News in brief

25 July 2014 09:55 Source:ICIS Chemical Business


US manufacturing to show moderate growth
Photo: © Rex Features



Goldman Sachs to buy 30% of Petkim’s port

Investment banking group Goldman Sachs has struck a preliminary deal to buy a 30% stake in a container port being constructed by Turkish petrochemical producer Petkim, the manufacturer said Under the agreement, the stake in port subsidiary Petkim Limancilik (Petlim) would be sold to Goldman Sachs for $250m, it added. The $400m Aegean Gateway Terminal (AGT) is expected to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2015.

KPMG to take over consultancy Stratley

Accounting and consultancy firm KPMG said it will take over Stratley, a strategy consultancy for the chemical industry, to strengthen its strategic competence. Stratley is based in Cologne, but also has offices in Hamburg, Dubai and Shanghai. Both parties agreed to not disclose the price. “Competitive pressures are increasing continually. In all these fields, the competencies of KPMG and Stratley in strategic consulting complement each other excellently,” said Leif Zierz, head of Transactions & Restructuring at KPMG.

Evonik, AkzoNobel in talks for electrolysis facility

Evonik and AkzoNobel have started negotiations for the construction of a membrane electrolysis facility, to be finalised before the end of the year, the Germany-headquartered chemicals producer said. Talks are centred on the formation of a joint venture to construct and share the operation of a membrane facility – located in Netherlands-headquartered AkzoNobel’s Ibbenburen, Germany site – for potassium hydroxide solution and chlorine.

Russia chemicals imports, exports down

Russia’s overall imports and exports of chemical products were largely down in January-May 2014, with only potash exports increasing, the country’s customs agency said. Russia’s total imports of chemical products amounted to $18.46bn in January-May, down 7.1% year on year, the Russian Federal Customs Service said. The country’s total exports of chemical products amounted to $11.9bn in January-May, 6.3% lower year on year. Russia’s exports of nitrogen fertilizers amounted to $1.38bn in January-May, down 8.4% year on year, it said.

Wacker upgrades 2014 earnings forecast

Wacker Chemie has upgraded its earnings forecast for 2014 on the back of strong demand at its polysilicons division and its cost reduction programme, the German chemical firm said. With the revised earnings forecast, Wacker expects 2014’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to be “at least one third higher than in 2013.” Wacker’s 2013 EBITDA stood at €679m.

Germany chems see building renovation as key

Germany’s chemical industry trade group VCI called on Berlin to promote the renovation of old buildings as a key measure to reach the country’s 2020 greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target. The group was reacting to a warning by environment minister Barbara Hendricks that Germany may need to take additional measures if it is to meet its target of reducing GHGs by at least 40% by 2020, from 1990 levels. The main reason for the likely miss are emissions from coal-based power plants, which are projected to rise in line with GDP.

Vencorex lifts FM on chlorine, caustic soda

Vencorex has lifted a force majeure declaration on chlorine and caustic soda manufactured at its Le Pont-de-Claix site in France, a source at the chloralkali company confirmed. The force majeure was put in place at the end of June, resulting from some downtime caused by a labour dispute. Toluene diisocyanate (TDI) production at Le Pont-de-Claix had also been impacted by the labour dispute, but no force majeure had been declared on this product. Vencorex is a joint venture between Thailand’s PTT Global Chemical and the Perstorp Group.

Austria’s OMV Q2 petchem business results weaker

Austrian oil and gas group OMV said its petrochemicals performance in the second quarter of this year was lower than the preceding three-month period, primarily because of a decrease in ethylene spreads. Refining margins increased slightly from April to June compared with the first quarter, driven mainly by improved gasoline spreads. However, this was more than offset by lower refinery utilisation rates because of the turnarounds at the Petrobrazi and Schwechat refineries as well as a shutdown in Bayernoil, OMV said in a trading update. OMV’s second-quarter results will be published on 12 August.


