S.Korean November Iran crude oil imports fall to 5-month low

MOSCOW (MRC) -- South Korea's Iranian crude oil imports in November dropped to the lowest level since June, due to reduced shipments from the Middle Eastern country to Asia affected by its production issues, reported Reuters.

South Korea's November imports from Iran were around 1.3 MMt, or 316,575 bpd, customs data showed on Friday. The import volume was 25.2% lower from 1.73 MMt from a year earlier, and 21.6% down from October.

South Korea, one of Iran's major Asian buyers, mainly buys an ultra-light oil, also known as condensate, but the crude oil data usually includes condensate without a breakdown of the imports.

Iran has stepped up its oil output to regain its lost market share since sanctions were lifted last year. But its condensate exports had been dented due to a "technical problem" at the South Pars field, with maintenance likely to take for 1-2 mos.

Nevertheless, Iran continues to retain its major Asian oil customers by offering spot cargoes and setting December prices at the lowest against Saudi light and heavy grades to make its oil products competitive.

South Korea's oil imports from Iran in the first 11 mos of this year jumped 36.5% to nearly 17 MMt, or 372,890 bpd, compared with 12.45 MMt over the same period last year, according to the customs data.

The world's No.5 crude importer's crude imports in November totaled 12.56 MMt, or 3.07 MMbpd, up 2.4% from 12.26 MMt from a year earlier, the data showed.

South Korea's imports of crude oil from Saudi Arabia were down about 13% to 3.26 MMt in November, or 797,036 bpd, from a year ago as the de facto leader of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is committed to the OPEC-led oil supply cut deal to erode a global oil glut and drive up prices.

In January-November of 2017, Korea's crude oil imports increased 3.7% to 135.51 MMt, or 2.97 MMbpd, versus 130.71 MMt during the same period last year.

Final data for South Korea's November crude imports data is set to be released by state-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC) later this month.

Reliance plans to resume Jamnagar PP unit

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) is likely to restart a polypropylene (PP) unit following an unplanned shutdown, according to Apic-online.

A Polymerupdate source in India informed that the company has planned to resume operations at the unit on December 20, 2017. The plant was shut owing to technical issues in end-November 2017.

Located in Jamnagar in the Western Indian state of Gujarat, the unit has a production capacity of around 480,000 mt/year.

As MRC reported earlier, RIL shut its cracker, polyethylene (PE) and PP plants located at Hazira on March 23, 2017 for a maintenance turnaround. Both the plants remained off-stream for around 25 days. Located at Hazira near Surat in Gujarat, the cracker has a production capacity of 1.1 mmt/year and the downstream PP plant has a production capacity of 600,000 mt/year. The PE plant has a capacity of 450,000 mt/year.

Reliance Industries is one of the world's largest producers of polymers. Thus, the company produces among others polypropylene, polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride.

Celanese raises January VAM prices in Asia, Europe, Middle East & Africa

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Celanese Corporation, a global technology and specialty materials company, will increase January list and off-list selling prices for Vinyl Acetate Monomer (VAM) sold in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the producer in its press release.

The price increases below will be effective January 1, 2018, or as contracts otherwise allow, and are incremental to any previously announced increases:

- for Asia outside China - by USD100 per tonne;
- for China - by CNY300 per tonne;
- for Europe - by EUR100 per tonne;
- for Middle East and Africa - by USD100/tonne.

As MRC wrote before, Celanese Corporation increased list and off-list selling VAM prices in Asia. The price increases below was effective as of 13 September, or as contracts otherwise allow, and were incremental to any previously announced increases: CNY500/mt for China and USD100/mt for Asia (outside of China). Earlier, on 6 September, 2017, the same price increase was already implemented by Celanese for the same products and regions.

But, the price increase of CNY300/mt, effective as of 1 October 2017, was also implemented in China.

Besides, Celanese Corporation raised October list and off-list selling prices for VAM and Vinyl Acetate Ethylene (EVA) emulsions sold in Europe. The price increases was effective October 1, 2017, or as contracts otherwise allowed, and were incremental to previously announced increases. The following price rise applied:

- VAM - by EUR200/mt;
- EVA - by EUR90/mt;
- VAM Homopolymers (PVAC) - by EUR90/mt;
- VAM Copolymers - by EUR90/tonne;
- Pure Acrylics - by 120 EUR120/tonne;
- Styrene Acrylics - by EUR90/tonne.

