News in brief

31 January 2014 10:01 Source:ICIS Chemical Business


Sinopec, 7 Taiwan firms to build JV cracker in China
China’s biggest refiner Sinopec and seven Taiwanese companies are planning to build a 1.2m tonne/year cracker in Fujian province. The proposed cracker will be located at Gulei Petrochemical Industry Park in Zhangzhou. The seven Taiwanese ­companies include major petrochemical producers USI, Asia Polymer, Ho Tung Chemical, Chenergy Global and three others, and their combined investment is approximately $264m. Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) granted approval for the cracker project in China on 27 January.

Daqing runs PP plant at full tilt
China’s Daqing Refining & Chemicals is running its 300,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) plant in Heilongjiang at full capacity, following the unit’s restart from regular maintenance on 21 January. The plant was restarted from a 30-day maintenance shutdown and is now producing PP fibre. The company’s older PP plant at the same site, with a 300,000 tonne/year capacity, is also running at full capacity, producing PP injection.

IOC in talks to partner with HPCL on project
Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOC) is in partnership talks with Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) for an $8bn refinery cum petrochemical complex project in the southern Indian province of Andhra Pradesh. Once talks are finalized and IOC’s equity participation level agreed, HPCL will make necessary changes in the feasibility report of its 15m tonne/year refinery and integrated petrochemical complex, incorporating IOC’s priorities. Changes in the configuration of the petrochemical plant will also be considered since IOC was keen on making it an export-oriented plant with a focus on markets like China.

Yanshan Petrochemical shuts HDPE and PP line
China’s Yanshan Petrochemical shut one of its two 70,000 tonne/year high density polyethylene (HDPE) lines and its 200,000 tonne/year polypropylene (PP) line in Beijing on 28 January. The two lines were shut because of a shortage of feedstock, according to the source, explaining that its cracker, with a capacity of 800,000 tonnes/year, is running at a reduced capacity. The PP line is scheduled to be restarted at the beginning of February, the source added, but did not disclose when the HDPE line will be restarted.

Sichuan Xinjin to start up oxo-alcohols plant
China’s Sichuan Xinjin Petrochemical plans to start up its new 320,000 tonne/year oxo-alcohols facility in Chengdu at the end of February. The facility includes an 80,000 tonne/year 2-ethylhexanol (2-EH) unit, a 210,000 tonne/year n-butanol (NBA) unit, and a 30,000 tonne/year isobutanol (IBA) unit. With the facility start-up, Sichuan Xinjin Petrochemical will become the first oxo-alcohols producer in southwest China. The start-up is expected to add pressure to the already oversupplied domestic oxo-alcohols market.

Korea’s SKC restarts HPPO, PG units
South Korea’s SKC was on schedule to restart its hydrogen peroxide to propylene oxide (HPPO) and propylene glycol (PG) units the week ended 31 January after completing its maintenance. The units were taken off line since 16 January. The HPPO unit has capacity of 130,000 tonnes/year, while the PG unit has capacity totalling 100,000 tonnes/year.

SCG-Dow restarts styrene unit
Thailand’s SCG-Dow Chemical had scheduled to restart its 300,000 tonne/year styrene monomer (SM) unit at the end of the week ended 31 January after mechanical issues were resolved. The facility, located in Map Ta Phut, was shut in early January. Nonetheless, the company continued to supply contract customers from inventories during this time. The company also operates a 200,000 tonne/year polystyrene (PS) unit at the same location. The unit was unaffected by the SM plant trouble and was running normally during this time.

TPCC expects to restart Linyuan BPA unit
Taiwan Prosperity Chemical Corp (TPCC) is expected to restart its 100,000 tonne/year bisphenol A (BPA) plant in Linyuan around mid-March. Originally, the plant was planned for a restart on 17 January after undergoing a scheduled maintenance since late-December 2013. However, the restart was delayed amid technical woes at the unit. It was believed that initially that the problem was minor and that the plant can be restarted after the Lunar New Year holidays in February, but now it appears that the issue was more severe and the restart is likely to be around mid-March.