Construction on Dow’s PDH plant 30% completed

Dow Chemical has completed about 30% of the construction of its propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit in Freeport, Texas, the CEO said on 23 July. The on-purpose propylene unit is on track for a mid-2015 startup, said Andrew Liveris. That is later than the Q1 2015 estimate that Liveris gave during an earnings conference call held earlier in the year. Once the plant reaches its full run rate, it should contribute $450m/year in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA).

US manufacturing to grow through 2014

The broad US manufacturing sector is likely to experience moderate but steady growth through the rest of this year, although the pace of expansion could slow somewhat in the new year, according to the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation’s quarterly assessment of the health of US manufacturing industries. The survey of senior financial executives across a broad range of manufacturing industries measures shipments, orders, inventory and profit margins, among others, to develop a composite business outlook index.

Americas Styrenics declares fM on styrene

Americas Styrenics sent a letter to customers announcing effective 1 August until further notice, it is declaring force majeure for all styrene sales, because of reduced feedstock ethylene supply and a force majeure from a critical supplier. Americas Styrenics said its supplier’s ethylene force majeure was declared on 11 July, and its own current ethylene supply was also limited because of this. The company added that it is working to minimize the impact on all customers and is looking to return to full production values as soon as possible.

US LyondellBasell restarts Texas cracker

US producer LyondellBasell restarted its La Porte cracker in Texas, sources confirmed. The cracker has been down since 23 March and was scheduled for an 80-day turnaround to add 363,000 tonnes/year of ethylene capacity. The new capacity brings the ethylene capacity at the cracker to 1.152m tonnes/year, according to ICIS plants and projects. Sources said that despite the restart, the cracker is not running at full rates, and that the force majeure Lyondell declared has not been lifted.

OCI methanol, ammonia plants in Texas restart

OCI’s Texas methanol and ammonia plants resumed operations after being shut down because of a lightning strike several days earlier. An OCI official said both plants were up and running again. The lightning strike had caused a plant-wide electrical outage, according to a filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The site’s ammonia capacity is 265,000 tonnes/year. The methanol capacity is 730,000 tonnes/year. In the fourth quarter, OCI plans to shut down the plant to complete a debottlenecking project.

Tesoro plans xylene extraction project

Tesoro announced plans for a $400m petrochemical feedstock project in its US West Coast refining system, which will extract xylene from its Anacortes refinery in Washington. The San Antonio, Texas-based refining company intends to gather intermediate feedstock, primarily reformate, for xylene extraction and will be designed to recover up to 15,000 bbl/day of mixed xylene (MX). The MX will mainly be exported to Asia for downstream consumption in polyester fibers, films for clothing, food packaging and beverage containers.

Zeogas to use Exxon tech for plant on US Gulf

Houston-based Zeogas has agreed to use ExxonMobil’s methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) technology in developing a plant on the US Gulf Coast. Zeogas did not state where on the Gulf Coast that the plant would be built. The company first announced in late February that it would build a 5,000 tonnes/day methanol plant that would produce 16,500 bbls/day of gasoline. ExxonMobil’s methanol-to-gasoline technology was first used in 1985 by New Zealand Synfuels, a 14,500 bbl/day gas-to-gasoline plant in New Zealand.

DSM to build films site in North America

Royal DSM is to build a polymerisation plant in North America to manufacture polyamide 6 polymer for film grades used in food packaging. The high viscosity extrusion grades to be manufactured at the new plant – commercialised under the branded name Akulon polyamide 6 – would allow reduction of waste. Construction of the plant at an undisclosed location is scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of 2014 and be concluded by mid-2016.


Formosa Plastics to shut EVA plants

Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp plans to shut its two ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) plants in Mailiao in August for an overhaul in August in tandem with the turnaround of its feedstock supplier Formosa Petrochemical Corp’s (FPCC) naphtha cracker at the same site, a company official said. Formosa Plastics Corp operates a 168,000 tonne/year tubular EVA plant as well as a 72,000 tonne/year EVA/low density polyethylene (LDPE) swing plant at the Mailiao site.

