Downstream earnings rise at BP as margins swell

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Profits in BP's downstream business nearly tripled from a year earlier, owing to strong margins and improved performance within petrochemicals, reported Hydrocarbonprocessing with reference to the company's statement.

BP said its underlying pre-tax replacement cost profit for the downstream segment was USD1.9 billion, compared with USD2.2 billion in the first quarter and $0.7 billion in the second quarter of 2014.

"Compared to last year, the result was driven by good refining performance and capture of improved margins, a higher contribution from supply and trading and stronger earnings from both the lubricants and petrochemicals businesses," the company said.

Elsewhere in the downstream, BP noted that refining activity ceased at its Bulwer refinery in Australia in the second quarter. Additionally, the company's new, technology-advantaged purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plant at Zhuhai in China is now fully commissioned and operational.

Overall, BP's second-quarter profit adjusted for one-time items and inventory changes dropped 64% from a year earlier to USD1.3 billion. That missed the USD1.7 billion average estimate from industry analysts.

The decline in overall earnings resulted from weaker upstream performance amid the current environment of low oil prices. A boom in oil trading in early 2015 faded in the second quarter, while a halt to operations in Libya eroded earnings from oil and gas exploration.

"In the past few weeks oil prices have fallen back in response to continued oversupply and market weakness and the recent agreements regarding Iran," said CEO Bob Dudley. "I am confident that positioning BP for a period of weaker prices is the right course to take, and will serve the company well for the future.

"The external environment remains challenging, but BP moved quickly in response and we continue to do so," Dudley added. "Our work to increase efficiency and reduce costs is embedding sustainable benefits throughout the group, and we continue with capital discipline and divestments."

As MRC wrote before, BP has planned to invest over USD200 million to upgrade its purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plants at Cooper River, South Carolina and Geel, Belgium. The investments will position these assets amongst the most efficient PTA manufacturing facilities in the world.

PTA is the raw material used to make polyethylene terephthalante (PET) and polyester which is found in a wide range of consumer goods ranging from fabrics to food and beverage containers. The BP Cooper River site is the largest PTA producer in the Americas and BP Geel is the largest in Europe.

BP is one of the world's leading international oil and gas companies, providing its customers with fuel for transportation, energy for heat and light, retail services and petrochemicals products for everyday items.

Global EPDM market to grow at CAGR of over 6% from 2014 to 2019

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Global EPDM (ethylene propylene-diene terpolymer) market is to grow at a CAGR of 6.67% over the period 2014-2019, as per Plastemart.

Based on application, the global EPDM market can be segmented into six: automotive, molded goods, building and construction, lubricant additives, plastic modification, and others. EPDM is widely used in the automotive sector to manufacture hoses, belts, and o-rings; and highly engineered seals for automobiles, windows, doors, and mass transit. Growth in the automotive sector is the main driver. The rapid growth of automobiles in developing countries is contributing to this market as EPDM is used in the manufacture of many components such as brake parts, radiators, tubes, and belts.

EPDM is a synthetic rubber composed of ethylene and propylene. It displays properties such as resistance to heat, weather, ozone, and polar substances, and is an excellent electrical insulator. It can be manufactured by three different processes: solution process, slurry process, and gas-phase process. EPDM is used in various applications in the automotive, molded goods, building and construction, lubricant additive, and plastic modification sectors.

Manufacturers are setting up bio-based EPDM production plants because of environmental concerns. Conventionally, EPDM is produced using petroleum-based raw materials such as ethylene and propylene. With the help of feedstock such as sugarcane, EPDM can be manufactured in an eco-friendly process. Lanxess has set up a bio-based EPDM production plant in Brazil that uses sugarcane as feedstock instead of ethylene. Brazilian automotive suppliers are using bio-based EPDM rubbers from Lanxess in window rubber seals.

As MRC wrote before, Dow Elastomers, a business unit of The Dow Chemical Company, will soon break ground on its planned world-scale NORDEL EPDM facility in Plaquemine, La., which will utilize the company’s newest proprietary catalyst technology to enable products with high Mooney viscosity. The facility, which will service customers globally, is expected to come online in 2016 and will leverage Dow’s comprehensive investment plan to serve its downstream businesses through increased ethylene and propylene production in the US Gulf Coast and to connect the company's US operations into feedstock opportunities from increasing supplies of shale gas.

