LG Chem to focus on high-value petrochemicals

MOSCOW (MRC) -- LG Chem said Sunday (28 Aug 2016) it will focus on high-value petrochemicals in the basic materials business to respond to rising oversupply concerns, reported GV.

The move came amid expectations the nation’s petrochemical industry, which is in an instant boom on the back of a price drop in raw materials, will face fiercer competition as product output is expanding in North America and China despite a global economic slowdown.

"It is important to prepare for an uncertain future earlier than anybody else even when we are thriving,” said Son Ok-dong, president of LG Chem’s Basic Materials Business. “We will do our utmost to build a solid business foundation that can generate results no matter what difficulties."

The nation’s top chemical business pledged to increase the sales of high-value petrochemical products: metallocene polyolefin; highly-functional acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene; engineering plastic (EP); super-absorbent polymers; and eco-friendly synthetic rubber - to KRW 7 trillion by 2020, up from the current KRW 3 trillion level. To this end, it will invest KRW 400 billion by 2018 to boost production capability of synthetic resins called elastomers. The company also said it will seek to acquire businesses with promising tech companies to strengthen competitiveness in the EP sector.

LG Chem said it will also boost price competitiveness of existing products such as ethylene and propylene. In particular, the company said it is considering expanding production of ethylene to stably supply high-value petrochemicals. It currently is capable of producing 2.2 million tons of ethylene a year.

As MRC informed before, LG Chem Ltd., Korea's leading chemicals and battery maker, said its net profits soared 9.3 percent in the second quarter 2016 from a year earlier thanks to improved petrochemical margins amid low oil prices. Net income came in at 386 billion won (USD338 million) on a consolidated basis in the April-June period, compared with a profit of 353 billion won a year earlier, the company said in a regulatory filing. Operating income advanced 9.3 percent on-year to reach 616 billion won, while sales gained 2.8 percent on-year to 5.27 trillion won.

LG Chem Ltd., often referred to as LG Chemical, is the largest Korean chemical company and is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. According to ICIS report, it is 15th biggest chemical company in the world in 2011. It has eight domestic factories and global network of 29 business locations in 15 countries. LG Chem is a manufacturer, supplier, and exporter of petrochemical goods, IT&E Materials and Energy Solutions.

Indorama Ventures Louisiana ethane cracker refurbishment ahead of schedule

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Indorama Ventures’ majority-owned Lake Charles, Louisiana gas cracker received an air permit from US authorities, signifying an important step forward in maintaining the plant’s startup schedule, reported Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The air permit, which is the main environmental permit required by the company to proceed with the refurbishment of the cracker, allows the project to commence repair and construction activities a month ahead of the original target date.

Ethylene from the cracker will feed the production of MEG (monoethylene glycol), which is used to make PET (polyethylene terephthalate). When complete, Indorama Ventures will become one of the most vertically integrated PET producers in North America.

The project received a water permit in June that allows the facility to discharge liquid effluent through its waste-water treatment plant. The project has also completed de-bottlenecking-related engineering and has ordered all its major long-lead-time equipment. Mechanical completion is expected in the third quarter of 2017 on schedule, followed by commissioning and startup in the fourth quarter of 2017.

As MRC reported earlier, in early 2016, 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 Decatur complex makes chemicals essential for the production of thousands of items, from plastic water bottles to flat-screen televisions. Located on 1,000 acres in Northern Alabama, the complex can produce one million tons per year of PTA, as well as paraxylene (PX), a raw material for PTA production. The site also is the world’s only commercial manufacturer of naphthalene dicarboxylate (NDC), a specialty chemical used in new-generation polyesters and resins used to make LCD flat-panel displays, ultra-thin data storage tape and other products.

Indorama Ventures is a leading producer in the polyester value chain in Thailand with strong global network and manufacturing across Asia, Europe and North America. Its products serve major players in diversified end use markets, including food, beverages, personal and home care, health care, automotives, textile, and industrial. The company’s main products are PTA, PET and polyester fibre, which are distributed across the world.

PU solutions from Dow utilised at the Olympic Games, Rio 2016

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Dow Polyurethanes has announced that it was involved with more than 20 projects connected to the Olympic Games, Rio 2016 - spanning from field-of-play technologies to products used in venue and city construction, transportation, infrastructure and carbon mitigation, as per GV.

"The unique properties of polyurethanes make it one of the most versatile and high performing materials in the world - which made it even more fitting to be involved in a global event such as the Olympic Games, Rio 2016 where excellence is a standard," stated Jon Penrice, commercial vice president of Dow Polyurethanes. "From energy-saving insulation and durable coatings to flexible foams - Dow’s ingenuity mixed with scientific expertise helped power the world of sports by improving performance, safety, health and sustainability."

Here are a few of the projects using polyurethane technologies from Dow at the Olympic Games, Rio 2016:

- Deodoro Park’s hockey field was equipped with a synthetic turf system, which used both Dowlex linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) resins in the yarns as well as polyurethane technologies on the backing of the carpet.
- The Olympic hockey balls were composed of a tailor-made, micro-foam core developed with Dow polyols. The polyurethane core provided higher-performance and more consistency than hockey balls made with traditional vulcanised cork and rubber or solid polymer, says the company.
- Comfortable and supportive: After a hard day’s competition, athletes enjoyed comfy mattresses made with Dow’s breathable, flexible polyurethane foam.
- Dow technologies were also used in flooring applications and waterproofing systems for concrete and metal structures within Maracana stadium. Additionally, flooring solutions and polyurethane insulation panels from Dow were utilised in the major renovation that took place at Viracopos International Airport in Campinas, Sao Paulo, one of the main cargo transportation hubs for the Games.

