Lonza studies options to feed Swiss cracker after refinery shutdown

Author: Stefan Baumgarten

2012/01/20

LONDON (ICIS)--Lonza has set up a task force to look at new supply routes and vendors to feed its cracker in Visp, Switzerland, following the shutdown of Petroplus’ refinery at Cressier this month, the Swiss chemicals and pharmaceuticals firm said on Friday.

Lonza’s small cracker is at the start of the company’s “in-house needs, and as such has a certain importance,” said Lonza spokeswoman Pia Schaefer. She did not comment on capacities.

According to ICIS, Lonza’s cracker has an ethylene capacity of 25,000 tonnes/year.

Petroplus earlier this month temporarily shut down the 68,000 bbl/day Cressier refinery in Switzerland, as well as its refineries in Petit Couronne, France, and Antwerp, Belgium, after lenders froze some $1bn (€770m) in credit lines.

Schaefer said that Lonza's cracker continues to operate normally and the “potential impact of Petroplus’ current situation is limited.”

Lonza has a “multiple sourcing strategy” for cracker feed in place, and it has full stocks ensuring production stability and normal delivery to customers in the months ahead, she added.

Meanwhile, Lonza’s task force will evaluate potential consequences of a temporary as well as a possible permanent shutdown at Cressier, and it will “proactively study various scenarios to be able to react to new circumstances,” she added.

Marcel Sennhauser, spokesman for Zurich-based Swiss chemicals and pharmaceuticals trade group scienceindustries, said that apart from Lonza, impacts from the Cressier shutdown on Swiss-based chemicals producers would “only be indirect” in the form of higher costs for gasoline and diesel, for example.

Sennhauser said that Swiss chemical producers typically source higher-value oil products for their manufacturing processes.

Also, about 80% of Switzerland’s chemical industry output consists of higher-value pharmaceutical products, he added.

US specialty chemicals firm Lubrizol said earlier this week it expects to see increased costs in its base oils supply chain in France following the shutdown of Petroplus’ 161,800 bbl/day Petit Couronne refinery in northwest France.

Lubrizol has French manufacturing facilities in Le Havre, Rouen and Mourenx, for additives that are used in fuels, gear oils, metalworking, and engine oils.

Meanwhile, Petroplus announced on Friday that it is seeking to sell the Petit Couronne refinery and may also sell the refineries at Cressier and Antwerp.

In addition to the three refineries that are now shut down, Petroplus also has refineries in the UK and Germany which continue to operate at reduced rates.

The company’s overall throughput capacity from its five refineries in Europe is 667,000 bbl/day.

($1 = €0.77)

For more on Lonza, Lubrizol and other producers visit ICIS company intelligence