BP seeks buyers for its half of China petrochemical venture

MOSCOW (MRC) -- British oil major BP is seeking buyers for its 50% stake in Chinese petrochemicals joint venture SECCO, its largest investment in China, in a deal sources said could fetch USD2-USD3 B, as per Reuters.

State-owned China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec), which owns the other half of the venture and has a right of first refusal, said it was discussing the conditions put forward by BP, but has made no decision.

BP is working with Morgan Stanley to sell its shareholding in the SECCO venture as part of a drive to cash out of businesses where it lacks control, three sources familiar with the matter said. A successful deal would mark BP's first significant exit from a business in China.

Situated in Caojing near Shanghai, SECCO is China's largest petrochemicals refinery and was built at a cost of USD2.7 B, according to BP's website.

SECCO, a venture formed in 2001, produces ethylene and propylene, which are used to make resins, plastics and synthetic rubbers.

Bankers said Chinese state enterprises were unlikely to step in to buy the stake as executives at many of them are distracted by anti-corruption probes.

BP's stake has been marketed to existing refinery operators in China, including companies from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Europe, the sources added.

Bankers said the stake would also attract interest from Chinese private firms stepping up their presence in petrochemicals.

"Even in this low oil price environment, this is one auction that will attract a lot of demand. With most SOEs going slow on M&A, Chinese private enterprises will be active," one Asia-based oil and gas banker said. The refining and chemicals businesses have been a bright spot for M&A in the oil sector since the sharp drop in oil prices more than two years ago. Lower oil prices have boosted refining profits and demand for oil products around the world.

BP, like other global oil and gas companies, has been sharpening its focus on costs and core businesses as it reels from lower oil prices. US rival Chevron and Britain's BG Group have also recently sold stakes in Asian ventures as they return their focus to their core home markets. BP has sold more than USD50 B of assets since the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill in order to pay for clean-up costs and legal bills. This year, it plans to offload between USD3 B and USD5 B worth of assets, of which USD1.9 B has been agreed, it said when releasing second-quarter earnings last month.

We remind that, as MRC reported before, earlier this year, BP PLC sold its petrochemical complex in Decatur, Alabama, to Indorama Ventures Public Co. Ltd. (IVL.TH), for an undisclosed sum, as part BP's plan to restructure its global petrochemicals business. The divestment is in line with BP’s global petrochemicals strategy of pursuing a competitively advantaged portfolio through world-scale, low-cost facilities that utilize BP proprietary technology, including the production of purified terephthalic acid, or PTA, a key raw material in the production of polyester.

BP is a leading producer of oil and gas and produces enough energy annually to light nearly the entire country for a year. Employing about 17,000 people across the country, BP supports more than 170,000 additional jobs through all of its business activities.

Solvay to be fined USD115,000 in federal fines for health and safety violations by OSHA

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Solvay Specialty Polymers will pay USD115,000 in federal fines for health and safety violations in a New Jersey plastics and chemical plant, according to U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), according to Plastemart.

OSHA issued an Aug. 1 citation for three repeat and eight serious safety violations, including: incomplete process safety information for equipment; failure to review operating procedures to comply with safety practices; failure to inspect and test equipment; failure to follow established procedures to manage changes to process chemicals, technology, equipment, and/or facilities; failure to respond properly to a compliance audit.

Solvay SA acquired the West Deptford, N.J., facility in 2002 and folded it into Solvay Specialty Polymers USA LLC in 2012.

"Our inspectors focused on vinylidene fluoride, a liquified flammable gas manufactured and used at Solvay Specialty Polymers' chemical facility," said Paula Dixon-Roderick, director of OSHA's regional office in a statement. "This gas poses serious safety and health risks to this company's employees, including fire and explosion hazards, frostbite, skin and lung irritation, and liver damage associated with chronic exposures. An effective process safety management program is needed to protect workers and prevent the catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemicals."

In March, Solvay settled a class-action lawsuit alleging that the same facility discharged perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) into the borough's water supply from 2009 through 2014. Under the settlement, Solvay agreed to pay USD1.84 million into two funds: a USD420,000 fund for monetary awards to Paulsboro, N.J. residents and a USD1.42 million fund for resident blood tests. PFNA if used as surfactant in PVDF production.

As MRC reported earlier, in May 2016, Solvay signed a definitive agreement with Brazilian chemical group Unipar Carbocloro to sell its 70.59% stake in Solvay Indupa. "Solvay’s divestment of Indupa follows our announced early exit of our European PVC joint venture as Solvay is transforming into a specialty chemicals group," said Vincent De Cuyper, member of Solvay’s Executive Committee. "In acquiring Solvay Indupa, Unipar will strengthen its strategic position in the caustic soda and chlorine value chain extending its chemical footprint in PVC and allowing for the further development of Indupa."

Solvay, with a market share 27%, is the second largest PVC manufacturer in Europe, after Kerling with 29% of the market. Solvay is headquartered in Brussels with about 30,900 employees spread across 53 countries. It generated pro forma net sales of EUR12.4 bn in 2015, with 90% made from activities where it ranks among the world’s top 3 players.

Shaanxi Yancheng shuts PP & PE plants in China for maintenance

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Shaanxi Yancheng has taken its polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) plants for a maintenance turnaround, according to Apic-online.

A Polymerupdate source in China informed that the company has halted operations at both the plants on August 5, 2016. The plants are expected to remain shut for a period of around 6-7 weeks.

