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Meteorologist firm AccuWeather warns of busy hurricane season
HOUSTON (ICIS)–This year’s hurricane could be especially active because of the La Nina weather phenomenon and warm waters in the Atlantic Ocean, the meteorology firm AccuWeather said on Tuesday. The hurricane season in the Atlantic basin starts on 1 June and runs through 30 November. Hurricanes threaten the petrochemical industry in the US and Mexico because many plants are on the coast in the Gulf of Mexico. Plants shut down in preparation of storms. Strong winds can knock down power lines and heavy rains can flood roads. In addition, storms disrupt oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. Last year, the hurricane season was mild because the weather phenomenon known as El Nino discouraged the formation of storms. In 2024, El Nino should transition into La Nina during the second half of the hurricane season, AccuWeather said. La Nina encourages the formation of storms. Another factor that could contribute to a busy hurricane season is the unusually warm waters in the Atlantic Ocean, Accuweather said. Already, water temperatures cross the Atlantic are at levels that are typical of mid-July. “Any storms that do form will have the potential to rapidly strengthen, even close to land, due to the exceptionally warm waters,” said AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter.
LyondellBasell to lease California plant to produce recycled resins from waste
SAO PAULO (ICIS)–LyondellBasell has acquired a recycling plant in California from PreZero in which it plans to produce post-consumer recycled resins from plastic waste, the US chemicals major said on Tuesday. Financial details were not disclosed. The plant will be fully taken over by LyondellBasell in 2025. It will have a production capacity of 50 million pounds/year (25,000 tonnes/year) of recycled resins. “The transaction includes leasing the processing facility in Jurupa Valley, California … LYB will offer these recycled polymers under its CirculenRecover brand, part of the company’s Circulen portfolio of products that enable the circular economy,” it added. LyondellBasell’s Executive Vice-President for the circular economy, Yvonne van der Laan, added the company was aiming to “build upon our existing experience in plastic recycling in Europe” to meet US’ growing demand for recycled products. In October 2023, LyondellBasell acquired a 25% stake in Cyclyx, a joint venture between energy major ExxonMobil and Agilyx. Additional reporting by Emily Friedman Thumbnail shows bales of recycled plastic. Image by Shutterstock. 
INSIGHT: Chemical and energy intensive industries seek a ‘reboot’ of EU industrial policy
LONDON (ICIS)–Basic industry and trade unions understandably are increasingly and deeply concerned about Europe’s industrial landscape. The EU has an industrial policy, and it is enshrined in the ‘Green Deal’ and other objectives outlined by Brussels – often at very great length. But ambition from within the bloc to support industry has by no means been met with effective action either at the European or the member state level. Businesses were telling Brussels earlier this month that not only has a fragmented regulatory environment made it less attractive for companies to invest in the EU, but a lack of ambition for the Single Market has stifled business opportunity. On Tuesday (20 February) chemical industry leaders and trade union representatives met European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen and Belgium’s Prime Minister, Alexander de Croo at the BASF site in Antwerp to press home their concerns and launch the ‘Antwerp Declaration for a European Industrial Deal”. The companies and organisations represented at the event support a European Industrial Deal to complement the Green Deal, more effectively putting industry at the forefront of the climate agenda. “There is an urgent need for clarity, predictability and confidence in Europe and its industrial policy,” they say. In the midst of Europe’s economic slump and energy crisis, the lack of industrial ambition within the EU’s framework policies has helped shift companies’ strategic thinking. It has put brakes on investment and forced multinationals to look elsewhere. Companies may not necessarily want to shift further from the European market but the reality is that they are. INEOS chairman and majority owner, Jim Ratcliffe, who was in Antwerp, said in a letter to von der Leyen that Europe is “sleepwalking towards offshoring its industry, jobs, investments, and emissions”. The European chemicals sector struggles to compete with other markets, he added. Investment has been driven away by carbon taxes while the US has used a carrot and stick approach to improve its carbon footprint. There will be little left of the industry if the European government does not address the high energy costs, carbon taxes and lack of renewal that impacts the sector, Ratcliffe said. INEOS is investing heavily in its Project One cracker project in Antwerp but has faced environmental obstacles brought to court. Ratcliffe suggested that they demonstrate the flawed European approach. The EU has pushed its green, low carbon agenda hard and sought to carry the energy intensive industries with it but confusion and stasis on the energy front, including the inability to push harder and faster for local and regional renewable energy capabilities is a major headache for producers. To meet climate neutrality by 2050, and even earlier targets, investment in renewables will have to increase markedly. Permitting of energy projects will have to accelerate. Chemical companies and those in other energy-intensive sectors are expected to invest in lower-carbon manufacturing without the assurance that power will be available for their facilities. The declaration, signed by more than 70 business leaders wants member state governments and the next European Commission and Parliament to put an Industrial Deal at the core of the 2024-29 European strategic agenda. It makes suggestions on the main thrust of the deal. The signatories are looking for a “reboot” of industrial investment in Europe. “Basic industries in Europe are grappling with historical challenges: demand is declining, investments in the continent are stalling, production has dropped significantly, and sites are threatened,” said BASF chief Martin Brudermuller. “We want to drive the transformation of our companies.” Insight by Nigel Davis

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ICIS Hydrogen Market Watch
LONDON (ICIS)–The ICIS Hydrogen Market Watch is a weekly overview of the latest developments across the global hydrogen economy, featuring coverage of policy, regulation and transmission, as well as key pricing insights for the cost of producing hydrogen. .
