Group Assets Management Corp, BASF and Huntsman said in a statement.

Sinopec Maoming to shut Guangdong PBR plant
China’s Sinopec Maoming Petrochemical plans to shut down its 100,000 tonne/year polybutadiene rubber (PBR) plant in Guangdong province from 13-18 July to conduct equipment maintenance, a company source said. The PBR plant will operate at 67% before the shutdown, the source said, adding that the producer will restart it on 19 July. Sinopec Maoming could ease its inventory pressure through the shutdown of this plant, market sources said.

Shaanxi Binchang Mining Group building plant
China’s Shaanxi Binchang Mining Group started construction at its new 300,000 tonne/year coal-based monoethylene glycol (MEG) plant on 29 June, a statement from the company said. Shaanxi Binchang Mining Group is a subsidiary of Shaanxi Coal and Chemical Industry Group. The new MEG plant will increase coal purchasing volume for the parent company, the statement added. The plant, with an investment of yuan (CNY) 5bn, will consume 1.3m tonnes/year of coal, but the company did not disclose when it will be started up.

UPC Group in talks to build plasticizers unit
Taiwan’s UPC Chemicals (Malaysia) has plans to construct a 100,000 tonne/year plasticizers unit in Johor Bahru, a company source said. The plan, however, has not been firmed up and is currently under consideration by the Malaysian government, the source said. It is likely that the plan will be firmed up by the end of this year, the source added. The plant will produce diisononyl phthalate (DINP) and other types of plasticizers, the source said.

Asahi Kasei ponders lower output for styrene
Japan’s Asahi Kasei Corp plans to lower the output at its styrene monomer (SM) operations in July, a company source said. The company operates a 320,000 tonne/year No 2 and 390,000 tonne/year No 3 SM units in Mizushima. Its 150,000 tonne/year No 1 unit was mothballed in 2007. “We are experiencing poor economics due to high feedstock costs,” the source added. Feedstock benzene values surged above $1,400/tonne FOB (free on board) Korea in late June after hovering around $1,250/tonne FOB Korea in the first half of May, according to ICIS data.

China’s Zhejiang Weibo Chemicals shut DOP unit
China’s Zhejiang Weibo Chemicals planned to shut its 100,000 tonne/year dioctyl phthalate (DOP) unit at Jiaxing in Zhejiang province on 2 July for equipment maintenance, a source close to the company said. The high cost of feedstock 2-ethylhexanol (2-EH) and phthalic anhydride (PA) was also partly the reason for the unit to be taken off line, the source added. The plant will be restarted on 20 July. The unit’s shutdown is not likely to raise DOP prices further in the Chinese domestic market, because of the weak demand, a trader said.

China’s ZRCC restarts BD unit at Ningbo
China’s Sinopec Zhenhai Refining & Chemical Corp (ZRCC) has restarted its 165,000 tonne/year butadiene (BD) unit at Ningbo in Zhejiang province after a 45-day turnaround and BD supply is expected to ease in China, market sources said. “Sinopec Zhenhai restarted the BD unit on 30 June, and we expect BD supply in China to ease soon,” a market source said. The BD unit was taken off line on 16 May for maintenance.

PBT unit run rates in China hold steady
Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT)’s operating rates in China held steady for the third consecutive week at a low 29% on 1 July as production rates were deemed to have bottomed out, market sources said. According to ICIS data, average operating rates in China at local PBT facilities declined from 58% on 1 April to 29% on 10 June. This significant cutback in production rates was accounted for by persistently lacklustre demand for PBT and an existing supply overhang in the northeast Asian region.

Thailand’s IRPC restarts Rayong DCC by end June
Thailand’s IRPC has restarted its deep catalytic cracking (DCC) unit at the 215,000 bbl/day refinery in Rayong towards the end of June, a company source said. The source did not provide any details on the operating rates of the unit. Other sources familiar with the company said the plant is likely to operate at reduced rates due to insufficient feedstock. IRPC shut an upstream vacuum gas oil hydrotreater (VGOHT) unit on 9 June following a fire. The DCC unit can produce 132,000 tonnes/year of propylene as well as 1.3m litres/day each of diesel and gasoline.

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