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Covestro to save €400m/year by 2028 through focus on digitalization, AI
LONDON (ICIS)–Covestro will save €400 million annually in material and personnel costs by the end of 2028 through a transformation programme focused on digitalization and artificial intelligence, it said on Tuesday. Of the total global savings from its STRONG initiative, €190 million will be in Germany. Covestro said cost savings from the programme had already been initiated, adding that it was working continuously to further improve existing structures and processes. “This includes making production, administrative units and other areas as efficient as possible and continuously expanding the innovation pipeline. Covestro thereby continues the successful implementation of its strategy,” the polymers producer said in a statement. Any job cuts resulting from the transformation programme would be handled in a socially responsible manner, such as voluntary termination agreements, a company spokesperson said separately via email. “With the collective agreements and the extension of employment security announced today, Covestro is making a clear commitment to Germany as a business location,” the spokesperson added. On Monday, Covestro announced it had begun concrete negotiations on a possible investment by Abu Dhabi oil company ADNOC that would value its equity at €11.7bn. Front page picture: Covestro’s headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany Source: Friedemann Vogel/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Chemanol to supply methanol to Saudi Amiral project over 20 years
SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Saudi Arabia’s Methanol Chemicals Co (Chemanol) has signed a 20-year deal to supply methanol to the Amiral petrochemical project of Saudi Aramco Total Refining and Petrochemical Co (SATORP). Under the agreement, Chemanol will supply 100,000 tonnes of methanol to SATORP on an annual basis when the complex starts up in three years’ time, Chemanol said in a filing on the Saudi Stock Exchange. “The commercial operation [of Amiral complex] and supply [of methanol] are planned to start by the end of 2027,” Chemanol said. It added that “the financial impact of this agreement is currently indeterminable due to the changes in market conditions and product prices at the time of starting to supply the methanol”. SATORP, a joint venture between energy giant Saudi Aramco and French TotalEnergies, is expanding operations via building the $11bn Amiral complex in Jubail. The complex is expected to have a mixed-feed cracker and utilities, with a nameplate capacity of 1.65m tonnes/year of ethylene and related industrial gases. Engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contracts for the Amiral project were awarded in June 2023 to South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering & Construction. Aramco owns 62.5% of SATORP, while TotalEnergies holds the remaining stake of 37.5%. The companies made a final investment decision on Amiral in December 2022, to enable SATORP’s Jubail refinery to advance Aramco’s liquids-to-chemicals strategy. Amiral will enable SATORP to convert internally produced refinery off-gases and naphtha, as well as ethane and natural gasoline supplied by Aramco, into higher value chemicals. Thumbnail image: At a port in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 15 May 2023. (Ute Grabowsky/imageBROKER/Shutterstock)
ICIS EXPLAINS: UK election impact on energy
UPDATED: On 24 June 2024, ICIS updated this analysis to include a review of the renewable capacity pledges from manifestos and their likelihood of being met On 21 June 2024, ICIS updated this analysis to include a breakdown of the impact of new gas licenses on British gas supply On 20 June 2024, ICIS updated this analysis to include the Scottish National Party’s manifesto plans for energy. The manifesto table now includes these details Initial analysis published with detailed table reviewing energy policies from announced manifesto pledges, original analyses covering nuclear power and gas-fired power generation, a UK election special episode of the ICIS Hydrogen Insights podcast LONDON (ICIS) — On 4 July 2024 the UK public will elect a new government, but what do the different parties have in store for energy? The following analysis reflect core pledges from manifestos and reviews those pledges in detail using ICIS data and insights. This analysis of UK political pledges and announcements will be continuously updated by the ICIS energy editorial team. Lead authors include: UK power reporter Anna Coulson, British gas reporter Matthew Farmer. UK PARTIES COULD STRUGGLE TO MEET RENEWABLE CAPACITY ELECTION PLEDGES – Added to analysis 24 June 2024 UK parties unlikely to meet capacity targets Key to onshore wind would be change to regulation Offshore wind could struggle following recent CfD round LONDON (ICIS)–For the UK general