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Polyurethanes news

Volkswagen, Stellantis idle car plants in Brazil, Argentina after floods

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Volkswagen (VW) idled its three plants in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo on Monday, as suppliers in the floods-hit state of Rio Grande do Sul are unable to produce any automotive parts, a spokesperson for the German automotive major told ICIS. At the same time, a spokesperson for Stellantis, another major auto producer, confirmed to ICIS that it had shut down its plant in Ferreyra, in Argentina’s Cordoba province, also due to a lack of input. Rio Grande do Sul is Brazil’s southernmost state and petrochemicals-intensive automotive parts producers there are major suppliers to the rest of Brazil and Argentina. However, the state is still reeling from severe flooding on 29 April which has brought around 90% of industrial activity to a standstill, according to local authorities. VOLKSWAGENVW is using a so-called “collective vacation” clause under Brazilian labor laws to send workers at its plants in Anchieta, Taubate, and Sao Carlos home for at least 10 days. However, a plant operated by VW in Sao Jose dos Pinhais, in the state of Parana, continues to operate normally, VW said. "Volkswagen do Brasil informs that continues with the same preventive vacation position. The situation of parts supply is being monitored minute by minute,” said the spokesperson. The workers at the Anchieta and Taubate plants will start a 10-day collective vacation on Monday, and the workers at the Sao Carlos plant will start an 11-day collective vacation on the same day. 'Collective vacation' is a measure regularly applied by industrial companies to manage production. Brazil’s labor laws normally grant employees around 30 days/year of annual leave. In the industrial sector, as work is a "collective" activity, vacation periods can be organized by the employer for a group of employees, hence the name. STELLANTISIn the meantime, Stellantis – the result of the merger between Fiat Chrysler and PSA Group – told ICIS that it is analyzing whether its other plants in Argentina and Brazil will also need to be shut down. In Cordoba, a province in north Argentina and a major trading partner with Rio Grande do Sul, there are fears that its economy – which is already suffering after the country went into recession – could take a further hit. In Argentina, Stellantis operates another plant in El Palomar, in the Buenos Aires department. In Brazil, its main facilities are in Betim in the state of Minas Gerais. “Stellantis is following with dismay and expresses its solidarity with the victims of the floods in Rio Grande do Sul. The unprecedented impact of the catastrophe has directly affected the logistics system for the transportation and supply of industry components. “The company had to stop production at the Stellantis Automotive Centers in Córdoba, Argentina, and is still analyzing the need for further stoppages at its plants in the region,” said the spokesperson. Both General Motors (GM) and South Korea's Hyundai – who also have production facilities in Brazil – had yet to respond to a request for a comment. A spokesperson for Brazil’s automotive trade group Anfavea did not respond to questions from ICIS about the impact of the floods on the sector's annual output. However, it did say that it would make its first estimates at a press conference on 6 June, when it will publish production, sales and export data for May. Earlier, the trade group said it feared the sector could be hit given Rio Grande do Sul's importance to Brazil's auto industry. INDUSTRY REELS AFTER FLOODSCompanies based in the petrochemicals hub of Triunfo, near Porto Alegre – the biggest city in Rio Grande do Sul – have also shut, mostly as employees are having problems getting to and from work. Companies including Braskem, Innova, and Arlanxeo all declared force majeure from Triunfo in the first week of May. Sources said some of them will try to restart operations this week, although that has not been officially confirmed to ICIS. The automotive industry is a major global consumer of petrochemicals, and chemicals make up more than one-third of the raw material costs for an average vehicle. The automotive sector drives demand for chemicals such as polypropylene (PP), along with nylon, polystyrene (PS), styrene butadiene rubber (SBR), polyurethane (PU), methyl methacrylate (MMA) and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), among others. Front page picture: Volkswagen's plant in Anchieta, state of Sao Paulo Source: Volkswagen

20-May-2024

PODCAST: Weak demand expected for Asia propylene and downstream PO

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia's propylene market will continue to see weak demand, although potential curbs in plant run rates in China amid weak margins could lend support. Downstream, China’s propylene oxide (PO) import demand may continue to be adversely impacted by domestic Chinese start-up capacities, while demand in the main downstream polyols sector is unlikely to recover in the second quarter (Q2). South Korea June-loading propylene volumes likely to increase month on month Domestic Chinese PO start-ups to keep domestic supply lengthy, hampering import demand Global PO supply excluding China remains tight, downstream polyols likely muted in Q2 In this chemical podcast, ICIS editors Julia Tan and Shannen Ng discuss trends in the Asian propylene and PO markets.

