Valero says record biofuels compliance costs to continue in 2017

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Valero Energy Corp on Tuesday signaled that record high costs to comply with the US renewable fuels program will continue this year, after the oil refiner was hit with a ballooning tab for the program in 2016, said Reuters.

Valero, the largest independent US oil refiner and the first of the sector to report 2016 results, said it expects its costs to meet annual biofuel blending targets required through the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to be similar in 2017 to the USD749 million last year.

"At this level, this is a significant issue for us so we continue to work aggressively with regulators," said Chief Executive Officer and President Joe Gorder on an investor call to discuss earnings.

These higher reported costs come at a tumultuous time for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which oversees the program. US President Donald Trump, who took office this month, has pledged to slash costly regulations. Valero and others have been pressing EPA to make changes to the program.

Valero's 2016 total compliance tab well surpassed the USD517 million the company reported paying three years earlier, when paper credits used by oil companies to meet the requirements soared to record high prices.

The RFS requires oil companies either blend increasing volumes of renewable fuels into gasoline and diesel or buy compliance credits, known as Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), from those that have. Prices of renewable fuel credits in 2016 were below those record levels, but oil companies needed more to meet higher requirements for ethanol and biodiesel use.

Valero's biofuel blending costs totaled USD217 million in the fourth quarter, USD60 million higher than the year-ago period. The year's tally of USD749 million was USD309 million higher than a year earlier, Valero said in a statement on the company's 2016 results, which showed higher-than-expected profits thanks to strong ethanol margins.

Valero is also one of the largest US ethanol manufacturers.

So-called "merchant refiners," which are unable to blend transportation fuels and thus have to buy RINs in an opaque and volatile market, last year requested regulators consider changing the RFS to push the costs of compliance further downstream as the costs swelled. EPA is currently receiving comments on the topic.

Renewable fuel RIN prices have plunged nearly 40% since Trump's election. The president has sought to install leaders, including an EPA chief, who have been critics of the RFS.

Solvay acquires Li-ion high voltage technology from DuPont

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Solvay announces the acquisition of Energain Li-Ion high voltage technology from DuPont, said the company on its site.

Energain technology and formulations enlarge Solvay Special Chem Global Business Unit's existing portfolio of high performance salts and additives for electrolytes and strengthen its capabilities to develop further innovative high-voltage solutions for Li-ion batteries.

The advanced Li-ion battery market is rapidly developing, driven by more stringent regulations and continuous improvements in battery performance and cost. The power and durability of Li-Ion batteries determine the efficiency and reliability of eco-friendly transportation as well as electrical and electronic devices that have all become integral to our daily lives.

"Achieving high energy at an affordable cost, without compromising safety is a key objective of the Li-ion battery industry. With the addition of Energain to our portfolio, we are offering new solutions to our partners to reach their high voltage goals" states DU Hua, Solvay Special Chem GBU President.

"This acquisition also reinforces Solvay's competences in areas like modeling and formulations, thus boosting the execution of Solvay's technological roadmap in batteries." adds Nicolas Cudre-Mauroux, Solvay Group General Manager for Research & Innovation.

We remind, in December 2016, Solvay completed the sale of its 70.59% stake in Solvay Indupa to Brazilian chemical group Unipar Carbocloro, following the approval earlier this month of the Brazilian antitrust authority CADE.

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.

Praxair launches hydrogen recovery unit to support Dow Freeport operations

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Praxair completed a new hydrogen recovery and processing plant at the company’s Freeport, Texas production complex, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The company held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the facility on Jan. 31 (FIG. 1). The new hydrogen facility will recover by-product hydrogen from Dow Chemical’s ethylene production facilities, and upgrade it into high-purity hydrogen by using a pressure swing adsorption process.

The plant began operations in December 2016, and now supplies high-purity hydrogen back to Dow in order to meet Dow’s needs across Southeast Texas. Dow is investing more than $6 B in Texas and Louisiana. These investments are strengthening the competitiveness of the company’s high-value Performance Plastics franchise and Performance Products businesses. Dow also will receive nitrogen from Praxair’s new air separation unit, which is presently under construction. Dow will utilize the hydrogen and nitrogen to support the production of specialty chemicals used in several diverse end-markets, including automobile manufacturing, coating applications and chemical intermediates.