election, Labour, the Conservatives and the Green Party are the only three of the main parties to present outright capacity targets for renewable energy deployment across their manifestos. However, ICIS data and analyst insight suggests that meeting such targets could face difficulties due to recent setbacks in the UK’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) bidding process and restrictive regulation for onshore wind. The Labour party manifesto states it will double onshore wind, triple solar power, and quadruple offshore wind by 2030. To present an idea of this, ICIS has multiplied its forecasted capacity for these technologies in the UK by the end of 2024 by their respective factors according to Labour’s pledges. Actual intended capacity may vary. ICIS had contacted the Labour party for comment but received no response by the time of publication. Onshore wind Labour plans to double onshore wind capacity by 2030, while the Green Party would deploy 53GW of capacity by 2035. The Liberal Democrats would ‘remove the Conservative’s unnecessary restrictions on new wind power’, likely referring to the requirements the current government introduced in 2015 and changes to the law in 2016. Planning policies were updated in September 2023 to allow locations suitable for new wind farms to be identified in several ways, rather than only in the area’s development plan. However, decisions continue to be made by local planning authorities which differs to the process for other infrastructure projects where decisions on major projects are made by the Secretary of State. The current government does not have an onshore wind capacity target and the Conservative’s manifesto has no mention of one however, it does state that the party will ensure democratic consent for onshore wind. ICIS analytics forecasts 25.85GW of onshore wind capacity in 2030 and in 2035, under a base case scenario, which is below Labour and the Green Party’s targets. ICIS analyst, Robbie Jackson-Stroud, stated that planning permission is one of the main challenges onshore wind projects face. “Costs for turbines have also risen and so they are then squeezed into a CfD funding pot where they have to compete with solar”, he added. Jackson-Stroud noted that onshore wind could be a key component to the development of renewable capacity in the UK, changes to regulation permitting. “One aspect that is likely to change is regulation and approval of onshore wind projects, which require less budget and time to build. However, it is difficult to envisage a new government being timely enough to sufficiently improve the approval process and have enough projects apply to shift onshore capacity before 2030. It should be noted, however, how much potential a change to regulation would have to long term capacities, and you can expect more capacity in the 2030s”, Jackson-Stroud said. Offshore wind The Conservatives, Labour and the Green party all position offshore wind as a key technology to support the decarbonization of the UK’s power system. However, achieving such targets appears difficult following an unsuccessful fifth auction of the CfD scheme in 2023, in which there were no bids for offshore wind amid a low strike price. The current government increased the strike price for the upcoming sixth auction round, raising the maximum strike price from £44/MWh to £73/MWh. Jackson-Stroud highlighted the difficulty facing the next wave of auctions when considering 2030 targets. “Both parties [Labour and the Conservatives] have pledged unachievable targets without a huge budget increase for the CfD. Taking into account the time it takes to build offshore wind sites (that are getting increasingly larger on average) there are only two CfD auctions at most that can fund capacity to come online by 2030. “There is roughly 27GW of offshore wind already under CfD, under construction or operational, suggesting the need for a further 23GW across two auctions, which would be a record at a time where costs are higher than they have ever been. While the budget for the latest round has been raised to an all-time high of £800m for offshore and £1.2bn total, this would still procure only 12GW of wind in even the most conservative estimates. “This means regardless of Labour increasing 2030 targets for offshore, even the 50GW already in place will not be met, and a change of party doesn’t change the blockers to this,” Jackson-Stroud said. ICIS analytics forecasts that offshore wind capacity will be 39GW in 2030 under a base case scenario, therefore falling short of the Conservative and Labour party targets. Similarly, offshore wind capacity is forecast to be 48.04GW in 2035 under a base case scenario, well below the Green Party’s target. Solar Labour plan to triple solar capacity by 2030, while the Green Party and Conservatives have set targets for 2035, 100GW and 70GW respectively based on manifesto and recent policy announcements. However, reaching such targets may prove