In addition to providing scientific solutions to improve the Games, as the Official Carbon Partner of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee Dow is working to mitigate the carbon footprint across major sectors of the Brazilian economy.

Dow says it has used the Olympic Games, Rio 2016 as a catalyst to implement energy-efficient and low-carbon technologies across food production, industry and infrastructure. Dow’s polyurethane innovations directly involved in reducing Brazil’s carbon footprint include its rigid foam insulation panels. Polyurethane panels with specific attributes help minimise the heat transfer between indoor and outdoor environments, optimising energy efficiency and thermal comfort.

We remind that, as MRC informed previously, Dow Chemical's polyethylene (PE) expansion at its Freeport, Texas, complex is on track for a mid-2017 startup. Dow's construction of its world-scale steam cracker with the capacity of 1.5 mln tonnes per year is 50% complete. The Freeport complex currently has a 640,000 mt/year of polyethylene capacity and is expected to add 1,050,000 mt/year of LDPE and LLDPE.

The Dow Chemical Company is an American multinational chemical corporation. Dow is a large producer of plastics, including polystyrene, polyurethane, polyethylene, polypropylene, and synthetic rubber.

ExxonMobil to put Montana refinery on block

MOSCOW (MRC) -- ExxonMobil Corp. is in the first stages of seeking a potential buyer for its Billings, Montana, refinery, one of the company's only US plants that is not integrated with its chemical operations, according to people familiar with the plans, said Reuters.

At least one potential bidder has already visited the 60 Mbpd plant, according to two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The refinery could fetch USD500 MM to USD700 MM, according to a person familiar with refinery valuations.

ExxonMobil said it did not comment on rumors or speculation, adding it "regularly evaluates its global portfolio of businesses and opportunities for growth, restructuring or divestment, in accordance with the company’s overall strategic business objectives." They added that the company "remains committed to conducting business in Montana, as it has for more than 40 years."

Majors, including Chevron Corp. and ExxonMobil, have been shedding smaller refineries that are not integrated with their production or chemicals systems. The Billings refinery does not have chemical units, but processes oil into products such as gasoline and diesel. It is one of ExxonMobil's two remaining US refineries that does not have an adjacent chemical facility.

As refining margins have narrowed, plants that do not produce chemicals may have a less predictable profit stream, making them candidates for majors to sell off. ExxonMobil sold its Torrance, California, refinery to PBF Energy last month. Last year, PBF bought the Chalmette, Louisiana refinery from joint-owners ExxonMobil and Petroleos de Venezuela.

Chemicals can provide another revenue stream when refining margins narrow, according to Jeff Quigley, director of energy markets at Stratas Advisors. "The thinking has always been that integration gives more value chain flexibility," he said. "Gasoline margins won't be doing much for them for awhile because the market is heavily oversupplied," he said.

Refineries integrated with chemical plants can produce very light fuels, known as lighter-ends, to support more profitable petrochemical facilities, he said. Potential buyers including PBF Energy Inc. have visited the plant to review it this summer, according to people familiar with the process. PBF did not reply to telephone calls or emails.

The plant could also attract interest from other independent refiners, as well as Canadian oil producers who want additional processing capacity, according to people familiar with refining deals. ExxonMobil does not usually negotiate directly with a single bidder for an asset, but prefers to run an auction process, according to people familiar with past deals.

The refinery is one of the highest quality plants in the Rocky Mountains, with a fluidized coking unit for refining heavy oil, according to people familiar with the region's infrastructure.

The plant primarily processes crude either imported from Canada or transported from nearby Wyoming. The proximity to Wyoming's discounted crude makes it particularly desirable, people said. It, along with Chevron Corp.'s Salt Lake City, Utah, refinery, is viewed as a top asset in the Rocky Mountains, according to Matthew Blair, an equity researcher at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co.

As MRC informed earlier, ExxonMobil Corp. shut a crude distillation unit at its 502 Mbpd Baton Rouge refinery Tuesday as flooding disrupted operations at a LPG storage facility.

ExxonMobil is the largest non-government owned company in the energy industry and produces about 3% of the world's oil and about 2% of the world's energy.

EU starts anti-dumping investigation on PET imports from Korea

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The European Commission (EU) has begun anti-dumping investigations on purified terephthalic acid (PTA) imports from Korea, as per GV.

Upon receiving complaints by the PTA industry within the EU on 20 June, the commission set out to look into the matter from 3 August.

EU companies claimed that they were damaged by Korean-originated terephthalic acid imports sold at prices below cost. The time period for the investigation is for one year between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016 and the item under examination is the terephthalic acid with purity over 99.5 percent.

The world's PTA market is suffering from a supply glut due to a rapid rise in the capacity in countries like China. Major Korean PTA suppliers such as Hanhwa General Chemical and Lotte Chemical have, to little avail, tried to diversify their sales channels after Chinese rivals increased their output.

We remind that, as MRC wrote previously, China has continue anti-dumping duties on a commodity chemical imported from the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Thailand. The tariffs on PTA became effective for another five years on Thursday (11 Aug 2016), with rates ranging from 2 percent to 20.1 percent, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Wednesday (10 Aug 2016) in a notice posted on its website. The ruling was made after official surveys showed that damage to the domestic industry would reoccur if the tariffs were terminated, the notice said. The ministry started imposing anti-dumping duties on the industrial organic compound in 2010.