09-May-2024

Europe top stories: weekly summary

LONDON (ICIS)–Here are some of the top stories from ICIS Europe for the week ended 3 May. Freight rates spike again, nudging Europe PET buyers back home Shipping costs may be making European polyethylene terephthalate (PET) imports prohibitively expensive, giving domestic sellers an opportunity to individually lift prices. Eurozone manufacturing activity dips again in April as order momentum fades Eurozone industrial sector momentum sank further into contraction territory in April, to hit a four-month low as new orders declined by the sharpest rate seen in 2024. Legal confusion limits Europe's pyrolysis oil trade as tyre-derived price fall Europe's tyre-derived pyrolysis oil spot prices fell this week following discussions of increased availability as pilot plants continue to scale, coupled with pressure from low-priced offers from overseas – particularly Asia. Europe May benzene contract drops in weaker market The Europe benzene May contract price has settled at €1,117/tonne, down by €151/tonne from April and snapping an uptrend that began in January. European polyols market bearish as demand pressures continue Demand for polyols in the European market remains under pressure, as major end sectors are facing difficulties, however there are different views for consumption going into May.

06-May-2024

US Huntsman assets in Europe spare from energy hit, but EU policies erratic – CEO

RIO DE JANEIRO (ICIS)–Huntsman’s assets in Europe are not energy intensive and have been spared from the energy crisis, but more broadly, the 27-country EU is still lacking a comprehensive policy to address the issue, the CEO at US chemicals major Huntsman said on Friday. Peter Huntsman, one of the chemical industry’s most outspoken CEOs, said the company is not planning to divest any asset in Europe but said the region should stop its “nonsense” about reindustrialization and implement policies that create actual economic growth. The CEO added he is feeling “bullish” about the coming quarters regarding demand, arguing the chemical industry had gone to “hell” and was just coming back from the steep low prices of 2023. In North America, Huntsman said the construction industry should post a marked recovery in the coming quarters after two years in the doldrums because of high interest rates because, he argued, even with current interest rates, the industry will adapt. Huntsman’s sales and earnings in the first quarter fell again, year on year, as higher sales volumes could not offset low selling prices; the company said, however, that a notable improvement in sales volumes quarter on quarter should be a signal that the recovery is underway. Among others, Huntsman produces polyurethanes (PUs), which are widely used in the construction and automotive sectors. EUROPE NONSENSEPeter Huntsman on Friday first referred to the EU’s need to stop its “nonsense” about reindustrialisation, without elaborating further, but he was more measured when asked about the company’s assets in that region. He nonetheless made clear that he thinks European governments have yet to formulate, two years into the region’s biggest energy crisis in decades, appropriate policies to address the issue. “What I am most concerned about Europe is high energy costs. Most of our businesses there are not energy intensive assets, so they are competitive; in fact we have some strong businesses there, and our margins in Advanced Materials [the division] are stronger there than in other parts of the world,” said Huntsman, speaking to reporters and chemical equity analysts on Friday. “There are businesses in Europe in which you will do OK, such as aerospace, lightweighting. But if you are energy intensive, if you produce fertilizers, glass, cement… you have some portfolio concerns there. Energy prices are too high, and this is not being addressed by governments, they still have to come up with realistic policies to address that.” Europe’s construction has also taken a hit from the crisis after interest rates shot up to bring down inflation, with projects put on hold and many building companies in financial distress. Huntsman’s CEO said he is not hoping for a strong recovery anymore in that sector in Europe, but simply for stability, which could come with governments taking more decisive action to prop up GDP growth. “If we look at the past two years… We are looking for stability: it is the volatility that concerns us the most. We need to see Europe stop its the nonsense policies around reindustrialization and get the economy growing once again,” he said. See Huntsman assets in Europe at bottom table. NORTH AMERICA CONSTRUCTIONPeter Huntsman was feeling more optimistic about North America’s construction sector, where even if high interest rates stay for longer, builders will adapt to the situation, easing the way towards a recovery. “US builders are doing two things: if interest rates were to stay where they are, they are going to adapt, perhaps building smaller units, and if rates do come down, that will open up demand quite a bit higher than it has been in the last couple of years. There are big gaps [in housing stock] which need to filled,” said Huntsman. “I am increasingly feeling better and better [about an improvement in demand]. In Q1 we saw a lot of inventory drawdown, now we are seeing a slow, steady recovery as we try to get back to average inventory levels. By and large inventory levels feel pretty thin in MDI [methylene diphenyl diisocyanate] and we look forward to moderate growth in coming quarters.” MDI is consumed mainly in PU foams, used in construction, refrigeration, packaging, and insulation. MDI is also used to make binders, elastomers, adhesives, sealants, coatings and fibers. Huntsman’s CFO, Philip Lister, also at the press conference, added that in a normal year the company’s growth in volumes from the first quarter to the second would be around 5%, as construction and other seasonal activities enter their annual peak. “This year, we are expecting more [than 5% growth],” said Lister. CHINA ELECTRIC VEHICLESHuntsman’s CEO said China’s electric vehicle (EV) sector continues to boom, although potential trade restrictions in the EU, after those imposed by the US, could start denting China’s dominance in that sector. However, the company also knows what China’s dominance in the sector, thanks to the country’s strong public support for it, can mean for western producers: in 2023, Huntsman suspended an EV battery materials project in the US because of aggressive imports from China. But the CEO added that even if China’s EV sector slowed down, the company would still be able to tap into other growing markets such as lightweighting or insulation, among others. “The automotive sector continues to be one of the strongest areas of growth in China. How long that continues [remains to be seen], but probably for some time still,” said Huntsman. “There is a broader question about [trade in the EV chain] with the US, which has been extremely limited, or Europe, where there is a lot of talk about limitations to China’s EVs.” He added that despite sluggish activity in the residential construction sector because of financial woes in building companies, exemplified by the demise of major company Evergrande, subsectors such as energy conservation, insulation, building materials and infrastructure are still doing well. “By and large we are seeing in China a slow but steady recovery in volumes and pricing. Elsewhere, I am getting more bullish. A year ago, we were in a nightmare, and we expected a recovery in the second half [of 2023] which didn’t happen and got worse and worse, until we found ourselves in hell,” said Huntsman. “At the beginning of this year we have seen good, reliable, consistent growth. What we need to see is that growth continues in the second half of this year.” HUNTSMAN ASSETS IN EUROPE Product Location Capacity (in tonnes) Aniline Wilton, UK 340,000 Epoxy resins Bergkamen, Germany 18,000 Monthey, Switzerland 120,000 Duxford, UK 10,000 Isocyanates Runcorn, UK 70,000 Maleic anhydride (MA) Moers, Germany 105,000 MDI Rozenburg, The Netherlands 470,000 Nitrobenzenes Wilton, UK 455,000 Polyalolef Grimsby, UK 15,000 Polyester polyols Huddersfield, UK 20,000 Rozenburg, The Netherlands 86,000 Unsaturated polyester resins (UPRs) Ternate, Italy 8,000 Source: ICIS Supply & Demand Database Front page picture: Huntsman’s headquarters in The Woodlands, Texas  Source: Huntsman Additional reporting by Miguel Rodriguez-Fernandez