challenging based on recent CfD results. ICIS analyst Matthew Jones previously noted that for the UK to meet its 70GW by 2035 target, CfD capacity awards would need to average 4.5GW/year. However, over the last two CfD rounds, just 2.2GW was awarded in each. Further, ICIS analytics forecasts 42.97GW of solar capacity by 2030, and 48.54GW by 2035, under a base case scenario, therefore missing the Labour, Conservative and Green Party targets. Since the closure of the renewable obligation and feed-in tariff schemes, the CfD scheme is the only subsidized route to market for solar. The forecast models cited in this story are available as part of ICIS Power Foresight. If you would like to learn more about ICIS Power Foresight, please contact head of power analytics Matthew Jones at Matthew.Jones@icis.com UKCS LICENSING – Added to analysis 21 June 2024 Several parties have committed to end the issuing of new licenses for extraction of oil and gas on the UK continental shelf (UKCS), however ICIS analysis shows the inclusion of new licenses may have a minimal impact in mitigating output decline. Gas production on the UKCS started declining in 2000, but held steady during the 2010s. It currently accounts for approximately 40% of Britain’s gas supply mix, with the bulk of remaining volumes coming through Norwegian imports and LNG. From the late 2020s, UKCS production is expected to decline by approximately 6% per year. Licenses on new discoveries would not reverse the decline in British production expected in coming years. However, they would have accounted for another 0.80 billion cubic meters (bcm) of British gas production in 2030, increasing to 1.5bcm in 2035. In contrast to the other parties, the Conservatives and Reform UK have committed to annual licensing rounds and “fast-track” licenses, respectively. Both have done so with a justification of maintaining British energy independence, citing the rising price of energy caused by the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. GAS-FIRED POWER DEMAND LIKELY UNMOVED Both the Conservatives and the Labour party show support for the continued use of gas for power generation, bolstering a key area of demand for British gas market participants. However, of the two parties, the Conservatives presented a more bullish mentality by noting intensions for new gas plants, aligning with previous announcements to support new capacity. Labour meanwhile take a muted approach, noting the need for a strategic reserve of gas for power generation. Both Labour and the Conservatives have therefore presented policy that could reduce power-market price volatility as renewable capacity grows, with gas offering baseload generation at periods of low renewable output. Gas demand for power to remain From a gas-market perspective, the use of gas for power amounts to a large share of overall demand. In 2023, gas offtake for power accounted for 26% of total gas demand. The UK is heavily reliant on gas-fired power generation, with it contributing 26% of the UK’s electricity mix in the period 1 January to 31 May 2024, according to data from National Grid. Similarly, gas-fired generation provided an average 36.3% of the mix over the 2019-23 period, therefore making a significant contribution to the UK’s electricity stack. While the capacity of new gas generation is not mentioned in the Conservative party’s manifesto, ICIS analytics forecast data indicates that gas capacity is set to increase through to 2026, under a base case scenario. This would suggest that offtake for power generation could well remain a key share of overall gas demand under either a Conversative or a Labour government. Further, ICIS data shows that there will be 7.92GW of gas capacity in 2050 under a base case scenario, which itself raises uncertainty around the prospect of pledges to decarbonize power grids by around the 2030s. NUCLEAR Nuclear power represented a large focus for the Labour, Conservative and Reform UK parties, which each announced plans to increase nuclear capacity through a mix of measures, such as plant life extensions, new large-scale projects, or Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). Despite this, the overall pledges presented for the election suggests need for further capacity build-out in the run up to 2050 in order to meet the government’s target. While the Conservative’s manifesto did not mention a specific nuclear capacity target, the current government has a target to reach 24GW of nuclear capacity by 2050. ICIS analytics forecasts that, under a base case scenario, nuclear capacity will be 12.76GW by 2050. Plant life extensions Although Labour’s manifesto did not provide details on which nuclear plants it intended to focus on for life extensions, or for how long, the intension is in line with former market announcements from EDF, which stated plans in January 2024 to extend the lives of five UK nuclear plants. EDF plans to invest an additional £1.3bn in these