US specialty chemicals market sees small growth

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The US specialty chemicals market volume index, a tool created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), progressed further during the first quarter of 2016, rising 0.1% on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis in February after a 0.1% gain in January, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

Weakness during 2015 was centered in oilfield chemicals and a few other segments that, combined, weighed on overall volumes, the ACC said in a report made available on Monday. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments included in the index, 17 expanded in February, with adhesives, construction chemicals and electronic chemicals experiencing the largest gains (1.0% and over) in market volumes.

The overall specialty chemicals volume index was off 1.5% year-over-year (Y/Y), also on a 3MMA basis. Year-earlier comparisons were generally in the 4.0% to 6.8% range during 2012 through 2014, but since February last year, they have fallen below that range as the downturn in the oil and gas sectors affected headline volumes.

In addition, the strong US dollar has adversely affected a number of export-oriented customer industries.

Still, on a year-on-year basis, gains are fairly widespread among most market and functional specialty chemical segments. With few exceptions, however, year-earlier comparisons have been moderating. Specialty chemicals are materials manufactured on the basis of the unique performance or function and provide a wide variety of effects on which many other sectors and end-use products rely. They can be individual molecules or mixtures of molecules, known as formulations.

The physical and chemical characteristics of the single molecule or mixtures along with the composition of the mixtures influence the performance end product. Individual market sectors that rely on such products include automobile, aerospace, agriculture, cosmetics and food, among others.

Specialty chemicals differ from commodity chemicals. They may only have one or two uses, while commodities may have multiple or different applications for each chemical. Commodity chemicals make up most of the production volume in the global marketplace, while specialty chemicals make up most of the diversity in commerce at any given time, and are relatively high value with greater market growth rates.

Some areas where specialty chemicals are used include adhesives, cleaning materials, cosmetic additives, construction materials, food additives, fragrances and detergents.

This data is the only timely source of market trends for 28 market and functional specialty chemical segments, the ACC says. Chemistry directly touches over 96% of all manufactured goods, and trends in these specialty chemical segments provide a detailed view of trends in manufacturing. The data also sheds light on how various consumer end-use markets are performing compared to others in the marketplace.

As MRC informed earlier, Specialty Chemicals Market Volume Index, a new tool created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) trade group, remains on a soft note, falling 0.4% in May from the previous month, on a three-month-moving average (3MMA). The index has seen steady declines since December as weakness in oilfield chemicals and a few other segments weighed on overall volumes. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments monitored, 11 expanded in May, 14 declined, and three were flat.

Gazprom neftekhim Salavat resumes HDPE production

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Bashkir company Gazprom neftekhim Salavat, one of the largest Russian petrochemical producers, began the process of resuming its high density polyethylene (HDPE) production after maintenance, according to ICIS-MRC Price report with reference to the company's customers.

The plant's representatives said Gazprom neftekhim Salavat started resuming its HDPE production after the shutdown for a technological turnaround. The outage was not long and lasted about 7 days. The company's low density polyethylene (LDPE) production will be operating normally.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Gazprom neftekhim Salavat produced 34,600 tonnes of LDPE and 93,900 tonnes of HDPE in 2015. These figures were 7,000 tonnes and 19,800 tonnes, respectively, over the first two months of 2016.

JSC "Gazprom neftekhim Salavat" (formerly JSC "Salavatnefteorgsintez") is one of Russia"s major petrochemical complexes. The company was integrated into JSC "Gazprom" system. The concentration of the full cycle of hydrocarbon processing, petrochemistry and mineral fertilizer production on the one site is the main advantage of GNS. The company comprises oil refinery, chemical plant, gas&chemical plant and monomer plant. The list of manufactured commodity products now includes more than 140 items, including 76 items of the main products: motor gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, fuel oil, toluene, solvent, liquefied gases, benzene, styrene, ethylbenzene, butyl alcohols, phthalic anhydride and plasticizers, polyethylene, polystyrene, silica gel and zeolite catalysts, corrosion inhibitors, elemental sulfur, ammonia and urea, glycols, and amines, a wide range of plastic consumer goods, surfactants and others.). The subsidiary company of Gazprom - Gazprom processing - owns 97.57% of Gazprom neftekhim Salavat.

Meridian Energy applies for permits to build new North Dakota refinery

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Meridian Energy has submitted its first round of permit applications relating to its proposed 55,000-bpd Davis refinery in North Dakota, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The Davis site is located near Belfield in Billings County, North Dakota, in the heart of the Bakken shale play. Meridian says it filed applications for a zoning certificate and conditional use permit with Billings County. In the coming weeks, Meridian will file additional permit applications, including an application for the refinery's permit to construct with the State of North Dakota Health Department.

