US safety board expands probe of Williams after "unusual" gas accidents

MOSCOW (MRC) -- A probe into safety practices at pipeline operator Williams Cos. is being expanded after a natural gas plant fire led to the evacuation of a town in Wyoming last month, the company’s third accident in a year, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

While it’s unclear if there are any broader issues, the string of incidents is "unusual", said Dan Tillema, a lead investigator at the US Chemical Safety Board, in an interview yesterday. "With a strong corporate oversight of process safety, it would be very unlikely to have three incidents like this in a 12-month period.'

Williams, operator of more than 26,000 miles (42,000 kilometers) of oil and gas pipelines, announced its own safety review this month, after an April 23 fire at a natural gas plant forced the evacuation of nearby Opal, Wyoming. That followed a March 31 explosion at a liquefied gas storage site in Plymouth, Washington, and a June 2013 blast at a Louisiana chemical plant that killed two workers and left 80 injured.

The safety board was already investigating the explosion in Geismar, Louisiana. The Washington, DC-based board has no power to impose penalties and instead makes recommendations to companies and industries to avoid future problems.

Williams is one of North America"s largest natural gas gatherers and processors. Williams also has a growing midstream business in Canada focused on processing oil sands off-gas into NGLs and olefins. It also has a domestic olefins business that provides customers in the petrochemical industry with a full suite of products and services.

Russian PC market decreased by 8% in January-April 2014

MOSCOW (MRC) - Russian market for clear polycarbonate (PC granules) decreased to 33,220 tonnes in the first four months of 2014, down 8% compared with the same period last year, according to MRC ScanPlast.

Market participants said buying activity in the feedstock purchase has weaken over the last nine months. This was mostly resulted from poorer converters' solvency because of their reduced working capital. If earlier trade credit could be given for twenty days, but now its minimum period is of about forty or forty-five days. In their turn, traders have to take outside financing to buy feedstock and ensure uninterrupted shipments.
First of all, this factor affected the Russian PC granules production, said market players. As for the imported products on the market, the main pressure on the demand had the devaluation of the rouble against the euro and the dollar, which has been seen since February. Despite the fact that export companies kept their prices for Russia steady from 2013, domestic prices have risen sharply as a result of currency fluctuations.

In addition demand for PC granules seasonally improved in March-April, in particular in the extrusion sector. Market participants said prices for PC granules were unreasonably high in early May.

Exports of PC granules from Russia were 4,100 tonnes in the first four months of 2014, down 3% year on year. Russia's imports of PC granules fell almost by 15% over the reported period to 12,600 tonnes. Russia's production of PC granules in January-April was 24,700 tonnes, up 4% compared with the same period in 2013.


PC imports in Russia decreased by 25% in January-April 2014

MOSCOW (MRC) - Russia's imports of polycarbonate (PC) declined by 25% to 14,200 tonnes in January-April 2014, compared to the same period last year, according to MRC DataScope report.

First of all, this was due to a decrease in the solvency of the market players. A trader said reduction in working funds have been felt since September 2013. Especially this affected small and medium-sized converters and trading companies. Converters insist on more long-term deferred payment and the traders are experiencing a shortage of funds to ensure an uninterrupted supply of feedstock. Now trade credit in the PC market may be granted up to 45 days.
Furthermore, a significant depreciation of the rouble, seen on the market in February, also weakens demand for imported products. Today, the trend is that the domestic PC price of Asian and European origin is largely dictated by the exchange rate, rather than other factors such as seasonality or expansion in the consumption sector.

Key import PC producer in the Russian market remains the company Sabic Innovative Plastics, with the share of almost 70% from the total Russia's imports. The company has supplied about 10,000 tonnes of PC to Russia since the beginning of 2014.

Lion Copolymer completes EPDM expansion study

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Following the recent sale of its SBR and NBR businesses to East West Copolymer, LLC, Lion Copolymer Geismar, LLC has completed a detailed engineering study for an additional 60,000 - 80,000 metric tonnes per year EPDM manufacturing line, to be located at its current Geismar, LA, USA, site and complementing the company's existing four EPDM polymerisation units, as per GV.

If the company pursues the expansion plan, the new EPDM line will bring the site's nameplate capacity to more than 200,000 metric tonnes per year and will utilise existing infrastructure. Lion Copolymer already expanded its EPDM capacity by 35,000 metric tonnes per year since acquiring the site in 2007.

In addition to expanding production capacities and capabilities, Lion says it is exploring options to strengthen its position in key raw materials, including co-investing in new ethane cracker capacities.

Jesse Zeringue, President of Lion Copolymer said "US Gulf Coast raw material cost advantages and the proven performance of Royalene EPDM in the global marketplace are key drivers in the decision to review expansion options. Our decision to divest the SBR business will allow us to focus our efforts on growing the EPDM business and explore new strategic opportunities."

Lion Copolymer Holdings, LLC recently completed the sale of Lion Copolymer LLC, the SBR and NBR businesses, to East West Copolymer, LLC. Financial terms were not disclosed. East West has been operating the SBR and NBR businesses since February 2014 under a temporary operating agreement.

As MRC informed earlier, in early 2013, Lion Copolymer Ltd. temporarily closed its Baton Rouge SBR manufacturing facility, idling one of the world’s first commercial production sites for synthetic rubber. The company blamed the closure on economic conditions. The duration of the closure has not been determined.

Dushanzi Petrochemical to restart HDPE plant in China

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Dushanzi Petrochemical is likely to restart its high density polyethylene (HDPE)/linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) swing plant, as per Apic-online.

A Polymerupdate source in China informed that the plant is likely to be restarted on May 20, 2014. The plant has been shut for maintenance turnaround.

Located in Xinjiang province, China, the plant has a production capacity of 300,000 mt/year.

As MRC wrote previously, Jilin Petrochemical shut down its HDPE plant for a one-month maintenance turnaround in mid-April 2014. Located in Jilin province, China, the plant has a production capacity of 300,000 mt/year.

Shanghai Golden Phillips Petrochemical already shut its HDPE plant on March 3, 2014. The shutdown has been attributed to high cost of feedstock ethylene. Located in Shanghai, China, the plant has a production capacity of 135,000 mt/year.

Besides, Chinese Wuhan Petrochemicals shut down its HDPE plant in mid-January 2014 owing to technical issues. A restart date for the plant could not be confirmed. Located in Hubei province of China, the plant has a production capacity of 300,000 mt/year.