power stations over 2024-26, with the aim to maintain output from the four advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGR) for as long as possible, and for the Sizewell B plant to operate for an additional 20 years. The lifetimes of the four AGR stations would be reviewed by the end of 2024. New capacity From a new capacity perspective Labour pledged to get the 3.2GW Hinkley Point C project over the line and that new nuclear power stations, such as the 3.2GW Sizewell C project, will play a key role in helping the UK to achieve energy security and clean power. In January, the Conservatives announced plans for a new large-scale nuclear power plant, which would be as large as Hinkley Point C or Sizewell C, which are both 3.2GW in capacity. The current government announced in May that Wylfa would be the preferred site for this new plant however, a commissioning date is still to be confirmed. This aligns with the party’s manifesto pledge to deliver a new gigawatt power plant at the same location. The new plant in Wales could well boost UK nuclear capacity, but it would still present a capacity gap between the current ICIS forecast for 2050 and the government’s target of 24GW. Small modular reactors Labour, the Conservatives, and Reform UK all mention SMRs in their manifestos however, the Conservatives will approve two new fleets of SMRs within the first 100 days of the next parliament. This is likely through the competitive process that Great British Nuclear (GBN) launched in 2023 to select SMR technologies best placed to be operational by the mid-2030s. GBN plans to announce successful bidders for the competition by the end of 2024 and to take two SMR projects to a final investment decision by 2029. However, it must be noted that SMRs are a new technology, and none are commissioned yet in Europe.    HYDROGEN In this UK general election special, ICIS hydrogen editor speaks with Rob Dale, founder and director of UK consultancy Beyond2050, which aims at supporting market participants in achieving their energy and sustainability goals. Over the course of the episode, Jake and Rob review which parties have committed to hydrogen for the election and what makes this election the biggest for hydrogen so far.

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PODCAST: Europe oxo-alcohols, derivatives markets see balanced to long supply, sluggish demand
LONDON (ICIS)–The European oxo-alcohols market and most of its derivatives have been characterized by ample supply in June, particularly following the lifting of OQ Chemicals’ force majeure at the end of May. Demand across most markets remains tepid and slow due to ongoing economic challenges. The construction and coatings industries have not experienced the expected seasonal surge. Butyl acetate reporter Marion Boakye speaks to oxo-alcohols reporter Nicole Simpson, glycol ethers reporter Cameron Birch and acrylate esters reporter Mathew Jolin-Beech about market dynamics down the oxo-alcohols value chain.  
Americas top stories: weekly summary
HOUSTON (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News from the week ended 21 June. Brazil’s authorities’ response to floods decent, society’s humbling – Abiquim CEO Brazil’s authorities’ response to the devastating floods in Rio Grande do Sul was appropriate, while that of civic society was “marvelous and exemplary”, according to the CEO at chemicals trade group Abiquim. PPG sees strong sustainability demand pull for coatings, race to adapt to new processes – exec US-based coatings producer PPG is seeing robust demand for sustainable products from customers, some of which rely on new, more energy efficient processes, said an executive on Monday. For drought-stricken area, rain in Mexico’s Altamiras could help end petchem crisis – analyst Rains this week in the area where the Altamira petrochemicals hub is located, in Mexico’s state of Tamaulipas, could start fixing the weeks-long drought which has hit companies in the area hard, according to an analyst at supply chain consultancy Everstream. Tropical Storm Alberto floods beaches amid storm surge, high tide, but plant ops unaffected so far Tropical Storm Alberto, the first named storm of the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season, continues to push toward the Mexico coast and a combination of storm surge and high tides are already flooding some Texas coastal communities. Canada chemical industry flags concerns about ‘greenwashing’ amendment Canada’s chemical industry is concerned about the impacts from a legislative amendment to address “greenwashing”, an industry executive said on Friday. Chile’s crusade against plastics prompting stronger sustainability push by firms – trade group Chile remains at the forefront of restrictive plastics regulations in Latin America as the whole political spectrum tries to capitalize in rules which resonate with public opinion, according to the CEO at the country’s trade group Asipla.