Enagas plans ambitious 2024 financial targets to support hydrogen commitments
Enagas planned 2024 financial objectives with the aim of strengthening its balance sheet This is necessary to undertake significant hydrogen investments starting in 2026, including the implementation of a dividend policy This year will see many bureaucracy steps towards the creation of the hydrogen backbone in Spain LONDON (ICIS)–Enagas announced ambitious financial targets for 2024 which would exceed expectations of the 2022-2030 market strategic plan, after having overperformed its 2023 set objectives. In a webinar presented on 20 February, the company achieved a net profit of €343m, about 7% higher compared to the expected target. The TSO forecasts net profits to fall to €270m in 2024, mostly to prepare for investments in hydrogen network infrastructure beginning in 2026, which are expected to total roughly €3.2bn. HYDROGEN FOCUS Enagas was chosen, via a royal decree in December, as the provisional hydrogen transmission network operator. As part of its responsibility, Enagas will exercise functions of the development of the national hydrogen backbone within the scope of the projects of common interest (PCI) approved by the EU. For doing so, Enagas admitted the necessity to strengthen its balance sheet and adapt its capital structure via the implementation of a dividend policy compatible with investments in hydrogen. Furthermore, the TSO will need to send the government a non-binding development proposal of the hydrogen infrastructure in Spain within a ten-year horizon (2033) before the end of April. This is a necessary step towards the binding planning designed by the Spanish government.
Chemical firms back call for stronger business environment in EU
LONDON (ICIS)–The chief executives of BASF, INEOS, Covestro, Clariant and Dow Europe among others on Tuesday backed a new declaration calling for stronger European Commission prioritisation of business, calling for an industrial deal to be placed at the core of the new Parliament. Over 70 business leaders were present in Antwerp, Belgium, on Tuesday to present the proposals, known as The Antwerp Declaration for a European Industrial Deal, to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Attendees from the sector included INEOS’ Jim Ratcliffe, BASF’s Martin Brudermuller and TotalEnergies’ Patrick Pouyanne , as well as Markus Steilemann of Covestro, Matthias Zachert of LANXESS, Conrad Keijzer of Clariant and Antti Salminen of Kemira. Senior regional figures of large international producers including SABIC Europe vice president Mark Williams, Dow Europe president Neil Carr, DuPont Europe president Pierrick Le Gallo, ExxonMobil Petroleum and Chemical president Philippe Ducom were also present. Energy-intensive industries in Europe have struggled with the impact of high energy prices since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war in early 2022, along with weak demand that has seen recessionary manufacturing sector conditions for most of the year. Demand growth has also remained tepid, with eurozone GDP expanding 0.1% in each of the first two quarters of the year, contracting 0.1% in July-August, and  at a standstill in the closing months of 2023. “Basic industries in Europe are grappling with historical challenges: demand is declining, investments in the continent are stalling, production has dropped significantly, and sites are threatened. We want to drive the transformation of our companies, said Brudermuller. “For this, we urgently need decisive action to create the conditions for a stronger business case in Europe,” he added. The election of a new European Parliament is expected this year, and the declaration signatories called for a comprehensive industrial plan to be placed at the heart of EU strategy, including “actions to eliminate regulatory incoherence, conflicting objectives., unnecessary complexity in legislation and over reporting,” the declaration said. Reducing energy costs, stronger infrastructure investment, raw materials security and strengthening the single market are also among the calls made in the declaration, as well as stronger backing for clean technology projects through operating as well as capital expenditure support. The declaration also calls European policymakers to do more to encourage demand for net-zero and circular products through public procurement and EU-backed private buyer initiatives. Writing separately to von der Leyen, INEOS’ Jim Ratcliffe stated that Europe is “sleepwalking towards offshoring its industry, jobs, investments, and emissions”, and stating that the current EU framework is insufficient to renew the region’s ageing chemical base. Ratcliffe contrasted the EU Green Deal with the US Inflation Reduction Act, which he claims offers stronger incentives for green investment, and noting the legal issues and delays that INEOS has faced trying to build its Antwerp cracker. Tatiana Santos, head of chemicals at EU association the European Environmental Bureau, warned about future Commission policy backing “the prioritisation of polluters’ profits over public health and the environment.” Thumbnail photo: Ursula von der Leyen with numerous chemical industry chiefs at the industry summit taking place at BASF’s Antwerp, Belgium, complex on 20 February. Source: Cefic