Located at Shaanxi in China, the PP plant comprising two units has a production capacity of 300,000 mt/year each and PE plant comprising LDPE & LLDPE units has a production capacity of 300,000 mt/year each.

As MRC informed previously, another petrochemical producer in China - Sinopec Yangzi Petrochemical - took off-stream its PP plant for a brief maintenance in early June 2016. It remained off-line for period of around 1 week. Located in Jiangsu province, China, the plant has a production capacity of 200,000 mt/year.

Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum (Group) Corp. Ltd.(abbreviated as Yanchang Petroleum Group), directly attached to Shaanxi People’s Provincial Government, is one of the four qualified enterprises for oil and gas exploration in China. In 1905, Yanchang Petroleum Factory was established; in 1907, drilled the first oil well in mainland China; in 1998 and 2005, two great restructurings were undertaken, resulting in integration and reorganization of Shaanxi YanchangPetroleum (Group) Co. Ltd. and in 2012, it ranked No.89 among top 500 Chinese companies.

PPG to invest USD20 mln in capacity upgradation in fiber glass plant in South Carolina

MOSCOW (MRC) -- PPG Idustries, the US-based leading global paint company, has announced plans to invest USD20 mln to upgrade its fiber glass manufacturing facility in Chester, South Carolina, as per Plastemart.

The investment will cover repairs to the production furnace, the finished goods packing operation and much of the facility’s support infrastructure. The project is expected to be completed later this year.

"This investment in our Chester facility will enable PPG to offer our customers access to the best fiber glass manufacturing technology available today," said Ken Hale, PPG plant manager. "With these new state-of-the-art resources, we can produce the highest-quality fiber glass materials while improving the energy efficiency of the furnace. We remain committed to being the supplier of choice to fill our customers’ fiber glass needs."

PPG’s fiber glass business manufactures reinforcement materials for thermoset and thermoplastic composite applications. It serves the transportation, energy, infrastructure and consumer markets, as well as electronic circuit board and specialty yarn markets.

As MRC informed before, in December 2015, PPG Asian Paints Lanka Ltd., a joint venture of PPG Industries, announced the launch in Sri Lanka of ENVIROBASE High Performance (HP) automotive refinish paints - the first eco-friendly waterborne automotive paints introduced in Sri Lanka for use by the refinishing industry.

PPG Industries, Inc. (PPG) is a global supplier of protective and decorative coatings. Performance Coatings, Industrial Coatings and Architectural Coatings- EMEA segments supply protective and decorative finishes for customers in a range of end use markets, including industrial equipment, appliances and packaging; factory-finished aluminum extrusions and steel and aluminum. Founded in 1883, PPG has global headquarters in Pittsburgh and operates in nearly 70 countries around the world. Reported net sales in 2014 were USD15.4 billion.

Inter Pipeline to acquire Williams natural gas assets in Canada at steep discount

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Calgary-based Inter Pipeline Ltd. said Monday that it’s buying the Canadian assets of the Williams pipeline companies at a steep discount - and will take on its massive petrochemical project in Alberta - for USD1.35 billion, said CalgaryHerald.

Under the deal announced Monday, Inter Pipeline will acquire two natural gas liquids plants in Fort McMurray, a gas processing plant near Redwater and a 420-kilometre pipeline network linking the facilities.

The company will also assume responsibility for a proposed USD1.85-billion propane facility that would produce propylene, a compound used in the production of plastics.

Inter Pipeline president and CEO Christian Bayle said the company is buying "unique and attractive" assets in a down market and "well below" the initial cost.

"This positions Inter Pipeline to significantly benefit as energy prices strengthen," Bayle said in a release.

The USD1.35-billion price tag represents a 45 per cent discount from the initial cost, the company said.

Oklahoma-based Williams Cos. began seeking a buyer for its Canadian assets after a proposed takeover of the company by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Equity LP collapsed in June.

Williams and its master-limited partnership, Williams Partners LP, will use proceeds of the sale - expected to close in the third quarter - to pay down debt.

The two plants in Fort McMurray extract natural gas liquids and synthetic petrochemicals called olefins from off-gas, a byproduct of bitumen upgrading.

If the deal goes ahead, Inter Pipeline would secure Williams’ long-term agreements with Suncor Energy and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. to supply the extraction plants with off-gas from their upgraders.

Williams had pioneered the process of extracting natural gas liquids and olefins from off-gas. It has spent USD250 million preparing for the proposed propane dehydrogenation facility, which would produce 525,000 tonnes of propylene per year. Planned startup of the PDH facility and the polypropylene (PP) plant is at the end of 2019.

Inter Pipeline expects to make a final decision on the petrochemicals project by the end of the year and, if it gives the green light, plans to have the facility operating by 2020.

Williams had applied for incentives under the Alberta government’s USD500-million petrochemical program, designed to expand the industry. The program will offer royalty credits, which petrochemical companies can pass on to natural gas suppliers.

Williams, headquartered in Tulsa, Okla., is one of the leading energy infrastructure companies in North America. It owns controlling interests in both Williams Partners L.P. and Access Midstream Partners, L.P. through its ownership of 100% of the general partner of each partnership. Additionally, Williams owns approximately 66% and 50% of the limited partner units of Williams Partners L.P. and Access Midstream Partners, L.P., respectively. On June 15, 2014 Williams proposed the merger of Williams Partners and Access Midstream Partners. The proposed merger has been approved by boards of each partnership and was closed in early 2015.