Also included will be an application for a conditional use permit for an equipment assembly and fabrication facility, which will serve the needs of the both the refinery as well as other local oil and gas businesses.

The proposed Davis refinery will be the first "greenfield" complex high-conversion refinery built in many years, the company says. As a brand new plant, the Davis refinery will not be burdened with outdated legacy operating units, will operate more cleanly and efficiently, will utilize state-of-the-art instrumentation and control technology, and will fully comply with modern environmental and safety requirements.

"The Davis refinery will be one of the most modern, efficient and environmentally-compliant refineries in the US in more than 50 years," said William Prentice, chairman & CEO of Meridian Energy Group. For the design, equipment and construction of the Davis refinery, Meridian has partnered with multinational engineering firm, Vepica, and Houston-based construction and logistics firm, BASIC Equipment.

The Davis refinery addresses two pressing needs, according to company officials, with the first being a demand for local refining capacity. To that end, the refinery will expand capacity near production areas with more than 1 MMbpd of crude oil currently being produced in the Bakken region — most of which is currently being transported out of North Dakota for refining at higher costs.

Additionally, the refinery will increase the supply of fuel for the regional and local markets: The processing plant will turn locally-produced crude into super-clean transportation and heating fuels, providing a supply to the oil service, agriculture and trucking industries, as well as consumer automobiles — which is currently being shipped into North Dakota also at higher costs, Meridian says.

Meridian Energy says the refinery will lead with innovation and clean fuels technology. The Davis plant aims to maximize the use of local natural gas as the fuel source to run the facility, reducing the incidence of flared gas, the company says. Additionally, providing cleaner diesel fuel locally will displace transportation fuels that are refined and delivered from remote areas, resulting in reduced transportation-related pollution, Meridian says.

As MRC informed earlier, Badlands NGL entered into an agreement with Continental Resources (CLR), one of the largest and most important oil and gas producers in the Williston Basin. The agreement dedicates a long-term ethane supply to Badlands' North Dakota based project: a world-scale, NGL-sourced ethane gas to polyethylene (PE) manufacturing facility.

Shanghai Wujing to shut acetic acid plant in China for maintenance

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Shanghai Wujing is likely to shut its acetic acid plant for a brief maintenance turnaround, as per Apic-online.

A Polymerupdate source in China informed that the plant is planned to be taken off-stream in the first half April 2016. It is likely to remain shut for around 5 days.

Located in Shanghai, China, the plant has a production capacity of 500,000 mt/year.

The primary use of acetic acid is the production of vinyl acetate monomer (VAM), which is the feedstock for ethylene-vinyl-acetate (EVA).

We remind that, as MRC wrote previously, Jiangsu Sailboat Petrochemical is in plans to start a new EVA/low density polyethylene (LDPE) swing plant in April 2016. Located at Lianyugang in Jiangsu province of China, the plant has a production capacity of 300,000 mt/year.

Arsenal Capital buys more PU foam businesses, creating new company

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Arsenal Capital Partners has made three more polyurethane foam acquisitions and will combine them into a single business, said Plasticsnews.

The most recent acquisitions made by New York-based Arsenal are:

Pacific Urethanes LLC of Ontario, Calif.
A majority stake in Elite Foam Inc. of Newnan, Ga.
The foam production assets of Hickory Springs Manufacturing Co. of Conover, N.C.

Arsenal will combine the three assets into a new unit called Elite Comfort Solutions, which will have 10 specialty foam production sites nationwide. The acquired businesses make PU foam for bedding, home furnishings, furniture, medical goods and packaging.

Arsenal officials announced the recent moves in a March 28 news release. No purchase prices were disclosed. Arsenal now has made 19 plastics-related acquisitions since 2012.

Earlier in March, Arsenal’s Accella Performance Materials unit bought the spray foam division of Quadrant Urethane technologies of Dallas. In late February, Arsenal acquired Flow Polymers LLC, an additives maker based in Cleveland.

As MRC informed earlier, Polymer Solutions Group (PSG), part of US private equity group Arsenal Capital Partners, has acquired Flow Polymers, a leading specialty additives and dispersions producer. Flow Polymers was sold by Geneva Glen Capital, another US private equity firm, for an undisclosed sum.

Arsenal Capital Partners is a leading New York-based private equity firm that invests in middle market healthcare and specialty industrial companies. Arsenal makes investments in sectors where the firm has significant prior knowledge and experience. Arsenal targets businesses that have the potential for further value creation, and works closely with management to accelerate growth by leveraging the firm's industry focus and operational improvement capabilities.