Engie pulls out of UK shale gas with assets sale to Ineos

MOSCOW (MRC) -- French energy company Engie has sold its British shale gas interests to petrochemicals firm Ineos for an undisclosed sum, reported Reuters with reference to the companies' statements.

Engie was one of the first big energy companies to back Britain's nascent shale gas industry when it bought parts of Dart Energy's licenses, a company since then taken over by IGas, in 2013.

Thursday's deal builds on Ineos' position as Britain's largest shale gas company as it now has access to a shale gas area of more than 1.2 million acres. The company, which recently moved its headquarters from Switzerland back to Britain, wants to invest 1 billion pounds into shale gas which it bets on as a feedstock for its petrochemicals business.

Engie, on the other hand, said its retreat from British shale gas was in line with its strategy to focus more on energy infrastructure, like gas pipelines, and services.

"The decision was made following ENGIE Group's strategic review notably in response to commodity price declines," said a spokeswoman. Global oil prices have halved since hitting a peak in mid-2014 and have also weighed on gas prices.

As part of the deal, Ineos is taking over Engie's entire UK onshore exploration license portfolio, that consists of interests in 15 licenses, including seven in which Ineos had a previous participation.

"We are always going to be interested in acquiring additional acreage," Gary Haywood, chief executive of Ineos shale, told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry event.

Large amounts of shale gas are estimated to be trapped in underground rocks and the British government says it wants to exploit them to help offset declining North Sea oil and gas output, create some 64,000 jobs and help economic growth.

But so far only one shale gas well has been fracked and progress has been slow over the past years due to regulatory hurdles and public protests. Environmental groups are concerned that fracking could contaminate groundwater and that it is incompatible with fighting climate change.

Shale gas fracking firms IGas (IGAS.L) and Cuadrilla confirmed the changes in license ownership in which they are also involved.

As MRC wrote earlier, Ineos, which owns and operates the Grangemouth petrochem refinery, has commissioned eight large-volume Dragon class ships to transport liquefied shale gas ethane from the US to Europe. At present, the company is building the biggest in Europe shale gas tank at Grangemouth. The building of Europe’s largest ethane storage tank is part of INEOS’ USD1 billion global project to bring US shale gas to Europe as supplies dwindle from the North Sea.

Ineos Group Limited is a privately owned multinational chemicals company consisting of 15 standalone business units, headquartered in Rolle, Switzerland and with its registered office in Lyndhurst, United Kingdom. It is the fourth largest chemicals company in the world measured by revenues (after BASF, Dow Chemical and LyondellBasell) and the largest privately owned company in the United Kingdom.

Sonoco completes USD230 mln acquisition of Peninsula Packaging

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Sonoco, one of the largest diversified global packaging companies, has announced it has completed the acquisition of Peninsula Packaging Company, a leading manufacturer of thermoformed packaging for fresh fruit and vegetables found in the fast-growing perimeter of retail supermarkets, said the company in its press release.

Sonoco acquired Peninsula Packaging for approximately USD230 million from funds managed by Odyssey Investment Partners, LLC and other shareholders. Sonoco financed the transaction with a combination of cash and a USD150 million three-year term loan. Peninsula’s financial results will be added to Sonoco’s Consumer Packaging segment and the business will operate as the Peninsula brand of thermoformed packaging products within Sonoco Plastics division’s global operations.

Founded in 2001, Peninsula Packaging had 2016 proforma sales of approximately USD190 million and operates five manufacturing facilities, four in the United States and one in Mexico. The majority of its business is focused on packaging for a wide range of whole fresh fruits, pre-cut fruits and produce and prepared salad mixes, as well as baked goods. Peninsula’s customer base includes most of the leading household names for fresh fruits and vegetables found at retail.

"We are extremely pleased to have Peninsula joining the Sonoco family of leading consumer packaging products. Peninsula significantly expands our thermoforming packaging capabilities and we now occupy a strong packaging position serving the perimeter of supermarkets in fresh food products, combined with our existing offerings in the center of the store, including those serving a range of frozen and shelf-stable foods," said Sonoco Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Rob Tiede.

As MRC reported earlier, Sonoco Products Co.’s acquisition of Weidenhammer Packaging Group GmbH of Germany in 2014 included plastic packaging technology that the company was targeting for growth in the United States. The USD383 million deal, naturally, featured plenty of talk about the paper packaging aspects of both companies. That was the bulk of their respective businesses. But the move also included Weidenhammer Plastic Packaging with a plant in Zwenkau, Germany, near Leipzig, that includes production of cups, cans and containers with volumes of at least 100 milliliters. Buckets made there range from 1 to 11.4 liters.

Sonoco Plastics is a leading manufacturer of mono-layer and multi-layer blow-molded bottles and jars, thermoformed cups and trays and engineered molded and extruded containers, spools and trays. The Company has 25 plastics operations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Netherlands and Germany. In addition to the Beauty Park facility, Sonoco Plastics operates a state-of-the-art food-grade, blow-molding and injection molding plant in Columbus, Ohio. The Company is currently reviewing plans for additional expansion of this facility as well.

OPEC says oil stocks still increasing, Saudis raise output

MOSCOW (MRC) -- OPEC said oil inventories have risen despite a global deal to cut supply and raised its forecast of production in 2017 from outside the group, suggesting complications in an effort to clear a glut and support prices, said Reuters.