03-May-2024

Besieged by imports, Brazil’s chemicals put hopes on hefty import tariffs hike

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Brazilian chemicals producers are lobbying hard for an increase in import tariffs for key polymers and petrochemicals from 12.6% to 20%, and higher in cases, hoping the hike could slow down the influx of cheap imports, which have put them against the wall. For some products, Brazil’s chemicals trade group Abiquim, which represents producers, has made official requests for the import tariffs to go up to a hefty 35%, from 9% in some cases. On Tuesday, Abiquim said several of its member companies “are already talking about hibernating plants” due to unprofitable economics. It did so after it published another set of somber statistics for the first quarter, when imports continued entering Brazil em masse. Brazil’s government Chamber of Foreign Commerce (Camex) is concluding on Tuesday a public consultation about this, with its decision expected in coming weeks. Abiquim has been busy with the public consultation: it has made as many as 66 proposals for import tariffs to be hiked for several petrochemicals and fertilizers, including widely used polymers such polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polystyrene (PS), or expandable PS (EPS), to mention just a few. Other chemicals trade groups, as well as companies, have also filed requests for import tariffs to be increased. In total, 110 import tariffs. HARD TO FIGHT OFFBrazil has always depended on imports to cover its internal chemicals demand, but the extraordinary low prices coming from competitors abroad has made Brazil’s chemicals plant to run with operating rates of 65% or lower. More and more, the country’s chemicals facilities are becoming white elephants which are far from their potential, as customers find in imported product more competitive pricing. Considering this dire situation and taking into account that the current government in Brasilia led by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva may be more receptive to their demands, Abiquim has put a good fight in publica and private for measure which could shore up chemical producers’ competitiveness. This could come after the government already hiked import tariffs on several products in 2023 and re-introduced a tax break, called REIQ, for some chemicals which had been withdrawn by the previous Administration. While Brazil’s chemicals production competitiveness is mostly affected by higher input costs, with natural gas costs on average five times higher than in the US, the industry is hopeful a helping hand from the government in the form of higher import tariffs could slow down the flow of imports into Brazil. As a ‘price taker region’ given its dependence on imports, Latin American domestic producers have taken a hit in the past two years. In Brazil, polymers major Braskem is Abiquim’s commanding voice. Abiquim, obviously, has always been very outspoken – even apocalyptic – about the fate of its members as they try to compete with overseas countries, namely China who has been sending abroad product at below cost of production. The priorities in China’s dictatorial system are not related to the balance of markets, but to keep employment levels stable so its citizens find fewer excuses to protest against the regime which keeps them oppressed. Capitalist market dynamics are for the rest of the world to balance; in China’s dictatorial, controlled-economy regime the priority is to make people feel the regime’s legitimacy can come from never-ending economic growth. The results of such a policy for the rest of the world – not just in chemicals but in all industrial goods – is becoming clear: unprofitable industries which cannot really compete with heavily subsidized Chinese players. The results of such a policy in China are yet to be seen, but subsiding at all costs any industry which creates employment may have debt-related lasting consequences: as they mantra goes, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Abiquim’s executive president urged Lula’s cabinet to look north, to the US, where the government has imposed hefty tariffs on almost all China-produced industrial goods or raw materials for manufacturing production. “[The hikes in import tariffs] have improved the US’ scenario: despite the aggressive advance in exports by Asian countries, the drop in US [chemicals] production in 2023 was of 1%, while in Brazil the index for production fell nearly by 10%,” said Andre Passos. “The country adopted an increase in import taxes of over 30% to defend its market from unfair competition. The taxation for some inputs, such as phenol, resins and adipic [acid], for example, exceeds three digits. “Here, we are suggesting an increase in rates to 20% in most claims … We need to have this breathing space for the industry to recover,” he concluded. As such, the figures for the first quarter showed no sign of imports into Brazil slowing down. The country posted a trade deficit $9.9 billion during the January-March period; the 12-month accumulated (April 2023 to March 2024) deficit stood at $44.7 billion. A record high of 61.2 million tonnes of chemicals products entered Brazil in Q1; in turn, the country’s industry exported 14.6 million tonnes. Abiquim proposals for higher import tariffs Product Current import tariff Proposed tariff Expandable polystyrene, unfilled, in primary form 12.6% 20% Other polystyrenes in primary forms 12.6% 20% Carboxymethylcellulose with content > =75%, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Other polyurethanes in liquids and pastes 12.6% 20% Phthalic anhydride 10.8% 20%  Sodium hydrogen carbonate (bicarbonate) 9% 35% Copolymers of ethylene and alpha-olefin, with a density of less than 0.94 12.6% 20% Other orthophthalic acid esters 11% 20% Other styrene polymers, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Other silicon dioxides 0% 18% Other polyesters in liquids and pastes  12.6% 20% Commercial ammonium carbonates and other ammonium carbonates 9% 18% Other unsaturated polyethers, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Polyethylene terephthalate, with a viscosity index of 78 ml/g or more 12.6% 20% Phosphoric acid with an iron content of less than 750 ppm 9% 18% Dinonyl or didecyl orthophthalates 11% 20% Poly(vinyl chloride), not mixed with other substances, obtained by suspension process 12.6% 20% Poly(vinyl chloride), not mixed with other substances, obtained by emulsion process 12.6% 20% Methyl polymethacrylate, in primary form  12.6% 20% White mineral oils (vaseline or paraffin oils) 4% 35% Other polyetherpolyols, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Other unfilled epoxy resins in primary forms 12.6% 20% Silicon dioxide obtained by chemical precipitation 9% 18% Acrylonitrile-butadiene rubber in plates, sheets, etc 11% 35% Other organic anionic surface agents, whether or not put up for retail sale, not classified under previous codes 12.6% 23% Phenol (hydroxybenzene) and its salts 7% 20% Fumaric acid, its salts and esters 10 ,8% 20% Plasticizers and plastics 10 ,8% 20% Maleic anhydride 10 ,8% 20% Adipic acid salts and esters 10 ,8% 20% Propylene copolymers, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Adipic acid 9% 20% Unfilled polypropylene, in primary form 12.6% 20% Filled polypropylene, in primary form 12.6% 20% Methacrylic acid methyl esters 10 ,8% 20% Other ethylene polymers, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Acrylic acid 2-ethylhexyl esters 0% 20% 2-Ethylexanoic acid (2-ethylexoic acid) 10. 8% 20% Other copolymers of ethylene and vinyl acetate, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Other unfilled polyethylenes, density >= 0.94, in primary forms 12.6% 20% Polyethylene with a density of less than 0.94, unfilled 12.6% 20% Other saturated acyclic monoalcohol acetates, c atom <= 8 10. 8% 20% Polyethylene with a density of less than 0.94, with filler 12.6% 20% Triacetin 10. 8% 20% Sodium methylate in methanol 12.6% 20% Stearic alcohol (industrial fatty alcohol) 12.6% 20% N-butyl acetate                              11% 20% Stearic acid (industrial monocarboxylic fatty acid) 5% 35% Alkylbenzene mixtures 11% 20% Organic, non-ionic surface agents 12.6% 23% Ammonium nitrate, whether or not in aqueous solution 0.0% 15% Monoethanolamine and its salts 12.6% 20% Isobutyl alcohol (2-methyl-1-propanol) 10.8% 20% Butan-1-ol (n-butyl alcohol) 10.8% 20% Styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), food grade as established by the Food Chemical Codex, in primary forms 10.8% 22% Styrene                                9% 18% Hexamethylenediamine and its salts 10.8% 20% Latex from other synthetic or artificial rubbers 10.8% 35% Propylene glycol (propane-1, 2-diol) 10.8% 20% Preparations 12.6% 20% Linear alkylbenzene sulfonic acids and their salts 12.6% 23% 4,4'-Isopropylidenediphenol (bisphenol A, diphenylolpropane) and its salts 10.8% 20% Dipropylene glycol 12.6% 20% Butanone (methyl ethyl ketone) 10.8% 20% Ethyl acetate                                 10.8% 20% Methyl-, ethyl- and propylcellulose, hydroxylated 0.0% 20% Front page picture: Chemical production facilities outside Sao Paulo  Source: Union of Chemical and Petrochemical industries in the state of Sao Paulo (Sinproquim) Focus article by Jonathan Lopez Additional information by Thais Matsuda and Bruno Menini

