China's polyethylene import demand may weaken further in the coming months

(ICIS) -- China's polyethylene (PE) import demand may weaken further in the coming months because of high import prices that will deter buyers, industry sources said on Tuesday.

The benchmark linear low density PE (LLDPE) was on average selling at yuan (CNY) 10,800/tonne (USD 1.659/tonne) EXWH (ex-warehouse) on 13 May, CNY350/tonne or 3.1% lower from mid-April, according to data from Chemease, an ICIS service in China.

The import cost of LLDPE was at least $35/tonne (┬25/tonne) higher than current retail prices, local traders said.

The average retail price of injection grade polypropylene (PP) rose to CNY12,675/tonne EXWH on 13 May, up by CNY225/tonne or 1.8% from mid-April, but still lagged behind import costs, local traders said.

The benchmark injection grade PP is being offered from Asia at around USD 1.680/tonne CFR (cost & freight) China for June shipment, around USD133/tonne higher than current retail prices.

China imported less PE and PP in March this year as a result of the high import costs, local traders said. China imported around 230 KT of LLDPE and about 330 KT of homopolymer PP in March, which were 14% and 9% lower compared with the same month last year, according to China's customs data.


Sasol-Huntsman lifted the force majeure declaration on maleic anhydride

(ICIS) -- Sasol-Huntsman has lifted the force majeure declaration at its maleic anhydride (MA) plant in Moers, Germany, a company source said on Friday. The force majeure was enacted on 4 March 2011 because of technical problems associated with the start-up of the facility's new 45 KTa reactor. It was lifted on 30 April and the extra capacity is now online, giving a new nameplate capacity of 105 KTa.

The European MA market has been in tight supply since the fourth quarter of 2009, because of the closure of BASF's 115 KTa MA plant in Feluy, Belgium.

Despite the lifting of Sasol-Huntsman's force majeure, MA availability remains low because of limited stock levels and high demand, sources said.

Spot prices are at record levels of EUR 1.800-2.000/tonne (USD 2.571-2.857/tonne) for liquid and flake. Liquid spot prices have been at historic highs for 10 weeks, and solid spot prices for six weeks. At the time, the spot price increases were attributed to the Sasol-Huntsman force majeure.


BASF crystals make concrete harden faster

(BASF) -- X-SEED crystals from BASF make concrete harden faster and reduce carbon emissions. This hardening accelerator not only allows precast concrete units to be produced more rapidly and in better quality, it also considerably reduces energy consumption and the associated emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2).

"X-Seed makes heat curing with all its disadvantages largely superfluous," explains Dr. Michael Kompatscher, responsible for BASF's European precast concrete component market. "With this additive, concrete hardens just as fast at 20 degrees Celsius as it otherwise does at 60 degrees Celsius. And by a brilliantly simple method - because all it involves is adding something that's already present in the concrete anyway: calcium silicate hydrate." More precisely, it's the countless millions of tiny CSH crystals with a diameter of several nanometers suspended in liquid in X-Seed. Because of their nanosize, more very homogeneously distributed crystallization seeds can be accommodated in the same mass and thereby promote faster growth. When the concrete hardens, further molecules from the cement can attach themselves to these CSH seeds. The resulting crystals grow more densely and finally interlock to form the compact cement stone.

Besides the large market for precast concrete components, in which manufacturers can now produce more efficiently and rapidly and handle peak workloads more flexibly, this innovative accelerator also offers advantages for a number of other applications. The product shortens the construction times of roads, tunnels and airstrips - also in winter outdoor temperatures. The nanoproduct X-Seed not only saves costs, it also has an extremely positive influence on the energy and climate balance and hence the sustainability of the material concrete (see Infobox).


SABIC awards contracts for elastomers project

(Arabian Oil and Gas) -- Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) and affiliates of ExxonMobil Chemical have confirmed that Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) contracts have been awarded for a proposed new elastomers project at their Al-Jubail Petrochemical Company (KEMYA) joint venture petrochemical plant.

FEED contracts were awarded to Jacobs Engineering and Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding for process units and to Fluor Transworld Services for associated support facilities.

"This elastomers project will be the basis for the creation of a world-class rubber value chain in Saudi Arabia and a valuable extension of our offering of products and services to our customers in key markets," said Koos van Haasteren, SABIC executive vice president, Performance Chemicals.

The project is expected to establish a domestic supply of more than 400 KT of rubber[butyl, styrene butadiene rubber (SBR), butadiene rubber (BR) and EPDM], thermoplastic specialty polymers and carbon black to serve emerging local and international markets in Asia and the Middle East. The project also includes the establishment of a vocational training center and product application development and support center, aligned with Saudi Arabia's National Industrial Clusters Development Program to grow and diversify the manufacturing sector in Saudi Arabia.


Brazil's Wortex reentered the market for blown-film extrusion systems

(Plastics Today) -- Wortex Maquinas (Campinas, Brazil) reentered the market for blown-film extrusion systems at Brasilplast (May 9-13), launching a three-layer design for technical films. Speaking with PlasticsToday from his company's stand, Paolo De Filippis, Wortex's director, admitted the marketplace for film extrusion machinery in Brazil does not lack opposition. This point was reinforced by Wortex's neighbor at the fair, Carnevalli, a long-standing Brazil-based supplier of blown-film equipment, which ran four towers at the show.

Wortex built a new plant for the blown-film machinery, finishing the facility three months ago. It has 2000-m2 for assembly, with the complete manufacturing site covering 5500-m2.

In addition to expanding its technological portfolio in 2011, Wortex also hopes to extend its geographic reach, with plans to add manufacturing in the U.S.