Solvay GBU Special Chem launched partnership with one of the world leading electronics producers

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Solvay’s GBU Special Chem has launched a partnership with one of the world’s leading electronics producers, under which Solvay will build a high volume High Purity H2O2 plant in Italy to meet the fast growing demand of their facilities, as per the company's press release.

The electronic wet chemicals business has been a growth engine for the Solvay GBU Special Chem. Its technology and quality standards have been permanently upgraded following the needs of its customers in the semiconductor area and over the last four years new high purity plants have been built in Phosphoric Acid, H2O2, HF and Ammonium Fluoride in USA, Europe and China. As a result, the GBU’s sales of electronic wet chemicals have nearly doubled over this period and are expected to double again by 2018.

The GBU Special Chem supplies a range of products to the electronics industry including high purity fluor gases, rare earth oxides and dopants, electronic wet chemicals and active ingredients for passive components and for CMP and polishing slurries.

As MRC wrote previously, Solvay plans to expand its production facility in Longview, WA., to meet growing demands from pulp and paper producers in the Pacific Northwest and other industrial markets around the United States.

Solvay S.A. is a Belgian chemical company founded in 1863, with its head office in Neder-Over-Heembeek, Brussels, Belgium. The company has diversified into two major sectors of activity: chemicals and plastics. Solvay supplies over 1500 products across 35 brands of high-performance polymers, fluoropolymers, fluoroelastomers, fluorinated fluids, semi-aromatic polyamides, sulfone polymers, aromatic ultra polymers, high-barrier polymers and cross-linked high-performance compounds.

Led by PE foam, global structural foam market to grow at almost 6% up till 2020

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The structural foam market is projected to reach USD31.9 bln by 2020, signifying firm annualized growth of about 6% between 2015 and 2020, as per Plastemart with reference to MarketsandMarkets.

Polyethylene structural foam is the largest and fastest-growing structural foam segment in the global structural foam market. Asia-Pacific and North America are currently the largest consumers of polyethylene structural foam, and accounted for a share of 75% of the total market size in 2014.

Polyethylene offers impressive mechanical properties, flexibility, high impact resistance, and is made available at low costs. The major applications of polyethylene structural foam are manufacturing of material handling products and various components for automobiles. Polyethylene structural foam has a long life span with superior corrosion resistance, and can also be recycled easily.

North America dominates the global structural foam market. The technology for structural foam molding emerged in this region, and it was initially developed and adopted by Uniloy Milacron, one of the leading providers of blow molding and structural foam molding solutions. The North America structural foam market is expected to register a steady growth, as there is uninterrupted demand from material handling, automotive, and building and construction sector. Accounting for 50% of the global market, North America is the biggest market for structural foam, with the U.S. contributing to about 80% of the overall market demand in this region, in 2014. Being a pioneer, structural foam molding has been well-established in the U.S. over the past few years. Many manufacturers based in the U.S. are investing more on expanding their structural foam business in Mexico, which is one of the fastest-growing regions in the global structural foam market.

The material handling industry is the largest end-user industry of structural foam, and it is expected to dominate the global structural foam market, by end-user. The material handling application segment accounts for 50.9% of the total structural foam market.

The U.S. and China are at the forefront of structural foam consumption, while Canada, Mexico, Japan, the U.K., and Spain are other key markets for structural foam. China is the key market in Asia-Pacific region, consuming more than half of the overall demand for structural foam, followed by Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia, where consumption is growing at a steady rate. This growth is mainly attributed to the rapid industrialization that is currently taking place in this region.

We remind that, as MRC wrote before, in 2012, Pregis Corp, a leading supplier of protective packaging solutions based in Illinois, the USA, acquired Inter-Pac, based in Tupelo, MS, for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition made Pregis the largest producer of PE sheet foam in the United States.

Taiwan VCM to restart VCM plant in Taiwan after maintenance

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Taiwan VCM to resume operations at vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plant, as per Apic-online.

A Polymerupdate source in Taiwan informed that the plant was shut on July 9, 2015 for annual maintenance turnaround. The plant is likely to resume production this week.

Located in Lin Yuan, Taiwan, the VCM plant has a production capacity of 420,000 mt/year.

We remind that, as MRC informed previously, Keiyo Monomer shut down its VCM plant for maintenance in mid-February 2015. It remained off-stream for around one month. Located in Chiba, Japan, the plant has a production capacity of 200,000 mt/year.

Besides, earlier, SP Chemicals shut its VCM plant for maintenance turnaround on August 18, 2014. It remained off-stream for around one month. Located in Jiangsu province, China, the plant has a production capacity of 300,000 mt/year.