VIDEO: Global oil outlook – five factors to watch in week 26
LONDON (ICIS)–Oil prices could move higher this week as supply disruption concerns come back into focus. Investors will also keep a watchful eye on US personal consumption data, which will be released on Friday. Watch as ICIS experts highlight the likely factors that will move oil prices in Week 26.
Strong UK June manufacturing activity offset by weakening services sector
LONDON (ICIS)–Strong UK manufacturing activity growth in June was offset by slowing expansion in the services sector, according to the latest Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data. Growth among goods producers, driven by improved order book intakes and strong business confidence, drove the manufacturing output and manufacturing indexes to 26- and 23-month highs respectively. Conversely, services activity grew at its softest pace for seven months, with survey feedback indicating the slowdown was partly driven by a pause in client spending decisions in the run up to the UK election on 4 July. UK PMI Indexes June May Composite output 51.7 53.0 Services Business Activity 51.2 52.9 Manufacturing Output 54.2 53.4 Manufacturing 51.4 51.2 A figure above 50 in the index indicates expansion, and below 50 contraction. UK firms also faced a quickening of input cost inflation in June as severe global shipping constraints led to higher transport costs, index compiler S&P Global said. This rise fed through to quicker increases in output charges for both manufacturing and services companies, with producers raising prices at the sharpest rate since May 2023. “The slowdown in part reflects uncertainty around the business environment in the lead up to the general election, with many firms seeing a hiatus in decision making pending clarity on various policies,” said S&P chief business economist Chris Williamson. The latest PMI data for the eurozone indicated a slowdown in economic recovery at the end of the second quarter. Both data sets were released on Friday 21 June.
PODCAST: China MMA supported by tight supply, demand recovery in H1 2024
SINGAPORE (ICIS)–In this podcast, ICIS editor Mason Liang discusses the China methyl methacrylate (MMA) market. Supply disruptions in key producing regions drive significant price increases amid strong demand Market participants closely monitor plant operations for the second half of 2024 Qixiang Tengda’s planned July restart expected to boost activity in the Shandong market In light of this, ICIS launched the MMA DEL (delivered) Shandong assessment in April. Detailed methodology is available on the ICIS website.
Asia top stories – weekly summary
SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News Asia and the Middle East for the week ended 22 June 2024. Malaysia May chemical exports rise 0.8% as overall trade continues recovery By Nurluqman Suratman 21-Jun-24 13:47 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Malaysia’s exports of chemicals and chemical products rose by 0.8% year on year to ringgit (M$) 6.31 billion in May amid signs that its overall trade weakness has bottomed out. Asia ACN sees continuation of tight supply, weak demand By Corey Chew 20-Jun-24 11:52 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The acrylonitrile (ACN) market recently saw a slight decrease in price for both the northeast Asia and India markets. Thai bio-ethylene plant key to growing SCG Chemicals’ green plastics portfolio By Nurluqman Suratman 19-Jun-24 13:15 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Thailand’s SCG Chemicals (SCGC) has obtained government approval for its 200,000 tonne/year joint venture bio-ethylene plant in Map Ta Phut, paving the way for the company to reach its target of producing 1m tonnes/year of green polymers by 2030. INSIGHT: Mixed outlook for Asia chemical prices in June – ICIS analysts By Lina Xu 18-Jun-24 12:00 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–There is a mixed outlook for petrochemical prices in Asia in June. Upward support comes from unplanned shutdowns and policy implications. Downward pressure is largely results from seasonal factors. INSIGHT: Asia petrochemical markets grapple with surging shipping costs By Nurluqman Suratman 14-Jun-24 13:54 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Spot prices of most petrochemicals in Asia have spiked on the back of surging freight and container costs, as logistics challenges which continue to dampen global commodities trades coincide with a seasonal uptick in demand. PODCAST: Propane import growth to remain strong despite bottled LPG replacement By Lillian Ren 20-Jun-24 12:08 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China’s propane import growth is expected to remain strong this year although local authorities have been encouraging food catering and residential end-users to switch from bottled liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to piped natural gas (PNG).
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