Celanese filed a patent infringement lawsuit in Europe against three Chinese manufacturers

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Celanese Corporation, a global technology and specialty materials company, announced that it has filed a patent infringement lawsuit in Europe against three Chinese manufacturers of high-potency sweeteners, specifically Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K), said the company on its site.

The complaints allege that Suzhou Hope Technology Co., Ltd., Anhui Jinhe Industrial Co., Ltd., and Vitasweet Co., Ltd., are infringing newly granted European Patent No. 2 861 569 by continuing to unlawfully import infringing Ace-K sweetener into Europe. The ’569 patent is directed to improved production processes for making its Sunett Ace-K sweetener.

In a temporary shift in focus, Celanese has withdrawn its complaint from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and requested the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office review additional claims to its already-patented and improved Ace-K manufacturing process described in U.S. Patent No. 9,024,016.

Celanese continues to invest in manufacturing and quality improvements and is dedicated to robust research, development and customer support for the Sunett sweetener products manufactured by its patented processes. The company will protect these investments to supply customers with quality engineered products, and will vigorously defend its patented technology against unlawful importation and uses in the United States, Europe, China and globally.

Celanese Corporation is a global technology leader in the production of differentiated chemistry solutions and specialty materials used in most major industries and consumer applications. Our two complementary business cores, Acetyl Chain and Materials Solutions, use the full breadth of Celanese's global chemistry, technology and business expertise to create value for our customers and the corporation. As we partner with our customers to solve their most critical business needs, we strive to make a positive impact on our communities and the world through The Celanese Foundation. Based in Dallas, Celanese employs approximately 7,300 employees worldwide and had 2016 net sales of USD5.4 billion.

Oman Oil Co unveils plans for mammoth petrochemicals complex at Duqm SEZ featuring 10 plants

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Oman Oil Duqm Development Company, a vertical of the wholly government owned strategic investment group Oman Oil Company, has unveiled plans for the establishment of a mammoth petrochemicals complex at the Duqm Special Economic Zone (SEZ), featuring as many as 10 large-scale plants and involving several billions of dollars in investment, as per ZAWYA.

Hilal al Kharusi (pictured), Executive Managing Director, said a dedicated zone earmarked for the sprawling development will host 10 plants producing over 20 products ranging from commodities to specialty products, paving the way for over 30 chemical processing businesses to be set up further downstream of the value chain.

The centrepiece of the ambitious development is the Duqm Refinery, a green-field refinery with a capacity to process 230,000 barrels per day (bpd) of domestic and export crude. Oman Oil Company (OOC) and Kuwait Petroleum Corporation are the 50:50 equity joint venture partners in the estimated USD6 billion refinery venture. A formal partnership agreement will be signed here in Muscat on April 10, 2017.

"This is the first major cross-country refinery and petrochemical investment in the GCC. It is also the first GCC refinery that will import and export crude and petrochemicals," he added.

As MRC wrote before, Oman Refineries and Petroleum Industries Company (Orpic) plans to raise capacity of its polypropylene (PP) plant to 340,000 tpa of high quality PP from 200,000 tpa. The plant is part of the government's vision to develop the petrochemical industry. It is also part of the efforts made by the Sultanate to diversify sources of national income and benefit from gas production.

MOL Slovak refinery starting planned turnaround in April

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Slovak oil refiner Slovnaft, part of the Hungarian oil and gas group MOL, will shut down some production starting over the Easter holiday in April for a general turnaround lasting until June, said Reuters.

The company will invest 57 million euros into the turnaround during which it will undertake inspections, maintenance and upgrades, it said in a statement on its website on Wednesday.

The shutdown will not impact its Bratislava refinery customers, Slovnaft said, adding stocks and production within the MOL group will cover needs.

A total of 16 productions will be gradually shut down and a restart of full production is expected in mid-June.

Iran struggles to expand oil exports as sea storage cleared

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Iran has sold all the oil it had stored for years at sea and Tehran is now struggling to keep exports growing as it grapples with production constraints, said Reuters.

Since the easing of international sanctions in January 2016, Iran tried to make up for lost sales by releasing millions of barrels parked on tankers offshore. Tanker tracking and oil sources said Iran had sold its last stocks from the floating storage in the past two weeks. Much of the oil stored was condensate, a very light grade of crude.

