Shell declares force Majeure in Bukom

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Shell has declared force majeure on base chemical products, effective 1 Dec., due to "a technical issue with the ethylene cracker complex" at Pulau Bukom, Singapore, as per Apic-online.

Shell recently finished its "largest-ever petrochemicals investment," increasing olefins and aromatics capacity on Bukom "by more than 20%".

Prior to that investment, the company said the complex had the capacity to produce 800,000 t/y of ethylene, 450,000 t/y of propylene, 155,000 t/y of butadiene and 230,000 t/y of benzene. A Shell spokeswoman confirmed to PCN the cracker now has over 1-million t/y of ethylene capacity.

Shell said its manufacturing and supply chain teams are working to resume normal operations and supply as soon as possible.

As MRC reported earlier, on 19 Oct. 2015, the company lifted a force majeure on base chemical products caused by a 14 Oct. "operational upset" at Pulau Bukom.

Royal Dutch Shell plc is an Anglo-Dutch multinational oil and gas company headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands and with its registered office in London, United Kingdom. It is the biggest company in the world in terms of revenue and one of the six oil and gas "supermajors". Shell is vertically integrated and is active in every area of the oil and gas industry, including exploration and production, refining, distribution and marketing, petrochemicals, power generation and trading.

Baalbaki opens new plant in the UAE

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Baalbaki Chemical Industries (BCI), a producer of polyurethane systems, polyester polyol, and speciality adhesives, has launched a new polyesters and pre-polymers manufacturing facility in the Hamriyah Free Zone in the UAE, as per GV.

Through this new plant, the company aims to increase the production capacity of polyester polyols as well as speciality polyurethane systems and food packaging adhesives. This will enable BCI to serve the GCC region; the Indian sub-continent and the South East Asian markets efficiently, said Hassane Baalbaki, Chairman of BCI Holding.

"We hope to continue to expand our reach in the EMEA region with further investments in system houses as well as distribution and technical service centres," he explained.

In April 2015, BCI had announced that its new polyesters and pre-polymers manufacturing facility in the UAE was fully operational. This new facility adds 40,000 t/y of aromatic/aliphatic polyester polyols and isocayanate pre-polymer capacity to BCI’s already installed capacities in Egypt. The new manufacturing facility is located on a 30,000 m2 industrial property in Hamriyah Free Zone with more than 15,000 square meters of covered area.

BCI said this development marks a significant step in the group’s ability to serve its growing clientele in the GCC, Pakistan, Iran, India and south east Asia with rigid, cold cure, footwear PU systems, aromatic and aliphatic polyester polyols as well as speciality adhesives for the flexible packaging industry.

As MRC informed before, petrochemical hubs of Jubail and Yanbu in the United Arab Emirates are seeking investment of more than 300 billion riyal (approx USD80 billion) from national and international investors. The upcoming projects are open for foreign investments worth USD50 billion in Jubail Industrial City and USD25 billion in Yanbu Industrial City.

PTTGC to invest USD7.7 billion in 5 years

MOSCOW (MRC) -- PTT Global Chemical, the country's largest petrochemicals producer, on 17 Nov. 2015 announced plans to invest USD7.7 billion (Bt276.8 billion) in Thailand and the United States over the next five years, as per GV.

Some USD5.7 billion will be for building a petrochemicals complex in Ohio to exploit shale-gas resources in the US state, USD1 billion for its Map Ta Phut retrofit project in Rayong, and the balance for joint-venture projects with Toyota Tsusho and Sanyo Chemical to manufacture propylene oxide and polyether polyols at the Hemaraj Eastern Industrial Estate, also in Rayong.

One of PTTGC's key strategies is to reduce external sales and exports of its upstream products, which include naptha, polypropylene, benzene and paraxylene, through building more of its own downstream plants that will use these raw materials for producing speciality and higher value-added chemical products, president and chief executive Supattanapong Punmeechaow said.

Under the Map Ta Phut retrofit project, PTTGC will convert its upstream olefins plant from using ethane gas to using naphtha instead, thus reducing its sales to SCG - the other major Thai petrochemicals group - and to export markets.

PTTGC currently has a naphtha surplus from its own usage totalling 1.4 million tonnes per year, about 80 per cent of which is sold to SCG, which has many downstream petrochemical plants. The switch of feedstock to naptha, which has a different chemical composition to ethane produced from a natural-gas separation plant, will give PTTGC's olefins factory a wider range of chemical output, enabling the company to develop more downstream petrochemical plants of its own, he said.

Among the possible new products that it plans to develop with joint-venture partners are polypropylene, acrylic acid, super acrylic polymer, styrene monomer, methyl methacrylate styrene, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and styrene-acrylonitrile polymers, solution styrene-butadiene rubber, thermoplastic elastomers, polybutadiene , and several polymer compounds. PTTGC will also build its own plants or expand production of products such as polyethylene (PE), ethylene glycols and ethylene oxide, butadiene and polystyrene.

Supattanapong said PTTGC would channel ethane gas to its subsidiary PTT Polyethylene, in a move that that would expand its PE capacity by up to 30 %, or about 300,000 tonnes per year. "There are many investors interested in joining in our downstream projects, which will also help attract more investments to the country," he added.

Gas will continue to give a comparative advantage to PTTGC versus most other firms that use naphtha as the raw material for their petrochemical complexes, but in order to grow its output, the company has to convert some of its olefins plants to using naphtha, an oil refinery output which is easier to find, said the CEO.