Praxair also will supply its customers on the US Gulf Coast via the new hydrogen pipeline recently completed between Freeport and the pipeline terminus in Texas City, Texas. Additionally, Praxair is building two other manufacturing facilities at its Freeport complex, which will be completed by 2019. These units will supply manufacturers in the region with oxygen, nitrogen, argon and CO2. These investments, along with a nitrogen pipeline between Freeport and Texas City, represent over USD400 MM in total costs.

The process. It all begins with adsorption, which removes impurities from the feed gas, in this case, by-product hydrogen streams from Dow’s ethylene production. The adsorption takes place in a vessel packed with selected layers of adsorption materials. Once the major impurities are removed, the high-purity hydrogen is compressed for distribution. When the adsorption bed is fully loaded with impurities, it is taken offline for regeneration, and the feed gas is fed to another, already regenerated, vessel; and the cycle starts again. Altogether, Praxair’s system has 14 adsorption vessels operating in a complex cyclic pattern. The process produces on-specification hydrogen with higher recovery rates, less waste and lower CO2. By recovering the by-product hydrogen, rather than producing hydrogen through the reforming of natural gas, the process prevents 300 Mtpy of direct CO2 emissions versus other conventional means.

As MRC reported earlier, Dow Chemical's polyethylene (PE) expansion at its Freeport, Texas, complex is on track for a mid-2017 startup. The Freeport complex currently has a 640,000 mt/year of PE capacity and is expected to add 1,050,000 mt/year of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and linear low density polyethylene (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.

Scientific Design awards Indian Oil MEG plant license

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Scientific Design Company, Inc. (SD) has announced that Indian Oil Corporation LTD. has selected SD’s MEG technology for their complex in Paradip, Odisha, India, reported Hydrocarbonprocessing.

This plant will have a capacity to process 180 KTA of ethylene. The award includes the license of process technology, the provision of a process design package, supply of proprietary equipment and resin, technical assistance and start up services, and the initial charge of SD’s ethylene oxide catalyst.

SD has licensed over 100 ethylene oxide/MEG plants in 25 countries around the world.

As MRC wrote before, Indian Oil Corporation's Rs 34,555-crore 15 million tonnes per annum Paradip Refinery will be commissioned in phases from March 2015 onwards. Indian Oil Corporation is conducting feasibility studies to set up a petrochemical complex at Paradip in Odisha for Rs 20,000 crore. The petrochemical complex would be built in the vicinity of the company’s to-be-commissioned 15-mln tpa greenfield refinery at Paradip. The petrochemical complex would be in addition to the already announced Rs 3,150-crore polypropylene project at the same location, the foundation stone for which was laid by MOS for petroleum and natural gas.

Indian Oil Corporation Limited, or IndianOil, is an Indian state-owned oil and gas corporation with its headquarters in New Delhi, India.

Pertamina using Honeywell UOP technology to boost clean fuels production

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Honeywell announced that PT Pertamina will use Honeywell UOP technology to produce high-octane gasoline blending components and jet fuel at its Balikpapan refinery in Kalimantan Timur, Indonesia, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The agreement includes licensing and engineering for a CCR Platforming unit with a capacity of 33,000 bpd to produce cleaner-burning high-octane motor fuels and a Unionfining hydrotreating unit with a capacity of 47,000 bpd to produce kerosene jet fuel.

"The CCR Platforming unit at Balikpapan will be the eighth unit that Honeywell UOP has licensed to Pertamina, and the backbone of Pertamina's supply of high-octane gasoline," said Mike Millard, vice president and general manager, Process Technology and Equipment at Honeywell UOP. "This technology provides the highest possible yield of these fuels, while also producing 1.2 million tons a year of the petrochemicals paraxylene and benzene."

According to government sources, Indonesia's gross domestic product is growing by 5.2% per year, while its population of 260 million people is growing by 1.2% annually. As a result, gasoline demand in Indonesia currently is rising by 4 to 5% per year, straining its ability to meet domestic demand for refined products.

As part of the same project, Pertamina awarded Honeywell UOP with a contract to expand capacity of its existing Unicracking units at Balikpapan to 60,000 bpd. These units provide eastern Indonesia's domestic supply high-quality diesel fuel.

As MRC informed earlier, Honeywell has announced that Borealis AG selected Honeywell UOP's process technology for a proposed plant in Kallo, Belgium, that converts propane into propylene, a primary ingredient for making plastics.