30-Apr-2024

PODCAST: Downcast sentiment on European demand at PU event

LONDON (ICIS)–Market players expressed bearish views on consumption throughout value chains at the recently concluded polyurethanes (PU) exhibition and conference UTECH Europe held on 23-25 April in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Zubair Adam, ICIS's editor of European toluene diisocyanate (TDI), methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and polyols, and Umberto Torresan, ICIS senior analyst for isocyanates and polyols, attended the event. They share their engagements and discuss future developments that will shape demand in Europe for these products. Polyols are reacted with isocyanates to make PUs, which are used to make mattresses, foam insulation for appliances, refrigerators and freezers, home and automotive seats, elastomeric shoe soles, fibres and adhesives. The two main isocyanates, polymeric PMDI and TDI, are used mainly for the production of PU rigid and flexible foams used in insulation, construction, upholstery, mattresses and automotive seats.

30-Apr-2024

Asia top stories – weekly summary

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News Asia and the Middle East for the week ended 12 April 2024. China Mar petrochemical markets mixed; Apr demand on seasonal uptick By Yvonne Shi 12-Apr-24 14:19 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Fluctuations in China’s domestic petrochemical markets were limited in March, yielding a mixed performance during the month, while a seasonal improvement in demand is expected in the near term. Tight intra-Asia container shipping space dampens recycling trades By Arianne Perez 12-Apr-24 13:34 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Major Asian recyclers are feeling the pinch of continued uptrend in spot container freight costs for trade within Asia since March. Asia naphtha demand slows down; supply stays ample By Li Peng Seng 11-Apr-24 13:00 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s naphtha crack, the spread between Brent crude and the chemical feedstock prices, hit a five-month low recently and it will remain under pressure in the weeks ahead as ample supplies, slower demand and firm crude prices limit any improvement in the spread. Asia ADA sees plant shutdowns amid supply overhang By Josh Quah 11-Apr-24 11:25 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s adipic acid (ADA) markets have begun to crack under the cost pressure and weak demand from the main polyurethane (PU) downstream sector. Fitch downgrades China rating outlook to ‘negative’ as debts pile up By Pearl Bantillo 10-Apr-24 15:16 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China’s fiscal challenges amid rising government debt and its prolonged property slump weighing on recovery prospects prompted Fitch to revise down its credit rating outlook for the world’s second-biggest economy to “negative” from “stable”. Korea trade body starts antidumping probe on China SM imports By Luffy Wu 09-Apr-24 14:18 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The Korea Trade Commission has decided to initiate an anti-dumping investigation on imports of styrene monomer (SM) from China. INSIGHT: Positive China Q1 data overshadowed by property sector gloom By Nurluqman Suratman 09-Apr-24 12:00 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China's economic narrative in early 2024 reflects a 'tale of two cities', with its ailing property sector once again playing the crucial protagonist against recent data which offered flickers of hope for the country's continued recovery this year. Saudi Arabia hikes benchmark May Arab Light OSP for Asian customers By James Dennis 08-Apr-24 18:15 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter, increased its Official Selling Prices (OSP) for its benchmark Arab Light crude for customers in Asia for the second month in succession. Oil slumps by more than $2/bbl on Israel-Hamas ceasefire hopes By Nurluqman Suratman 08-Apr-24 12:23 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Oil prices fell by more than $2/barrel on Monday amid easing tensions in the Middle East after Israel further withdrew troops from southern Gaza and signalled a willingness to resume ceasefire talks with Palestinian militant group Hamas.

15-Apr-2024

AFPM '24: INSIGHT: New US auto emission rule to boost plastic demand, squeeze refiners