LCY runs Kaohsiung IPA unit at 100%
Taiwan’s LCY Chemical Corp is currently running its 100,000 tonne/year isopropanol (IPA) unit in Kaohsiung at full capacity. Early in January, production at the plant was reduced in view of weak margins caused by high prices of feedstock propylene. Determining the plant’s run rate is largely dependent on feedstock costs. Fellow IPA producer LG Chem has shut two of its IPA units because of weak margins from firm feedstock acetone prices.


Phillips 66 Q4 chem earnings rise 6%
US-based Phillips 66’s fourth-quarter chemical segment earnings rose 6% year over year to $261m mainly because of higher polyethylene (PE) margins and ethylene volumes. The segment earnings reflect Phillips 66’s 50% stake Chevron Phillips Chemical (CP Chem). Phillips 66 added that CP Chem’s specialties, aromatics and styrenics business was adversely affected by benzene margins and costs related to a planned turnaround in the fourth quarter.

Dow Q4 net rebounds on higher volumes
US-based Dow Chemical said that its net income for the fourth quarter of 2013 had jumped to $963m compared to a $716m net loss during the same period the previous year, buoyed by gains from almost every operating segment. The figure is also a 41% increase on the $685m net income generated in the third quarter of 2013. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, debt and amortisation (EBITDA) for the quarter increased 31% year on year to $2.1bn, while sales were up 3% year on year at $14.4bn, with sales increasing in all divisions aside from feedstocks and energy. Prices and volumes also increased overall during the quarter.

Obama pledges to ease restrictions on industry
US President Barack Obama promised to ease federal regulatory restrictions to help expand industries that use newly abundant US supplies of natural gas, saying that it is “the bridge fuel that can power [the US] economy”. In his annual State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress, Obama said that “one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy”.

Ashland to undergo restructuring, job cuts
US-based Ashland’s restructuring plans, which include the cutting of 800 to 1,000 jobs and transfer of another 800 to 1,000, will yield a “more customer-centric, nimble organisation” better positioned for growth, said Luis Fernandez-Moreno, Ashland’s senior vice president and president of specialty ingredients. Ashland expects to generate annualised cost savings of $150m-200m from its restructuring plans, most of which are expected to be in effect by fiscal H1 2015.

DuPont targets 8%-15% EPS growth in 2014
US-based DuPont expects to generate operating earnings per share of $4.20 to $4.45 in 2014, up 8-15% from 2013. The earnings growth target includes the impact of planned share repurchases. Full-year 2014 revenue should increase by about 4% to $37bn. In 2013, revenue rose 3% to $35.7bn, with volumes up 5%. The 2014 projections are based on 3% GDP growth in a “world economy that continues to face many uncertainties”, said CEO Ellen Kullman and chief financial officer Nicholas Fanandakis.

Eastman to acquire BP aviation engine oil
Eastman Chemical has agreed to acquire BP’s global aviation turbine engine oil business. Financial terms of the deal, which Eastman expects to be completed by in Q2 2014, were not disclosed. The business has annual revenues of around $100m. The acquisition will include a production facility in Linden, New Jersey, US; specialised laboratory equipment in Naperville, Illinois, US; and a long-term supply agreement for related products that BP will use to serve industrial markets.

CAB foresees US growth through 2014
A key indicator of US chemicals industry activity suggests that the nation’s economy will see continued if slow growth this year, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said. The ACC said that its monthly chemical activity barometer (CAB) rose by 0.2 points in January 2014 from December to a reading of 94.0 on a three-month moving average (3MMA). The barometer had been 93.8 in December, and as recently as August of last year it was just below 93.

BASF to build MGDA plant in Alabama
Germany-based BASF plans to build a worldscale methylglycinediacetic acid (MGDA) plant at Evonik’s facility in Theodore, Alabama, US. The $90m project is expected to start up in H2 2015. Nameplate production capacity for the new plant was not disclosed. BASF markets MGDA as its Trilon M product, which is a chelating agent that is biodegradable and used to improve the cleaning effect of detergents and cleaners.

