News in brief

07 August 2014 18:05 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

AMERICAS

WILLIAMS DELAYS CRACKER RESTART UNTIL SEP
Williams has delayed the restart of its Geismar cracker in Louisiana, US until September, with first ethylene production and sales targeted for October. The company has delayed the start-up of the rebuilt and expanded cracker several times, after a June 2013 explosion that killed two people and injured 80. The expanded plant will have a capacity of 885,000 tonnes/year, up from 613,000 tonnes/year.

METHANEX PLANS Q4 RESTART IN LOUISIANA
Methanex plans to restart a plant it has moved from Chile to Louisiana at some point in the fourth quarter of 2014. The methanol producer plans to restart a second Chile unit that is being moved to Geismar, Louisiana, US by early 2016. Methanex’s two Geismar plants will each produce 1m tonnes/year. The producer also is considering moving a third idled plant in Chile.

STYROLUTION BRINGS STYRENE UNIT BACK UP
Styrolution’s Texas City, Texas, US facility is back up and running after routine maintenance. Although Styrolution did not specify the details of the maintenance work, the start-up was in line with company’s week-long timeframe. The Texas City facility has styrene capacity of 450,000 tonnes/year.

AMERICAS STYRENICS RUNS UNIT AT REDUCED RATES
Americas Styrenics’ St James, Louisiana, US facility was running at reduced rates as it was on force majeure. The St James facility has a combined styrene capacity of 950,000 tonnes/year. Americas Styrenics sent a letter to customers on 22 July announcing that 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.

LYONDELLBASELL LIFTS US ETHYLENE FORCE MAJEURE
LyondellBasell has lifted its force majeure on ethylene following the restart of its La Porte cracker in Texas, US. The force majeure was lifted on 28 July, a source close to the company said. The cracker had been down since 23 March for an expansion, which will bring its ethylene capacity to 1.152m tonnes/year.

TURNAROUND DONE AT BASF OXO-ALCOHOL UNIT
A scheduled maintenance turnaround at BASF’s oxo-alcohol plant in Freeport, Texas, US has been completed and the facility is now producing at normal levels. The turnaround began in late May and finished in July. A source at BASF said there are no production issues with its Freeport facility at this time. Yearly production capacities at the BASF oxo-alcohol facility are 240,000 tonnes for n-butanol (NBA) and 160,000 tonnes for 2-ethylhexanol (2-EH).

GENOMATICA TO DEVELOP BIO-BASED NYLON CHEMS
Genomatica announced a programme to develop process technologies for the bio-based production of nylon intermediates, including hexamethylenediamine (HMD), caprolactam and adipic acid (ADA). Genomatica aims to providing on-purpose alternatives which avoid the volatility of current raw materials such as benzene or adiponitrile. Genomatica expects that the development will take several years.

OCI BEAUMONT GETS EPA PERMIT FOR EXPANSION
OCI Partners’ debottleneck project on its Texas methanol and ammonia units received a greenhouse gas permit from the US Environmental Protection Agency. The $178m project, expected to be completed in the fourth quarter this year, will increase the size of the Beaumont methanol unit by 25% to 912,500 tonnes/year of capacity from the current 730,000 tonnes/year. It will also increase the ammonia unit’s capacity by 15% to 305,000 tonnes.

AMERICAN SECURITIES BUYS EMERALD
Specialty chemicals producer Emerald Performance Materials has been sold to American Securities by an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners. Emerald, headquartered in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, US, serves end-markets such as flavours and fragrances, food and beverage, personal and household care, composites, structural adhesives, coatings and flooring. The company was created by the divestiture of six separate chemicals businesses by a corporate parent. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

CM&E GROUP TO PRESENT AWARD TO KICHER
The Chemical Marketing and Economics (CM&E) group will present its Leadership Award for Distinction in Private Equity to Thomas Kichler, managing director of OEP, at the Yale Club Ballroom in New York on 4 December. “Mr. Kichler’s record in capturing growth opportunities in the highly competitive field of chemicals M&A and creating value through bold acquisitions is remarkable,” said George Rodriguez, CM&E chairman.