Taiwan’s FCFC shuts PP unit for maintenance

Formosa Chemicals and Fibre Corp (FCFC) shut its 180,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) unit at Mailiao on 21 July for regular maintenance, a company source said. The shutdown is expected to last for one month, the source added. Supply of PP block copolymer pipe (PPB) grade may decrease due to the shutdown as FCFC is a main PPB pipe producer exporting to China, market sources said.

China’s Yisheng Petchem shuts No 4 PTA unit

China’s Zhejiang Yisheng Petrochemical shut down its 2.2m tonne/year purified terephthalic (PTA) No 4 unit in Ningbo on 21 July on mechanical issues, a company source said. The plant in Zhejiang province is expected to be restarted around 26-27 July, the source said. Prior to the shutdown, the plant was running at 80% of capacity. The shutdown caused the average operating rates of China’s PTA plants to fall by three percentage points to 65%, according to Chemease, an ICIS service in China.

Advanced Biochemical shuts ECH plant

Advanced Biochemical (Thailand) on 19 July shut its 100,000 tonne/year epichlorohydrin (ECH) plant in Map Ta Phut for 10 days, a company source said. The unit is shut due to technical issues at its upstream vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plant, which are affecting the output of feedstock hydrogen chloride (HCL) used in ECH production, the source said. The unit is scheduled to be restarted on 29 July, the source added. The company is limiting its exports of spot cargoes as it is stocking up to meet the contractual requirements of its customers, the source said.

South Korea’s Lotte shuts glycol ethers unit

South Korea’s Lotte Chemical has shut down its 50,000 tonne/year glycol ethers plant in Daesan because of ongoing mechanical issues, a company source said. The company began to gradually reduce the plant’s operating rate from “below 70% capacity”, until the plant was fully shut down on the morning of 21 July, the source said. The plant is expected to stay off line for about a month, as technicians await the delivery of replacement parts from overseas before they can begin mechanical repairs, the source said.

China’s Jinyimeng cuts etac plant op rate

China’s Jinyimeng Group is running its ethyl acetate (etac) plant in Shandong province at a “very low rate” because of limited availability of raw material acetic acid, a company source said. The producer may shut down its 200,0000 tonne/year etac plant in Shandong should the availability of feedstock tighten further, the source said. Jinyimeng on 17 July took its 150,000 tonne/year etac plant at Lianyungang in Jiangsu province off line for the same reason, the source added.

Sumitomo Chemical runs EPDM plant at 100%

Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical would be operating its 40,000 tonne/year ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) plant in Chiba prefecture at full capacity in July and August because of strong domestic demand, a company source said. The company has limited spot material for export because of its domestic contractual commitments, the source added.

China’s Sinopec H1 ethylene output rises 5%

Sinopec produced about 5.1m tonnes of ethylene in the first half of 2014, up 5.0% from the previous corresponding period, China’s biggest refiner said. Its production of synthetic resins in the first six months of the year rose 3.5% year on year to about 7m tonnes, while output of synthetic rubbers grew 5.7% to 483,000 tonnes, the company said in a statement. Sinopec produced some 177.9m barrels of crude and 354.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas in January-June 2014, up 7.5% and 9.5% year on year, respectively.

Middle East/Africa

Saudi Arabia’s SABIC Q2 net profit rises by 6.95%

Saudi Basic Industries Corp’s (SABIC) net profit rose by 6.95% year on year to Saudi riyal (SR) 6.46bn ($1.72bn) in the second quarter of this year on the back of higher output and sales volumes. The company’s gross profit rose by 2.76% year on year to SR13.4bn while its operating profit was up by 1% at SR10.1bn. The rise in net profit was also due to improved “sales prices for certain products, income from associated companies and other income as well as lower financial charges”, it added.

CB&I wins $50m contract award for Oman complex

US-based engineering firm CB&I has won a contract valued over $50m for work on a refinery and petrochemicals complex being developed in Oman by Oman Refineries and Petrochemical Compny (Orpic). The contract was awarded by South Korea-based Daelim Industrial and UK-headquartered Petrofac, which jointly-won a contract to build the complex in November 2013, and includes the design and supply of delayed coking, hydrocracking, crude and vacuum heaters and a steam reformer for the facility.