With no more stocks at sea, Iran has lost a vital resource that had propped up exports. "We do think that (floating storage) has been the primary cause of the boost in exports," Energy Aspects analyst Richard Mallinson said, adding that now floating storage had ended total exports of crude and condensate were likely to slip.

"We see a very difficult path for Iran to raise crude output until it can get the Western expertise and investment back into the upstream, which has been notably slow to materialize," he added. After Western sanctions were eased, Iran's output jumped from about 2.9 MMbpd to about 3.6 MMbpd in June.

But it has barely risen since—fluctuating between 3.6 MMbpd and 3.7 MMbpd— even though Iran fought hard with fellow OPEC members to be excluded from production cuts that came into effect on Jan. 1 and will last till June.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries pledged to reduce output by about 1.2 MMbpd, but Iran was allowed a small increase to compensate for years of isolation. Yet it has produced less in the past three months than it was allowed.

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said last month Tehran was prepared to produce 3.8 MMbpd if OPEC agreed to extend cuts to the second half of 2016, effectively signaling there was little hope of a steep rise in Iranian output.

Prior to the lifting of sanctions, Iran stored unsold oil on ships, which peaked in 2015 at 40 MMbbl on around 25 tankers. The country has up to 60 oil tankers in its fleet. Iran's drawdown of floating storage gathered pace in September. By the start of 2017, Iran still held an estimated 16 MMbbl of oil on ships. Since then, they have emptied.

While the EU and United Nations lifted sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program more than a year ago, the United States has held separate measures in place and President Donald Trump's administration has promised a tough line.

This has increased concerns among Western banks about offering finance to Iran, slowing energy investment decisions. French oil company Total said in February it planned a final investment decision on a USD2 B gas project in Iran by the summer, but said this hinged on a renewal of US sanctions waivers.

"The uncertainty over the US position on further sanctions is casting a huge shadow on the oil trade with Iran," said Paddy Rodgers, chief executive of tanker company Euronav.

In addition, the oil minister's efforts to secure deals with Western firms has run into internal opposition in Iran, which holds the world's fourth biggest oil reserves. The plans have now been postponed until after a May presidential election.

"Iran needs billions of dollars of investment to boost crude oil production and natural gas capacity," said Mehdi Varzi, a former official at state-run National Iranian Oil Company and now an independent consultant. "Most of the fields were discovered many decades ago and are way beyond their production capacity," he said.

Air Liquide signs a long term contract with major petroleum group in Oman

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Air Liquide and Oman Oil Refineries and Petroleum Industries Company (Orpic), Oman’s national refining company, recently signed a long term agreement for the supply of nitrogen to the Liwa Plastics Industries Complex (LPIC), a new plastics production complex including the country’s first steam cracker Orpic is adding to its existing production facilities, in Sohar industrial port area in Oman, said the company on its website.

Investing around EUR20 million to build a state-of-the-art nitrogen production unit with a total capacity of 500 tonnes of nitrogen per day, Air Liquide will strengthen its leadership position in a key industrial area to support the growth of its customer Orpic.

Expected to start operations in the first quarter of 2019, the new nitrogen plant, along with the expansion of Air Liquide’s existing pipeline network, will supply nitrogen for the customer’s plastics production complex expanding to a capacity of polyethylene and polypropylene of 1.4 million tonnes per year. Those plastics components are needed for many applications in derived products from petroleums such as packaging industries as well as other industrial applications.

The nitrogen production unit will be designed and built by Air Liquide’s Engineering and Construction teams using cutting edge technologies and bringing its world class expertise. It will be owned and operated by Air Liquide Sohar Industrial Gases Company.

Francois Jackow, member of the Air Liquide Group’s Executive Committee, supervising Africa, Middle East and India, said: "We are pleased to strengthen our relationship with a strategic petrochemical player such as Orpic. Air Liquide demonstrates its ability to continue capitalizing on its existing assets, such as its pipeline network located in the most dynamic industrial basin of Sohar. With this new nitrogen supply contract, Air Liquide will support the development of the petrochemical industry in Oman."

Christiaan van der Wouden, Chief Operating Officer of Orpic, said: "Orpic is pleased to expand its collaboration with Air Liquide and to secure the highest competitive, reliable and safe supply of nitrogen to the Liwa plastics Industries Complex (LPIC) project, which is critical to the development of a downstream plastics industry in Oman."