EUROPE

MEXICHEM TO BUY GERMANY’S VESTOLIT
Mexichem has agreed to buy Germany-based polyvinyl chloride (PVC) producer Vestolit for €219m, owner SVP Global said. Vestolit produces paste PVC for flooring, wallpaper and under body protection for cars. It is also the only producer of high impact suspension PVC (HIS-PVC) for weather-resistant and energy-efficient windows, SVP Global said. The Marl-based company makes alkyl chlorides. It has a total installed production capacity of 415,000 tonnes/year and in 2013 produced sales of €477m.

LANXESS TO CONSOLIDATE UNITS FROM JAN 2015
Germany-based LANXESS said it is undertaking a restructuring program that will involve the consolidation of several business units effective from 1 January 2015. The company will merge certain business units, reducing their number to 10 from 14, and will streamline its “global administration by reducing the workforce on a cross-functional basis and consolidating specific areas of activity”. “This more efficient organisational structure is designed to enhance LANXESS’ market and customer focus and reduce costs,” it said.

LANXESS Q2 NET PROFIT SURGES TO €55M
Germany-based LANXESS’ net income surged to €55m in the second quarter of this year from €9m in the same period a year earlier, partly on the back of lower exceptional charges. Sales fell by 5.7% year on year to €2.02bn in April-June this year, while underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was up by 20.7% to €239m.

GERMANY NEW CAR REGISTRATIONS RISE 6.8%
The number of new cars registered in Germany in July rose 6.8% year over year to 270,249, a German government agency said. Compared with June, registrations were down 2.7%. From January to July, registrations were up 3.0% year over year to 1,808,517, Flensburg-based Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA) said. Germany’s Volkswagen remained the market leader with 384,767 or 21.3% of new car registrations in the first seven months of 2014, followed by Mercedes with 8.9%.

FORTISCHEM MAINTENANCE IN SLOVAKIA UNDER WAY
Planned maintenance is under way at Fortischem’s chemical operations, including polyols, at its site in Novaky in Slovakia, said a company source. The plant maintenance started on Monday and is due to last until Friday, said the source. The site produces various chemicals, including polyols and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The combined nameplate polyols capacity for both flexible and rigid grades at the site is 16,000 tonnes/year, the source said. Details of nameplate capacities for the other products were not disclosed.

DSM Q2 NET PROFIT DECLINES 30%, SALES SLIP
Netherlands-based DSM’s net profit after exceptional items in the second quarter declined by 30% year on year to €78m, partly on weaker performance of polymer intermediates, particularly caprolactam. Sales dipped by 5% year on year to €2.29bn, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell by 15% to €293m.

PVC TEST BATCH DELIVERED AT RUSVINYL SITE
RusVinyl’s polyvinyl chloride (PVC) site in Kstovo, in Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod region, delivered on 3 August a test batch of the material as part of the commissioning process. The Russian chemical company said the plant will produce 330,000 tonnes/year of PVC, and plans to manufacture some grades that are currently not available in the Russian market. It places the opening date during the “second half of this year”.

ARKEMA’S MISS OF TARGETS IN Q2 CYCLICAL
France-based Arkema’s miss of its financial targets during the second quarter was “rather cyclical than structural” as it came on the back of a “perfect storm” of weak performances in acrylics, fluorogases coating resins and polyamide 12 (PA12), investment bank UBS said. As a consequence, and after Arkema’s shares fell sharply on 1 August after presenting its Q2 financial results, UBS lowered its 12-month share price target for the company from €84 to €76, but kept its ‘Buy’ recommendation.

US-EU TRADE DEAL WILL NOT UNDERMINE REACH
The planned trade deal between the US and the EU will not lead to a lowering of safety standards in the EU, and will not undermine the EU’s Reach programme, German chemical producer trade group VCI said. The group was reacting to a German media report suggesting that Germany’s chemical industry insisted that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negotiated should include a mutual recognition of standards for the registration of chemicals, thus raising the prospect of Reach being weakened.

IGM RESINS ACQUIRES CHINA’S IHT
IGM Resins has acquired Insight High Technology Group (IHT), the leading manufacturer or photoinitiators, pharmaceutical intermediates and fine chemicals in China, the coatings material producer said. “Their great strength in development of new materials, manufacturing capabilities and position in the Asia UV market combined with IGM’s market strength in the rest of the world creates a powerful organisation offering depth and breadth of products and technical service to our global customers,” IGM CEO Edward Frindt said.

