Valero Energy reported Q4 margins fall

(nasdaq) -- Valero Energy Corp. (VLO) swung to a fourth-quarter profit on an inventory gain from a year-earlier quarter that included losses from discontinued operations. Margins fell, however, on lower refining profit.

Valero, the largest independent oil refining company in the U.S., has reported increased revenue in recent quarters as global distillate demand grows despite continuing weakness in the U.S. gasoline market. Gasoline exports to Latin America, due to supply problems there, have also played a part.

But the company warned earlier this month that weak margins on refined products, particularly for gasoline and petrochemical feedstocks, would hurt its fourth-quarter results. Refining margins were also damped by reduced discounts for heavy sour feedstocks and the narrowing of prices for West Texas Intermediate versus Brent crude oils, resulting in higher-priced crude oils flowing through the system.

Valero reported a profit of USD 45 million, or 8 cents a share, compared with a loss of USD 438 million, or 77 cents, a year earlier. Revenue jumped 56% to USD 34.7 billion. Operating margin fell to 0.5% from 1.7%.

At its refining business, operating earnings dropped 91% as the throughput margin per barrel fell to USD 5.46 from USD 7.30 a year earlier. Its smaller U.S. retail operations saw its operating profit rise 36%.


China's ethylene production improves greatly

(Fibre2Fashion) -- There has been a remarkable improvement in China's ethylene production with three leading petrochemical firms expanding their ethylene projects, in order to equip themselves to meet the ever-growing demand for ethylene in domestic market.

In 2012, China's demand for ethylene is expected to touch 35 million tons and Chinese ethylene industry is poised to enter a ⌠big ethylene era.

With vast improvement in China's ethylene production capacity, domestic production is able to meet 70 percent of local demand. However, domestic production is still a long way from attaining self-sufficiency.


Samsung Total Petrochemicals to upgrade Daesan complex in Korea

(plastech) -- Total is consolidating its positions in petrochemicals in Asia with a new expansion and upgrading project for the Daesan complex in South Korea, which the Group owns with Samsung as part of the Samsung Total Petrochemicals 50/50 joint venture. With costs approaching USD1.8 billion, the project calls for the construction of a second aromatics1 unit and an ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) copolymer unit at the Daesan petrochemical complex.

The new aromatics unit will have a production capacity of around 1 million metric tons of paraxylene and 420,000 metric tons of benzene per year and will be completed by September 2014. Paraxylene is used to manufacture polyester, while benzene is used to produce petrochemical products such as styrene.

With the completion of the aromatics unit in 2014 and the upgrade of existing paraxylene capacity in 2012, total paraxylene production capacity will be increased to 1.76 million metric tons.

"This investment project in partnership with Samsung is aligned with Total's strategy of expanding in growth markets. It gives us the strong base we need to maintain our position as a leading supplier of value-added products to meet demand in Asia, especially China, said Patrick Pouyanne, President of Total's Refining - Chemicals business. ⌠We are pursuing our strategy of focusing our spending on our most efficient integrated platforms, such as the Daesan complex.

The Daesan petrochemical complex is a world-class facility that manufactures four main products ≈ polypropylene, polyethylene, styrene monomer and paraxylene. Fifty percent of its output is exported, primarily to China.


Sibur's Alphapor to start in spring 2012

(plastech) -- Construction and installation of the second phase for the production of Sibur's Alphapor expandable polystyrene has been completed, and startup operations have commenced.

Trial manufacture of expandable polystyrene is planned to begin in spring 2012. The second phase is expected to be able to produce 50,000 tonnes a year by the summer of 2012.

The official startup of the first stage of production of 50,000 tonnes per year of expandable polystyrene took place at the end of 2010. During 2011 production was based on projected capacity and sales volume. Total projected production capacity of expandable polystyrene at Sibur's Perm site after completion of the second stage of the complex will reach 100,000 tonnes per year.

Alphapor expandable polystyrene is produced using the technology of the Austro-Norwegian Company Sunpor. The product is employed in a wide variety of uses, including energy-efficient building insulation, permanent shuttering, and packaging for household appliances and food products. The major world markets for construction-grade polystyrene foam are the USA and Europe (France, Italy, Germany and Poland).

All grades of Alphapor expandable polystyrene comply with strict European standards for fire safety, grain-size distribution, density and stress-strain properties. The grades of expandable polystyrene used in the production of building insulation are required to contain fire-retardant antipyrenes.


Honda sees sharp drop in profit

(bbc) -- Japan's third biggest carmaker, Honda, has announced a 41% drop in quarterly profit, as it continues to feel the impact of Japan's March disasters, the floods in Thailand, and the high yen.

Net profit for the third quarter fell to 47.6bn yen (USD 624m; GBP 396m) from 81.1bn yen a year earlier. Sales for the three-month period fell 8% to 1.94tn yen.

The company also slashed its annual forecast. It now expects a net profit of 215bn yen for the year to March. In August it had estimated a profit of 230bn yen before withdrawing its guidance citing uncertainty due to the Thai floods.

Honda was the slowest carmaker to recover from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011. It also has a factory in Thailand, which has been closed since October's floods. It is expects to resume production there at the end of March.

In 2011, Honda's global output dropped by a fifth to 2.9 million cars, slipping below 3 million for the first time in eight years. The firm also said it was seeing a "negative currency effect" due to appreciation of the Japanese yen.

A strong currency hurts exporters as it makes their products more expensive for overseas buyers.