HOUSTON (ICIS)–The new greenhouse gas restrictions that the US imposed on automobiles will speed up the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), which will have several knock-on effects on plastics, lubricants and chemicals produced by refineries. Under the new greenhouse gas standards, EVs and plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs) will make up a growing share of the nation's light automobile fleet at the expense of internal combustion engines (ICEs). EVs and PHEVs consume larger amounts of plastics on a per-capita basis than autos powered by ICEs. If the prevalence of ICE-powered vehicles declines as forecast by the US, then that would lower demand for fuel, discouraging refiners from expanding or making expensive investments on their units. That could lower production of aromatics and other refined products. DETAILS OF NEW EPA TAILPIPE RULEThe new rule requires the US light vehicle fleet to emit progressively smaller amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), as shown in the following table. Figures are listed in grams of CO2 emitted per mile driven. 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031 2032 Cars 131 139 125 112 99 86 73 Trucks 184 184 165 146 128 109 90 Total Fleet 168 170 153 136 119 102 85 Source: EPA The US will have to greatly increase its reliance on EVs to meet such standards, according to the EPA. The regulator forecasts what its new rule will entail for the makeup of the US light vehicle fleet. It presented three scenarios that make different assumptions about the share of EVs, PHEVs, hybrids and autos powered by ICEs. Hybrid vehicles rely predominantly on ICEs, while PHEVs rely predominantly on batteries, which is why they need to be plugged in to recharge. The following charts show the three scenarios. Scenario A 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031 2032 ICE 64% 58% 49% 43% 35% 29% Hybrid 4% 5% 5% 4% 3% 3% PHEV 6% 6% 8% 9% 11% 13% EV 26% 31% 39% 44% 51% 56% Source: EPA Scenario B 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031 2032 ICE 62% 56% 49% 39% 28% 21% Hybrid 4% 4% 3% 6% 7% 6% PHEV 10% 12% 15% 18% 24% 29% EV 24% 29% 33% 37% 41% 43% Source: EPA Scenario C 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031 2032 ICE 61% 41% 35% 27% 19% 17% Hybrid 4% 15% 13% 16% 15% 13% PHEV 10% 17% 22% 27% 32% 36% EV 24% 26% 30% 31% 34% 35% Source: EPA IMPACT ON PLASTICSEVs and hybrids typically consume more plastics than ICEs, according to Kevin Swift, ICIS senior economist for global chemicals. Swift compared two automobile models that their manufacturers offered in ICE, hybrid and EV versions. The following chart shows how plastics consumption fared across the three versions. Not only do EVs tend to consume more plastics, they impose different challenges on the materials. Because EVs need to be recharged, their systems are running even when the vehicles are stationary. Materials must have the durability to maintain their properties after several thousands of additional hours of use. The wires and cables within EVs generate heat through electrical resistance, so materials need to manage heat. Materials used in battery packs and the charging equipment need to have flame retardancy to prevent thermal runaway. Some materials must withstand high voltages from fast charging times, while others need to shield sensors and other electrical components from electro-magnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI). As EV production grows, demand for these materials will increase. IMPACT ON BASE OILSIf the EPA's forecasts come true, then demand for base oils used in engine lubricants will decline. EVs lack ICEs so they do not use motor oil. However, EVs still have moving parts so they will require greases and lubricants. A more lucrative opportunity may lie in thermal management fluids. Petroleum-based thermal management fluids avoid the problems that come with using water-based cooling fluids like glycols in electric vehicles. In time, EVs could manage heat by relying on direct immersion cooling. Here the battery, the inverter and the motor are submerged in a bath of thermal management fluids. The base stocks that would be used in thermal management fluids will be a combination of polyalphaolefins (PAOs), esters and polyaklylene glycols (PAGS). IMPACT ON AROMATICSA faster adoption of EVs could speed up the arrival of peak oil demand. Figures from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that gasoline demand in the country peaked in 2018. That peak was barely higher than the previous record set in 2007. Refiners are not going to add new capacity or make expensive investments if demand for their primary products have stagnated. As their units age or suffer damage from fires and other accidents, refiners could choose to shut operations or convert their complexes to produce renewable fuels or other sustainable products. The consequences would cause production to stagnate or even decline for benzene, toluene and xylenes (BTX), chemical building blocks that are primarily produced in refineries in the US. Downstream consumers of these chemicals will have to consider imports if they wish to maintain their operations. US COULD LAVISH MORE POLICIES ON EVSUS EVs could get more supportive policies in the months ahead. The EPA is expected to decide if California can adopt its Advanced Clean Car II (ACC II), which would phase out the sale of ICE-based vehicles to 2035. If the EPA grants California's request, that would trigger similar programs in several other states. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing stricter efficiency standards under its Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program. The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) has raised concerns about the new EPA rule as well as the two pending policies that would provide further support for EVs at the expense of vehicles powered by ICEs. It raised more concerns on Thursday right before the group's International Petrochemical Conference (IPC), which begins on Sunday. “At a time when millions of Americans are struggling with high costs and inflation, the Biden administration has finalized a regulation that will unequivocally eliminate most new gas cars and traditional hybrids from the US market in less than a decade,” said Chet Thompson, AFPM CEO, said. “Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, Congress has to make a decision whether to protect consumer choice, US manufacturing workers and our hard-won energy security by overturning this deeply flawed regulation,” Thompson said. “Short of that, our organizations are certainly prepared to challenge it in court.” Insight article by Al Greenwood Thumbnail image shows an electric vehicle (EV) charging station in Takoma Park, Maryland. Photo by MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