In a monthly report, OPEC also said its biggest producer Saudi Arabia increased output in February by 263,000 barrels per day to 10 million bpd, after in January making a larger cut than required by the OPEC accord to ensure strong initial compliance.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is curbing its output by about 1.2 MMbpd from Jan. 1, the first reduction in eight years. Russia and 10 other non-OPEC producers agreed to cut half as much.

OPEC said in the report oil stocks in industrialized nations rose in January to stand 278 million barrels above the five-year average, of which the surplus in crude was 209 million barrels and the rest refined products.

"Despite the supply adjustment, stocks have continued to rise, not just in the US, but also in Europe," OPEC said. "Nevertheless, prices have undoubtedly been provided a floor by the production accords."

Oil prices fell after the release of the report to trade close to USD50 a barrel, their lowest since November. Crude is still up from about USD40 a barrel a year ago and a 12-year low near USD27 reached in January 2016.

In the report, OPEC pointed to an increase in its members' compliance with the deal, according to figures from secondary sources that OPEC uses to monitor output. Supply from the 11 OPEC members with production targets under the accord -- all except Libya and Nigeria -- fell to 29.681 million bpd last month, according to these figures.

That means OPEC has complied by more than 100% with its plan to lower output for those nations to 29.804 million bpd, according to a Reuters calculation. OPEC gave no compliance figure in the report.

But the report revised up its estimate of oil supply from producers outside OPEC this year, as higher oil prices following the supply cut help spur a revival in US shale drilling.

Production outside OPEC is now expected to rise by 400,000 bpd, 160,000 more than previously thought. US oil output in 2017 was revised up by 100,000 bpd.


Clariant to showcase container desiccant to furniture market at CIFM 2017

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Clariant, a world leader in specialty chemicals, is returning to the CIFM exhibition March 28–31, 2017, at the China Import and Export Complex in Guangzhou, China, said the company on its site.

Held since 2004, the CIFM exhibition is one of the most comprehensive trade fairs in the woodworking machinery, furniture production and interior design industry in Asia. At CIFM 2017, Clariant will highlight its leading cargo desiccants — the Container Dri II products — to the furniture market in Asia.

Increasing urban population in developing countries and a booming real estate industry have been driving the global furniture market's growth over the past decade. The Asia Pacific region is expected to overtake the North American furniture market by 2020 in terms of market share. In the coming years, the Asian market for furniture is expected to witness double-digit growth, with the emerging markets of India and China in particular fueling this growth.

While the furniture market in Asia is growing rapidly, furniture manufacturers and traders are often faced with a headache when it's time for furniture transportation. Due to their size and weight, finished furniture products destined for overseas market are likely going to go through a long journey that could take weeks to complete. During shipment, the uncontrolled humidity and condensation can easily compromise the furniture's physical condition and quality. Mold, corrosion, spoilage and warping are just some of the harmful effects caused by moisture during transportation, whether it is via shipping container, rail, barge or truck.

As MRC informed earlier, Clariant announced the launch of a new generation of high-performance catalysts for the steam reforming process in the production of hydrogen, ammonia and methanol.

Clariant AG is a Swiss chemical company and a world leader in the production of specialty chemicals for the textile, printing, mining and metallurgical industries. It is engaged in processing crude oil products in pigments, plastics and paints. Clariant India has local masterbatch production activities at Rania, Kalol and Nandesari (Gujarat) and Vashere (Maharashtra) sites in India.

Russia postpones scrapping oil export duties to 2022-2025

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Russia will not fully scrap its oil export duty until 2022-2025, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Monday, four years later than previously expected, reported Reuters.

Russia, the world's biggest oil producer, is in the midst of a so-called "tax manoeuvre" whereby it is gradually increasing its mineral extraction tax (MET), while at the same time cutting export duties on oil and refined products.

Previously the finance ministry had considered cutting the oil export duty to zero between 2018 and 2020.

"We think that oil export duty could be scrapped in full between 2022-2025," Siluanov told a tax conference organised by the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.

"We are holding discussions with oil firms and the Energy Ministry and I am sure a relevant decision will be made."

He declined to specify how much the MET would rise but said the planned increase would be "neutral" for oil and gas companies, given the planned abolition of export duties.

Government officials have said it would be easier to just tax oil and gas producers at home instead of collecting export duties as well. By abolishing oil export duties, Russia would also bring its duties system in line with those of its Custom Union partners Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Oil and gas companies have voiced their support for the tax reform, saying taxing their profits rather than exports and exploration would spur production as it better reflects exploration costs and risks.

In other tax reform, the Russian government is also considering raising value-added tax but lowering mandatory social security payments.

Siluanov said on Monday that such a move could lead to a one-off 2 percentage points rise in consumer inflation.

As MRC informed before, Russian crude imports to China rose in early 2017 as the country's independent, or teapot, refiners have expanded their diet to include the Urals grade, trade sources said. Russia could expand its market share in China, the second-largest oil consumer, this year after a drop in Brent prices relative to Middle East crude benchmark Dubai opened the arbitrage for Russian Urals to head east. Russia topped Saudi Arabia as the biggest crude seller to China in 2016.