Economists see US GDP growth of up to 3%
US corporate economists expect that the nation’s 2014 gross domestic product (GDP) will expand by 2% to 3% and they are more confident about business growth this year than in 2013, a survey said. In its January survey of business economists, the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) said that “the outlook for 2014 is strengthening”. NABE president Jack Kleinhenz said that results from the new survey “suggest that economic growth accelerated to a moderate pace during the fourth quarter of 2013 from its modest pace the previous quarter”.


SIBUR restarts MEG, C2 production
Russia-based petrochemicals producer SIBUR has resumed monoethylene glycol (MEG) and ethylene (C2) production in the Nizhny Novgorod region following an unplanned shutdown. SIBUR’s MEG output was restarted on 26 January and C2 production 25 January, a SIBUR spokesperson said. SIBUR also restarted production of ethylene oxide (EO) and other glycols on 26 January and propylene on 26 January. The production facilities were shut down on 24 December due to technical problems at the heating unit of SIBUR’s Kstovo cracker facility.

Synthos to profit from east Asia BD squeeze
Vertically integrated butadiene (BD) and synthetic butadiene rubber (SBR) producers such as Poland’s Synthos are set to capitalise on a BD supply squeeze in east Asia caused by a series of February to June maintenance shutdowns, Vienna-based Raiffeisen Centrobank (RCB) said. The lack of supply should push up BD prices, which would enable Synthos to more substantially benefit from its in-house supplies, noted Dominik Niszcz, an analyst at RCB.

Total lifts force majeure on HDPE; PP to come
Total Petrochemicals was to lift the force majeure on high density polyethylene (HDPE) from Gonfreville, France, by 27 January, but polypropylene (PP) restrictions will remain in place until 1 February, if all goes according to plan, buyers said. Force majeure was called on HDPE on 30 December 2013, and PP restrictions were imposed some days later, thought to be due to cracker issues at the site.

Dow Terneuzen issues remain unresolved
The unspecified mechanical failure that caused production problems at Dow’s polyols plant in Terneuzen, the Netherlands, has not yet been resolved, a company source said. “All our assets are running well except flex slab in [Terneuzen] which is [still] running at [a] reduced rate,” the company source said. Buyers said that, although some initially received postponement notices for deliveries, it is now business as usual and there has been minimal impact on the market.

Germany’s VCI demands WTO tariff elimination
Germany’s chemical producers trade group VCI demanded the World Trade Organisation (WTO) not only pursue a plan of tariff-free trading for finished environmental goods currently being discussed, but also eliminate tariffs on chemical components used throughout the manufacturing process. On 24 January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, delegates from around the world announced a plan to achieve global free trade in environmental goods. “This initiative does not reflect the reality of global value chains,” said Utz Tillmann, VCI’s director general.

Orion adds carbon black production line
Germany-based Orion Engineered Carbons has started up a new production line for specialty carbon black at its plant in Kalscheuren, Germany. The line, into which Orion said it had invested “several million euros”, began operation earlier in January. Capacity of the new line was not disclosed. Globally, Orion has a carbon black production capacity of 1.4m tonnes/year, according to its website.

EU commercial vehicles registrations up 35%
New commercial vehicles registrations in the EU increased by 35% year on year in December 2013 on the back of economic recovery, while for 2013 the increase stood at 1%, said the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA). A total of 169,744 units were registered in December 2013, with all major markets recording positive figures. Year on year in the UK, registrations grew by 66%, in Spain 52.9%, in Germany 27%, in Italy 16.8% and in France the increase stood at 16.6%.

Shareholders push for influence at Unipetrol
Small shareholders unhappy with the business strategy of Czech petrochemical producer Unipetrol plan to link up to obtain a seat on the company’s supervisory board. Slovakia-based J&T Group made the announcement after revealing that, together with its clients, it now controls 27% of Unipetrol. A stake of 63% in Unipetrol is held by Polish oil and petrochemicals group PKN Orlen while another 10%, like the 27% accumulated by J&T and its clients, is in free float on the stock market.

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