21-Mar-2024

INSIGHT: SAF catalyst technology could also boost biochemicals production

LONDON and BARCELONA (ICIS)–Catalyst technology used to power the first transatlantic flight conducted by a commercial airline which used 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), could also have applications in chemicals production if a market can be developed to allow for commercial scale up. The SAF used on the voyage, dubbed Flight100, was a SAF blend containing 88% HEFA hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) supplied by AirBP, the specialised aviation division of BP, and 12% SAK synthetic aromatic kerosene (SAK) supplied by Virent, a subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum Corporation. Virent developed the SAK in conjunction with Johnson Matthey, using the latter’s proprietary BioForming sugars to aromatic process. Feedstocks such as sugar beet, sugar cane, and corn are currently used in the process, which is also capable of utilising cellulosic sugars as feedstock. Current forms of SAF linked to HEFA and Fischer Tropsch Synthetic Paraffinic Kerosene (FT-SPK) require conventional jet fuel blending to enable an 8-25% aromatics presence to enable optimum fuel burning. Fossil-based conventional jet kerosene is blended with HEFA and FT-SPK based SAF to create a balance between the paraffins and aromatics required to ensure proper fuel system operations. The BioForming sugars to aromatics process results in bio-based aromatics in the SAK, which enables up to a 100% drop in form of SAF, and can be compatible as a jet kerosene replacement. The SAK can also be blended with other types of SAF to boost the overall SAF content in the fuel mix. The BioForming process could potentially play a vital role in helping scale up the much-needed global SAF capacity expansion required to meet the aviation sectors’ aim to reduce emissions. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted a global framework in November 2023, in which member states committed to strive towards reducing carbon emissions in international aviation by 5% by 2030 using SAF, low carbon aviation fuels, and other clean energy sources. The EU is implementing a minimum SAF blend of 2% starting from 2025. Mandated SAF blending rates in airports across the bloc will increase to 6% by 2030, 20% by 2035, and 34% by 2040, eventually reaching 70% by 2050. The US Department of Energy (DOE) published a plan that sees the country potentially meeting 100% of its projected jet fuel demand with SAF by 2050. A 10% blending target by 2030 has also been set by the OneWorld airline alliance, which includes British Airways, American Airlines, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Malaysian Airlines, and others as members. Currently, SAF makes up just over 0.1% in the global aviation fuel mix, which continues to be dominated by fossil-based jet kerosene. Johnson Matthey must overcome any possible financial hurdles that may arise before it can scale up its BioForming technology. Clariant was forced to shutdown its bioethanol plant in Podari, Romania, which also used cellulosic biomass as a feedstock. The company struggled to license out its Sunliquid technology while grappling to ramp up capacity of its bioethanol plant amid challenging operating economics. Johnson Matthey and other companies spearheading technological developments in biofuels and bio-chemicals will have to consider lessons incurred from other projects and integrate such learnings into future plans. BIOCHEMICAL FEEDSTOCK POTENTIAL According to David Kettner, president and general counsel at Virent, this technology has huge potential as a feedstock for chemicals production because it can use a variety of feedstocks to produce the sugars required for the process. This includes lignocellulosic sugars from woody biomass or agricultural residues. One third of the output of the process can be used for biochemical production and the company has already cooperated with companies such as Coca Cola where it produced bio-polyethylene terephthalate (PET) packaging. Virent also cooperated with Japan’s Toray Industries to produce polymers which were used by the Patagonia clothing brand to produce a 100% bio-based polyester product. The chemical feedstock produced by the process most closely resembles mixed xylenes. “The stream itself looks very much similar to what you would see coming out of a reforming unit," Kettner said. "You would take your mixed xylenes cut and be able to put it directly into existing processes for the production of benzene, toluene and xylenes, all of which have strong uses in polymer applications.” He said a demonstration plant currently produces around one barrel/day of bio-reformate with the potential to scale up to commercial levels “very comfortably”. Iain Gilmore, senior manager of Catalyst Technologies at Johnson Matthey added: “We are working at the moment with Virent and Marathon at commercializing the technology and we're pretty confident we can get the size of plants up in the region of 300,000-400,000 tonnes/year of bio-reformate. The project is going through the engineering and design phase, but is not yet at the stage where a formal announcement will be made. Johnson Matthey and Virent have also developed a joint licensing model which is currently being taken to market, led by Johnson Matthey. Insight by Nazif Nazmul and Will Beacham Thumbnail photo: A 100% SAF-fuelled Virgin Atlantic flight (Source: Justin Lane/EPA/EFE/Shutterstock)