Domestic natural-gas supply is expected to be stagnant or decline, after more than three decades of production in the Gulf of Thailand.

Chief operating officer Patiparn Sukorndhaman said PTTGC expected to conclude its new downstream investment plans in the third or fourth quarter of next year, and to commence production in late 2019 or early 2020. The company expects next year's petrochemical markets to perform more or less similarly to this year's, under an assumption that Dubai crude oil prices will be traded at around USD50 a barrel.

As MRC wrote before, in July 2015, PTTGC has established PTTGC America Corp. and PTTGC America LLC, both based in the US, to move forward plans for building a complex in Ohio to take advantage of low-cost ethane from shale gas.

PTTGC is the chemicals flagship of energy conglomerate PTT Group - currently has four gas-based olefins factories with a combined capacity of 2.9 million tonnes per year, and a naphtha-cracker plant with an annual capacity of 900,000 tonnes.

Covestro and Saertex develop materials for new rotor blade production process with manufacturing technology from Hübers

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Covestro (formerly Bayer MaterialScience), Saertex and Hubers have developed a new technology for the manufacture of rotor blades for wind power plants. The half-shells for the rotor blades are manufactured using a vacuum infusion process, reported GV.

Actively contributing to climate protection is a central element of the sustainability concept at Covestro. One of the key focal points in this commitment is the generation of power from renewable sources, and first and foremost from wind power, says the company. Numerous countries are now pursuing this sustainable form of power generation, although some state subsidies are being cut. As a result, the demand for cost-effective processes for manufacturing even bigger and more efficient wind turbines is greater than ever.

Together with Saertex, a manufacturer of woven fibreglass, and Hubers Verfahrenstechnik Maschinenbau GmbH as partner for the process technology, Covestro has developed a technology for manufacturing rotor blades in line with these requirements. The new process features a whole new approach to combining polyurethane resin with woven fibreglass. The partners have now successfully produced the prototype for a 45 meter-long spar cap at the Institute of Composite Structures and Adaptive Systems of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Stade. The spar is the core of the structural framework and has to accommodate the full wind load.

Kim Klausen, Head of Covestro’s global Center of Excellence for Wind Power in Otterup, Denmark, said, "Stability and durability are the key properties for rotor blades." He further explained: "Our polyurethane resin offers clear advantages over epoxy resins in this application: We achieve a higher glass transition temperature and low shrinkage. The reaction of the polyurethane resin also generates less heat."

Marc Schrief, managing director at Saertex, added: "Our woven fibreglass ensures the stability of the compound. They are thoroughly impregnated with the polyurethane resin and form a high-strength component. What’s more, they help to lower the weight of the rotor blades." According to the company, the 45 meter-long rotor blade would weigh 8 t overall. The spar cap made from polyurethane and glass fibres accounts for approximately a third of the total weight.

As MRC imformed earlier, from September 1, 2015, Bayer MaterialScience became known as Covestro. Bayer aims to float this business on the stock market by mid-2016 at the latest. The plans for the carve-out of Bayer MaterialScience were announced in September 2014.

Covestro (formerly Bayer MaterialScience) is an independent subgroup within Bayer. It was created as part of the restructuring of Bayer AG from the former business group Bayer Polymers, with certain of its activities being spun off to Lanxess AG. Covestro manufactures and develops materials such as coatings, adhesives and sealants, polycarbonates (CDs, DVDs), polyurethanes (automotive seating, insulation for refrigerating appliances) etc.

PetroRabigh restarted HDPE plant in Saudi Arabia

MOSCOW (MRC) -- PetroRabigh is in plans to resume operations its high density polyethylene (HDPE) plant, according to Apic-online.

A Polymerupdate source in Saudi Arabia informed that the plant is likely brought on-stream this week. It was under a maintenance turnaround since early October 2015.

Located in Rabigh, Saudi Arabia, the plant has a production capacity of 300,000 mt/year.

As MRC wrote previously, in early October 2015, PetroRabigh shut its Linear density polyethylene (LLDPE) plant for maintenance turnaround. It remained off-stream for around 45 days. Located in Rabigh, Saudi Arabia, the plant has a production capacity of 600,000 mt/year.

Besides, we remind that in April 2015, Rabigh Refining & Petrochemical Co. (Petro Rabigh) received ownership of the Rabigh Phase II project from Saudi Aramco and Sumitomo Chemical, major shareholders in Petro Rabigh, and will now integrate the project into Petro Rabigh's existing refining and petrochemical complex in Rabigh, Saudi Arabia.

The Rabigh II project, expected to cost about USD 8.1-billion, involves expanding an existing ethane cracker and adding production of ethylene propylene rubber, thermoplastic polyolefins, methyl methacrylate monomer, polymethyl methacrylate, low-density polyethylene/ethylene vinyl acetate, paraxylene/benzene, cumene and phenol/acetone. Production facilities are expected to begin operations "one after another, beginning in the first half of 2016," Sumitomo said.

PetroRabigh, a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Japan's Sumitomo Chemical, has an annual output capacity of 18 million tonnes of refined products and 2.4 million tonnes of petrochemicals. Thus, the complex currently has a cracker to produce 1.3-million t/y of ethylene and 900,000 t/y of propylene, as well as downstream production of polyethylene, polypropylene, propylene oxide, ethylene glycol and butene-1.