Continued strike action in France paralyses refineries

LONDON (ICIS) -- Strike action by French workers continued on Friday, forcing the country's refineries to operate at minimum throughput levels or freeze production altogether, which has caused feedstock issues for chemical producers.

As a national strike over pension reforms rolled into its fourth day and protests at Marseille's Fos-Lavera oil port entered its 19th day, a shortage of crude supplies has paralysed all 13 refineries in France and was now affecting downstream users.

ExxonMobil's merged refinery at Port Jerome-Gravenchon and its plant at Fos-sur-Mer were also both on strike, company spokesperson Catherine Brun confirmed. Product supplies from ExxonMobil's refinery at Fos-sur-Mer have been blocked and the facility was still running at minimum throughput levels due to crude supply issues caused by the Marseille port industrial action.

LyondellBasell's refinery at Berre L'Etang was not on strike, although it was still forced to begin a production shutdown on the night of 14 October due to crude supply issues. However, LyondellBasell spokesman David Harpole said that chemical operations at the same site were continuing to operate.


Rosneft buys stake in Germany refining-petchem venture for $1.6bn

TORONTO (ICIS) -- Venezuela's state oil firm PdVSA has sold its 50% stake in the Germany-based Ruhr Oel refining-petrochemicals joint venture with BP to Russia's Rosneft for $1.6bn (┬1.1bn), the companies said on Friday.

Ruhr Oel is the owner of a refining-petrochemicals complex in Gelsenkirchen, and it holds stakes in three major German refineries. It also owns a specialty chemicals affiliate, DHC Solvent Chemie.

According to BP, Ruhr Oel accounts for over 19% of German refining production capacity and over 5% of northwest-European ethylene production capacity.

The change of ownership would not affect operations at the facilities, BP said. The transaction was expected to be completed next year, subject to regulatory approvals, it added.


October PE pipe prices largely steady on balanced market

LONDON (ICIS) -- European polyethylene (PE) pipe resin October contract prices largely settled at a rollover, although some slight reduction was noted at the high end of business as price ideas narrowed, players confirmed on Thursday.

Black high density PE (HDPE) 100 prices slipped by ┬10/tonne ($14/tonne) at the top of the range, as higher offers were no longer workable in the market due to some aggressive competition for market share.

This left black HDPE 100 prices at ┬1,190-1,240/tonne FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe) on a gross basis, which is subject to discounts and rebates according to data from ICIS.

The weaker US dollar exchange rate was the main factor driving prices down, according to market commentators, who said that this had now largely closed off export opportunities for European sellers, pushing material earmarked for export back into the already lengthening market.


ECHA forum approves new enforcement project for downstream users

LONDON (ICIS) -- The European Chemicals Agency's (ECHA's) forum for exchange of information on enforcement approved a new project focused on downstream users who formulate mixtures, the agency said on Friday.

Project ⌠REACH-EN-FORCE 2, which was approved at the forum's 8th meeting held in Helsinki this week, aimed to ensure that formulators of mixtures complied with their duties in order to meet the requirements imposed by the Reach and CLP (classification, labelling and packaging) regulations.

In particular, the ECHA said inspectors would control supply-chain related obligations for substances in mixtures prepared by formulators as well as the CLP notification requirements.

They will also check if the substances placed on the market in mixtures are registered or pre-registered," the ECHA said.


Formosa completes rebuilding No 1 cracker in Mailiao

SINGAPORE (ICIS) -- Formosa Petrochemical Corp has completed the rebuilding work at its 700,000 tonne/year No 1 cracker in Mailiao but has yet to get a nod from the government to run it, a company spokesperson said on Friday.

⌠We are waiting for a permit from the government to run (the plant) but they didn't tell us when or how we can get it. We have no idea when we can start again, said Lin Keh-yen of FPCC.

The No 1 cracker was suspended after a fire incident shut the plant down on 7 July this year.

FPCC's 1.03m tonne/year cracker at the same site has been undergoing maintenance since 5 October and was expected to start up in the middle of November, analysts have previously said.