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. Based in Dallas, Celanese employs approximately 7,300 employees worldwide and had 2016 net sales of USD5.4 billion.

W.R. Grace to acquire Polyolefin Catalysts unit of Albemarle for USD416 mln

MOSCOW (MRC) -- W.R. Grace (GRA) has signed an agreement to acquire the Polyolefin Catalysts business of Albemarle Corporation (ALB) for USD416 million, according to the company's press release.

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

The Polyolefin Catalysts business is a global leader in proprietary and custom-manufactured single-site catalysts as well as metallocenes and activators. The acquisition also includes a comprehensive series of highly optimized Ziegler-Natta catalysts for polyethylene production.

The acquisition significantly strengthens Grace’s catalysts technology portfolio, commercial relationships, and manufacturing network. Approximately 175 employees will join Grace’s global team. The two manufacturing operations in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Yeosu, South Korea add important flexibility to the company’s global catalysts manufacturing network, enhancing Grace’s ability to meet customer needs across multiple regions.

"This transaction aligns perfectly with our strategy to expand our leadership position in polyolefin catalysts," said Grace Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Fred Festa. "I am excited about the opportunities created by adding the talent, advanced technology, and manufacturing capabilities of the business. Both the catalysts and activators product lines are tied to high-growth applications and the manufacturing assets bring important scale and capital synergies."

Grace expects to finance the transaction with a combination of debt and cash.

As MRC informed previously, in July 2016, BASF closed the previously announced transaction to divest its global Polyolefin Catalysts business to W. R. Grace & Co.

A leader in polyolefin catalysts and licensing, Grace has the world’s broadest portfolio of polypropylene and polyethylene catalyst technologies used to produce thermoplastic resins for a variety of applications. A leading innovator and strategic partner to its customers, Grace supplies catalyst solutions for all polyolefin processes, as well as polypropylene process technology and process controls. Grace employs approximately 3,700 people in over 30 countries.

Petrobras and ExxonMobil form strategic alliance

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Petrobras and ExxonMobil has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding a strategic alliance to jointly identify and evaluate potential business opportunities, as per BusinessWire.

The memorandum of understanding was signed in Rio de Janeiro today by Pedro Parente, president of Petrobras, Brad Corson, president of ExxonMobil Upstream Ventures, and Stephen Greenlee, president of ExxonMobil Exploration Company.

Petrobras and ExxonMobil will evaluate areas of mutual interest that can bring together their world-class experience across all sectors of the oil and gas production value chain, including opportunities for cooperation in exploration, production, gas and chemicals both inside and outside Brazil.

For Petrobras, the formation of alliances is an important strategy in the Business and Management Plan 2017-2021, bringing significant potential benefits, such as risk sharing, augmented investment capacity in the oil and gas chain, technology sharing and strengthening of corporate governance.

This agreement both exemplifies and reinforces ExxonMobil’s strategic relationship with Petrobras and continuing emphasis on growing this relationship and its business in Brazil, building on its more than 100 years in the country.

In September, Petrobras and ExxonMobil jointly acquired six offshore blocks in the Campos Basin in the Brazil National Agency of Petroleum’s 14th tender round.

As MRC wrote before, in late October 2017, ExxonMobil Chemical Company announced that it had commenced production on the first of two new 650,000 tons-per-year high-performance polyethylene (PE) lines at its plastics plant in Mont Belvieu, Texas. The full project, part of the company’s multi-billion dollar expansion project in the Baytown area and ExxonMobil’s broader Growing the Gulf expansion initiative, will increase the plant’s PE capacity by approximately 1.3 million tons per year.

Petrobras is an integrated energy company with focus in oil and gas, recognized as a leader in deep and ultra-deep water exploration and production, operating mainly in Brazil. Currently, Petrobras produces close to 2.8 million barrels of oil equivalent a day. The company’s core values are respect for life, people and the environment; ethics and transparency; market orientation; excellence and trust; and results.

ExxonMobil, the largest publicly traded international energy company, uses technology and innovation to help meet the world’s growing energy needs. ExxonMobil holds an industry leading inventory of resources, is one of the largest refiners and marketers of petroleum products and its chemical company is one of the largest in the world.