Commercial production at Methanex’s Geismar 3 in Louisiana delayed until late Q3
LONDON (ICIS)–Commercial production at Methanex’s newly constructed 1.8 million tonne/year methanol plant, Geismar 3, has been delayed, potentially until the end of Q3, the Canadian producer announced. During the plant’s initial start-up, there were complications with the unit’s autothermal reformer (ATR). In a press release, Methanex said that following inspections, there was significant damage to a large number of supporting refractory bricks in the ATR which needed replacing. It is estimated that the total capital cost will not significantly exceed the upper end of the capital cost guidance of $1.30bn. Gesimar 3 is located in Louisiana and was originally scheduled to start up in Q4 2023. In Methanex’s Q4 earnings report last month, it said the plant was in the process of starting up and was expected to reach full rates in February. The producer said, “Based on the preliminary findings of its root cause analysis, management believes that this issue relates to complications in the initial start-up process and is not a plant design or construction issue.” Methanol is primarily used to produce formaldehyde, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and acetic acid. Smaller amounts go into production of dimethyl terephthalate (DMT), methyl methacrylate (MMA), chloromethanes, methylamines, glycol methyl ethers, and fuels applications such dimethyl ether (DME), biodiesel and the direct blending into gasoline.
European Hydrogen Bank pilot auction demand “far exceeds” €800m budget – EC
The 132 bids received from 17 EEA countries was for a total 8.5GW of combined electrolyser capacity Oversubscription shows strength of European renewable-hydrogen growth  Further details are due between April-May, with grant agreements in place by end of November LONDON (ICIS)–The European Commission said total funding applied for in the first European Hydrogen Bank pilot auction “far exceeds” the programme’s €800m budget on 19 February. A second auction round is scheduled for the spring this year. The auctions only support renewable hydrogen production assets that adhere to the definition of renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBOs) within the Renewable Energy Directive approved by the European Parliament. A total of 132 bids combined demand for 8.5GW of electrolyser capacity in the first auction.  This is equivalent to 8.8m tonnes of renewable hydrogen produced over the ten-year subsidy periods (880,000 tonnes/year), the Commission said. The bid-for volumes come close to covering 9% of Europe’s 10m tonne/year renewable-hydrogen production goal set for the end of the decade. Bids were received from 17 of 30 countries within the European Economic Area (EEA). The Commission said that more details would follow in either April or May after an evaluation process, with the grant agreements signed by November this year at the latest. RECEIVED BIDS, GERMANY BOOST Each bid for capacity averages 64.4MW, at an annual average production rate of 6,667 tonnes/year for each bid. Given demand overshooting available funds, it is unlikely that all 132 bids will succeed. Germany announced late 2023 that it would be the first member state to participate in the EU’s voluntary auctions-as-a-service scheme, however, while providing additional support. The government made an additional €350m available for projects in Germany, in case eligible bids for projects in Germany are excluded from the Innovation Fund due to budget limitations.
PODCAST: Phosphates, ammonia markets on standby due to low demand
LONDON (ICIS)–As the phosphoric acid settlement for Q1 is announced and India is eagerly awaiting further details on government subsidies, phosphates markets editor Chris Vlachopoulos and ammonia senior editor Sylvia Traganida discuss developments in their respective markets. They talk about demand, recent developments, and provide insight on the possible ways forward for both markets.
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