DS ACQUIRES EMULSIFIER FIRM TANATEX
Germany’s Diersch & Schroder-Gruppe (DS) has a acquired TANATEX Deutschland GmbH, a producer of emulsifiers, anti-foaming agents, dispersants and rheology agents for various industrial applications, officials at the Leverkusen chemical park near Cologne confirmed. TANATEX employs about 100 people at its plant in Leverkusen. The company is also a contract manufacturer for other chemical firms. D&S acquired the firm from TANATEX Chemicals, a maker of textile processing products and services.


ASIA

TAIWAN COMPLEX HIT BY MASSIVE EXPLOSIONS
Gas leaks at pipelines owned by Taiwan’s LCY Chemical triggered massive explosions in Kaohsiung on 31 July. The death toll reached 30, as of 7 August. LCY Chemical on 6 August shut its 250,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) line in Kaohsiung, the second shutdown in less than a week, a source close to the company said. The company’s other 150,000 tonne/year PP line remains shut. Both units were shut on 1 August, after pipeline delivery of propylene from shore tanks at the Kaohsiung port halted.

AUSTRALIA’S ORICA TO SELL OR SEPARATE BUSINESS
Australian-based chemical and mining services company Orica intends to pursue the separation of its chemicals business either by demerger or sale. The announcement follows a strategic review of the chemicals business and months of speculation about the spin-off. Orica’s core businesses are mining services and chemicals, with the separation of the two said to allow Orica to focus on mining services, and to capitalise on its positions in commercial explosives, ground support and sodium cyanide.

CHINA’S PASSENGER CAR MARKET TO MODERATE IN H2
China’s double-digit growth in its passenger car market is expected to moderate in the remainder of the this year to the mid-to-high-single digits as the country’s economic expansion slows, Fitch Ratings said. In the first half of this year, China’s passenger car market grew by 11.2% year on year to 9.6m units, according to Fitch. “Regulatory factors could further temper market growth, such as more stringent environmental legislation, while government policies to promote the purchase of domestic brands could curb some demand for foreign marques,” it said.

FUJIAN TIANCHEN YAOLONG STARTS UP FUZHOU CAPRO
China’s Fujian Tianchen Yaolong New Material started up its new 200,000 tonne/year caprolactam (capro) plant on 4 August and is currently running the unit at 60% of capacity, a company source said. The plant, which is located at Fujian Jiangyin Economic Development Zone in Fuzhou, is the first capro plant in south China. The company has started test runs at the new plant in end-July, the source added.

PTT GLOBAL’S Q2 NET INCOME RISES 46%
Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical’s second-quarter net profit rose 46% year over year to Thai baht (Bt) 6.1bn as sales rose 36% to Bt 152.4bn. However, PTT’s adjusted earnings before tax, interest, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) margin fell to 8% for the three months ended 30 June, from 12% for the same period a year earlier. PTT said that its second-quarter operating performance was the result of improved in utilisation rates in its refinery and its olefins and olefins derivative businesses.


MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA

SIPCHEM STARTS TRIAL RUNS AT EVA/LDPE PLANT
Saudi International Petrochemical Co (Sipchem) has started trial runs at its new ethylene vinyl acetate/low density polyethylene (EVA/LDPE) swing plant in Jubail. Test runs at the 200,000 tonne/year plant began on 26 July, Sipchem said in a disclosure to the Saudi Stock Exchange. The plant, which cost about Saudi riyal (SR) 3bn to build, is owned by International Polymers Co –which is 75%-owned by Sipchem, with the remaining 25% held by South Korean producer Hanwha Chemical.

SAUDI ARAMCO, SUMITOMO TO TRANSFER RABIGH II
Saudi Aramco and Japanese producer Sumitomo Chemical has agreed to transfer the ownership of their planned Saudi riyal (SR) 32bn ($8.5bn) Rabigh II project to their joint venture PetroRabigh in the fourth quarter of this year. Saudi Aramco and Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical each have a 37.5% stake in PetroRabigh. “The board of the company agreed on July 31, 2014, to integrate Rabigh Phase II Project to PetroRabigh’s Refining & Petrochemical Complex and to transfer ownership of Rabigh Phase II Project from the founding shareholders to PetroRabigh,” the company said.

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