Earthquake should give a boost to injection machine investment in Japan

(Plastics Today) -- The Great East Japan Earthquake should give a boost to injection machine investment in Japan but this will take time to manifest itself given persisting supply chain disruptions, noted Koichi Kasamatsu, global sales manager at injection molding machine manufacturer Sumitomo Heavy Industries (Tokyo, Japan). "Many plastics processors are ready to invest and restart operations but their customers in the auto industry are not, so they are holding off."

Kasamatsu says the Japanese automotive industry is unlikely to start ramping up production until October, and full production levels are expected to return only in December. However, some observers are also of the view that some export-oriented car production might eventually be permanently relocated overseas to countries such as the U.S. and Thailand, throwing further uncertainty over domestic processors' machine investment.

Kasamatsu also noted that while the Chinese economy remains strong, there has been a dip in imports there of Japanese machinery. "We are seeing increasing numbers of Chinese all-electric machines in the market and eventually we will have to compete with them," he explained during the Chinaplas show (May 17-20 in Guangzhou).

Sumitomo is looking at introducing lower cost all-electrics that do not compromise on performance, according to Kasamatsu. "Value engineering and value analysis will play a key part in this development effort to lower costs."


Ma'aden and Sahara Petrochemicals awarded Daelim EPC for caustic soda and EDC plant

(Arabian Oil and Gas) -- Saudi Arabian Mining Company ⌠Ma'aden and Sahara Petrochemicals have awarded South Korean contractor Daelim the engineering, procurement and construction contract (EPC) for the construction of a caustic soda and ethylene dichloride (EDC) plant, within the Sahara complex in Jubail Industrial City, the company said in a statement published on Tadawul. The project execution will take 34 months. Work commenced on the initial engineering and construction works in March 2010.

The USD 750m project will produce 250 KTa of caustic soda and 300 KTa of ethylene dichloride. The project will be owned on 50/50 basis between the two partners.


Petronas plans to build a USD 20 bln oil refinery and petrochemical complex

(C&EN) -- Malaysian state-owned oil refiner Petronas plans to build a USD 20 billion oil refinery and petrochemical complex in the state of Johor. And Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) is going ahead with a polycarbonate investment in China and a large rubber project on its home base in Saudi Arabia.

Petronas says its refinery will have a processing capacity of 300.000 barrels per day. Its petrochemical complex will crack naphtha to annually produce 3 million metric tons of ethylene, propylene, and other olefins. A Petronas spokesman tells C&EN that the project, to be commissioned in 2016, is still in the early stages and that more details will come later.


Barge traffic on the Mississippi river is halted by flooding

(ICIS) -- Flooding on the Mississippi river has begun to halt barge traffic significantly and back up chemical supplies, with some deliveries to Houston already delayed by two months, shipping brokers and other sources said on Friday. Several chemical plants and refineries are on the lower Mississippi river in Louisiana. Houston is the petrochemical hub of the US.

Brokers said shipments were being delayed or cancelled in some cases because of the surging river. One broker said customers in Houston who get monthly barge loads from the Mississippi river have had to delay May and June cargoes to July or August.

The shutdown of freight terminals and ports and partial closures along the river has made the shipment and distribution of goods difficult and, in some cases, impossible.

The rising water is also putting pressure on chemical producers. Georgia Gulf put its phenol and acetone customers on allocation Friday because it cannot move feedstock cumene to a plant in Plaquemine, Louisiana.


Iran plans to raise its petrochemical capacity by 2015

(ICIS) -- Iran plans to raise its petrochemical capacity to 100m tonnes/year by 2015, a source at state-owned oil and petrochemical major National Petrochemical Co (NPC) said late on Sunday. The source was speaking on the sidelines of the two-day Iran Petrochemical Forum which ended on 22 May. ⌠Around 70m tonnes of this total capacity will be NPC's contribution. The rest will be accounted for by private companies in Iran, the source said.

The products being looked at are methanol, ethylene, urea, polymers and aromatics (see table below). The current installed capacity is around 51m tonnes/year, he added.

In 2011 alone, NPC is looking at petrochemical projects totalling 8m tonnes/year, he said. But some industry sources said they think NPC may not be able to achieve its expansion target on time because of the difficulties in obtaining the technology and financing.