20-Mar-2024

AFPM '24: INSIGHT: Biden ending term with regulatory bang for US chems

HOUSTON (ICIS)–The administration of US President Joe Biden is proposing a wave of regulations before its term ends in 2025, many of which will increase costs for chemical companies in the US and persist even if the nation elects a new president later this year. The prospect of such consequential policies comes as delegates head into this year's International Petrochemical Conference (IPC), hosted by the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM). Changes to the Clean Waters Act, the Risk Management Program (RMP) and the Hazard Communication Standard are among the most consequential policies being considered by US regulators. Electric vehicles (EVs) could receive more support from federal and state governments. This would increase demand for plastics used in EVs while discouraging refiners from making further investments, which could limit US production of benzene, toluene and mixed xylenes (MX). The failure of Congress to re-authorize the nation's chemical site security program could spell its end. REGULATORY PUSH DURING ELECTION YEARSuch a regulatory push by the Biden administration was flagged last year by the Alliance for Chemical Distribution (ACD), the new name for the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD). The group was not crying wolf. The next nine months could rank among the worst for the chemical industry in terms of regulatory change and potential issues, said Eric Byer, president of the ACD. "Whatever it's going to be, it will come done fairly aggressively." The Biden administration has proposed several consequential policies. For the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is developing new requirements, which will require chemical producers and other companies to develop plans to address the worst possible discharge from their plants. The ACD warned that the new requirement would raise compliance costs while doing little to reduce the already small number of discharges by plants. The final rule is scheduled to be published in April 2024. For the RMP, changes could require chemical companies to share information that has been off limits since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC). The concern is that the information will fall into the wrong hands, while significantly increasing costs to comply with the new requirements, according to the ACD. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is introducing changes to its Hazard Communication Standard that could create more burdens for companies. The ACD warned that some of the changes will increase costs without providing a commensurate improvement in safety. The EPA has started the multiyear process that, under the regulator's current whole-chemical approach, will lead to restrictions imposed on vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), acrylonitrile (ACN) and aniline, a chemical used to make methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI). This is being done through the nation's main chemical safety program, known as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). MORE POLICIES PROPOSED FOR EVsThe Biden administration is proposing additional polices to encourage the adoption of EVs. For chemical producers, more EVs would increase demand for plastics, resins and thermal management fluids that are designed to meet the material challenges of these automobiles. At the same time, the push towards EVs could limit sales of automobiles powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs), lowering demand for gasoline and diesel. Refiners could decide to shut down and repurpose their complexes if they expect demand for their main products will stop growing or decline. That would lower production of aromatics and other refinery chemicals and refined products. The Biden administration is moving on three fronts to encourage EV sales. The EPA is expected to decide if California can adopt its Advanced Clean Car II (ACC II), which would phase out the sale of ICE-based vehicles to 2035. If the EPA grants California's request, that would trigger similar programs in several other states. The EPA's light-duty vehicle proposal would impose stricter standards on tail pipe emissions. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing stricter efficiency standards under its Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program. The AFPM opposes these measures. It said the EPA's light-duty vehicle proposal and DOT's new CAFE standards are so demanding, it would force automobile companies to produce a lot more EVs, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles to meet the more ambitious requirements. LAX OVERSIGHT OF SHIPPING RATES IN WAKE OF HOUTHISThe ACD raised concerns that the US is not doing enough to address the possibility that shipping rates and delays have increased beyond what could be justified by the disruptions caused by the drought in Panama and by the Houthi attacks on vessels passing through the Red Sea to the Suez Canal. The ACD accepts that costs will rise, but it expressed concerns that shipping companies could be taking advantage of the situation by charging excessive rates on routes unaffected by the disruptions. These include routes from India and China to the western coast of the US, Byer said. "Why are you jacking up the price two or threefold?" LABOR NEGOTIATIONS FOR US EAST COASTThe work contract will expire this year for dockworkers and ports along the East Coast of the US. Byer warned of a possible strike if the talks become too contentious. On the West Coast, dockworkers and ports reached an agreement on a six-year work contract. CFATS ON LIFE SUPPORTByer expressed concerns about the future of the main chemical-site security program, called the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). CFATS is overseen by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which is under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). CISA lost authority to implement CFATS on 28 July 2023, when a bill that would have re-authorized it was blocked from going to a vote in the Senate. Without CFATS, other federal and state agencies could create their own chemical-site security regulations. This process has already started in the US state of Nebraska, where State Senator Eliot Bostar introduced LB1048. Other nearby states in the plains could introduce similar bills, because they tend to follow each other's lead, Byer said. Many of these state legislatures should wrap up sessions in the next couple of months, so lawmakers still have time to propose chemical-site security bills. The ACD is most concerned about larger states creating chemical-site security programs, such as California, Illinois, New Jersey and New York. SENATE RAIL BILL REMAINS PENDINGA Senate rail safety bill has been pending for more than a year after a bipartisan group of legislators introduced it following the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Congress has about 10 months to approve the bill before it lapses, Byer said. For bills in general, action during an election year could happen around the Memorial Day holiday in May, the 4 July recess, the August recess or before the end of September. After September, legislators will be focused on campaigning for the 5 November election. TEXAS BRINGS BACK TAX BREAKS FOR INDUSTRIAL PROJECTSTexas has revived a program that granted tax breaks to new chemical plants and other large industrial projects. The new program is called the Texas Jobs and Security Act, and it replaced the lapsed Chapter 313 School Value Limitation Agreement. The old program was popular with chemical companies, and their applications were among the first public disclosures of their expansion plans. The new program has already attracted applicants. Summit Next Gen is considering a plant that would convert 450 million gal/year of ethanol into 256 million gal/year of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Hosted by the AFPM, the IPC takes place on March 24-26. Insight article by Al Greenwood Thumbnail shows a federal building. Image by Lucky-photographer

18-Mar-2024

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