Russia resumes oil shipments to Cuba, helps fill Venezuelan breach

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Russia has begun shipping large quantities of oil to Cuba for the first time this century, sources said, as supplies to the island from crisis-wracked Venezuela have dwindled, said Reuters.

A Russian oil tanker with 249,000 bbl of refined products is due to arrive in Cuba on May 10, according to Reuters shipping sources and others, bringing back memories of when the Soviet Union supplied all of the Communist-run Caribbean island’s energy needs. More tankers apparently will follow.

Rosneft, Russia’s state oil company, announced on Wednesday it had signed an agreement with Cuba’s state-run Cubametals to supply 250,000 t of oil and diesel fuel, without providing further details.

The news is sure to raise eyebrows in Washington as its tense relations with Moscow continue, despite President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to improve them. The Russian company has already become a concern for the United States. Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA last year used 49.9% of its shares in its US subsidiary, Citgo, as collateral for loan financing by Rosneft.

According to Jorge Pinon, an oil expert at the University of Texas at Austin, the Cuba deal is equivalent to around 1.865 MMbbl and valued at USD105 MM at current prices.

In comparison, Russia reported it shipped oil products to Cuba from 2010 through 2015 valued at USD11.3 MM. Cuba consumes 22,000 bpd of diesel and 140,000 bpd of oil products.

"It is very clear that Cuba is diversifying its long-term supply contracts in the event that its October 2000 subsidized oil agreement with Venezuela is terminated," Pinon said.

Cash-strapped Cuba struggled with long blackouts and fuel shortages after the fall the Soviet Union, but the rise of the late Venezuela leftist President Hugo Chavez quickly solved the crisis at the turn of the century.

Since then Cuba has relied on Venezuela, an OPEC member, for about 70% of its fuel needs, including oil for refining and re-exports.

But socialist Venezuela’s subsidized shipments have fallen by as much as 40% since 2014. Potential new suppliers usually want cash because of Cuba's poor credit rating.

Electricity and fuel rationing to state companies began a year ago, and more recently there have been gasoline shortages.

A change of government in Venezuela, which has been experiencing daily protests, would directly threaten the agreement.

TechnipFMC awarded EPC contract for sulfate reduction plant in Abu Dhabi

MOSCOW (MRC) — TechnipFMC has been awarded by Zakum Development Company an Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract for a sulfate reduction plant on West Island located offshore Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The objective of the EPC3 project is the installation of a sulfate reduction plant module (SRP) along with new installations and tie-in to existing facilities in West Island. The SRP module incorporates cutting edge water treatment technologies with advanced filtration and nano-filtration systems. These systems are used for water injection into Upper Zakum western areas reservoir tight structure, which requires high quality water with less sulfate content and particle size.

"We are extremely proud of this award which demonstrates our long standing commitment to ADNOC as well as our sustainable development strategy in line with the UAE vision to maximize national content,” Said Nello Uccelletti, President of TechnipFMC’s Onshore/Offshore business. “This EPC award is one of the strategic ‘early engagement’ achievement, following the successful completion by TechnipFMC of the Concept and FEED studies for the full UZFD project, including the SRP."

Alpek receives corporate approvals for Petrobras PTA-PET facility acquisitions

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Alpek, S.A.B. de C.V. announced that it obtained all necessary corporate approvals to acquire 100% of Companhia Petroquimica de Pernambuco and Companhia Integrada Textil de Pernambuco from Petroleo Brasileiro S.A. for USD385 MM, as per Hydrocarbonprocessing.

This amount is payable on the closing date for the two companies on a debt-free basis, and is subject to adjustments in working capital, among others. The closing of this transaction is still dependent on several conditions precedent, including approval by the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) in Brazil.

On March 27, Petrobras announced that its Shareholders’ Extraordinary General Meeting approved the sale of PetroquimicaSuape and Citepe to Alpek.

Petroquimica Suape and Citepe operate an integrated PTA-PET facility in Ipojuca, Pernambuco, Brazil with an installed capacity of 640 Mtpy and 450 Mtpy of PTA and PET, respectively. Citepe also operates a 90-Mtpy texturized polyester filament plant on site.

As MRC reported previously, in early May 2017, Alpek completed adding 5,000 mt of propylene storage to its Altamira port terminal. "The mechanical completion is finished and operations should ramp up in the month of May," spokesman Hernan Lozano said. Each of the two spheres has a capacity of 2,500 mt. "The purpose of the project is to make the domestic propylene logistics chain more efficient, as well as to have greater flexibility to import raw material," Lozano said. Indelpro imports monomer on spot and contractual basis and converts it into polypropylene. The completion of the project comes amid the expected startup of Enterprise Products Partners' propane dehydrogenation unit in Mont Belvieu, Texas. Enterprise said the 750,000 mt/year PDH unit is on track to start in Q3 and could double exports year on year.

Alpek is the petrochemicals unit of Mexican conglomerate Alfa.

Headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, Petrobras is an integrated energy firm. Petrobras' activities include exploration, exploitation and production of oil from reservoir wells, shale and other rocks as well as refining, processing, trade and transport of oil and oil products, natural gas and other fluid hydrocarbons, in addition to other energy-related activities.

Weak safety standards led to Exxon refinery blast - US agency

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has concluded that a 2015 explosion at a Torrance, California, refinery then owned by ExxonMobil Corp could have been prevented, the agency concluded in a report issued on Wednesday, reported Reuters.

"This explosion and near miss should not have happened," said CSB Chair Vanessa Allen Sutherland in a statement. "The CSB's report concludes the unit was operating without proper procedures."

The federal watchdog found that weaknesses in the Torrance refinery's safety program led to the blast.

The blast blew a large piece of debris 80 ft to nearby alkylation unit settler tanks containing toxic hydrofluoric acid, which the board called a "near-miss event."

Four workers suffered minor injuries and part of the refinery underwent a lengthy shutdown, contributing to a spike in the state's gasoline prices.

The Torrance refinery supplies 20% of the gasoline in Southern California and 10% statewide.

The explosion occurred when volatile hydrocarbons flowed backward through an idled gasoline-producing fluidic catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) to a pollution control device called an electrostatic precipitator (ESP), the CSB found.

The generation of sparks by the ESP ignited the hydrocarbons setting off the explosion.

The board, which has no regulatory authority and does not assess fines, found that the FCCU was operating without pre-established limits for a shutdown.

The agency also said Exxon relied on safeguards that it could not be sure were working and that a critical safeguard failed.

Exxon said in a statement: "We are confident we understand the cause of the blast and have worked cooperatively with the Chemical Safety Board and staff to fully understand their findings and recommendations."

Regarding the hydrofluoric acid, Exxon said, "There was no evidence the Feb. 18 incident posed any risk to the modified hydrofluoric acid alkylation unit or risk of harm to the community."

Residents near the refinery want local and state officials to ban the use of hydrofluoric acid in making octane-boosting gasoline additives.

Hydrofluoric acid is a highly toxic chemical that can kill or seriously injure at a concentration of 30 parts per million (ppm). As a gas it forms a ground-hugging cloud.

The board said it has asked a federal court to enforce subpoenas requiring Exxon to provide information about safeguards to prevent or mitigate a release of hydrofluoric acid.

Exxon said it "strongly disagrees" with any statement questioning its responsiveness or cooperation with the investigation.

"We offered to make additional documents available if the CSB could provide a sufficient basis for the documents and agreed to respect commercial confidentiality, which they have not done," a spokesman said Wednesday.

PBF Energy Inc, which acquired the refinery last year, "has already implemented a number of measures that address the CSB's recommendations," PBF spokesman Michael Karlovich said in a statement. "We plan to complete two studies later this year that will address the remaining recommendations."

The CSB determines root causes of chemical plant accidents and provides recommendations to companies, industry organizations and regulatory agencies.

As MRC wrote previously, in late March 2015, a fire broke out at the ExxonMobil Chemical plant in Beaumont, Texas. The fire in a propylene unit forced the company to shut down the entire chemical plant. Exxon spokesman Lee Dula said then in a statement that there were no injuries and that all workers have been accounted for.

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.

Arkema reports Q1 results

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Arkema has reported Q1 net income that is up 39% at 147 million euros, or 1.94 euro per share, with EBITDA up 17.5% at 355 million euros, meaning a margin of 16.5%, against 16% over Q1 2016, said the company on its web-site.

Revenues reached 2,152 million euros, up 13.7% (+9.5% like-for-like). Volumes, which rose 4.6%, have been particularly driven by strong demand in Asia and in some of the chemist's key markets.

The sound performance achieved in Q1, in a context of rising commodity prices, fully backs Arkema's target to report 2017 EBITDA of 1.3 billion euros.

Sales for the three months ending March 2017 rose 13.7% to 2.15bn euros, backed by a 4.6% increase in volumes, with earnings before interests, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) up 17.5% at 355m euros.

For the whole of 2017, Arkema is targeting a 1.3bn euros EBITDA.

As MRC informed earlier, Arkema has completed the sale to INEOS of its 50% stake in Oxochimie, their oxo alcohols manufacturing joint venture, and of the associated business.

Arkema is a leading European supplier of chlorochemicals and PVC. Kynar and Kynar Flex are registered trademarks of Arkema Inc.