Akzo Nobel to return 5.5 billion euros to shareholders after division sale

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Dutch paintmaker Akzo Nobel would return 5.5 billion euros (USD6.4 billion) to shareholders after the sale of its specialty chemicals division closed this week, fulfilling a promise made in March to give shareholders a large majority of the proceeds, as per Reuters.

The company said it would buy back 2.5 billion euros of shares and distribute 1 billion euros in a special dividend. In addition, it will distribute 1 billion euros in paid-in capital.

Akzo sold its chemicals division for 10.1 billion euros to Carlyle Group (CG.O) in March, generating net proceeds of 7.5 billion euros. Akzo previously paid shareholders an extra dividend of 1 billion euros late last year.

Akzo decided to sell its chemicals division early last year, as it fended off a 26-billion-euro takeover offer by U.S. rival PPG Industries (PPG.N).

The refusal to talk to PPG led to a bitter fight with a large group of shareholders who went to court in an unsuccessful bid to oust chairman Antony Burgmans.

The capital distribution announced by Akzo on Tuesday is noteworthy because such payments are not subject to a 15 percent withholding tax on dividends in the Netherlands. The dividend tax only affects foreign shareholders and is set to be eliminated.

Akzo said the share buyback is expected to be completed by mid 2020.

Akzo Nobel N.V., trading as AkzoNobel, is a Dutch multinational, active in the fields of decorative paints, performance coatings and specialty chemicals. Headquartered in Amsterdam, the company has activities in more than 80 countries, and employs approximately 55,000 people.

October prices of European PE did not rise for CIS markets despite higher ethylene prices

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The October contract price of ethylene in Europe was agreed up by EUR10/tonne from September. However, most European producers rolled over their September polyethylene (PE) prices for this month's shipments to the CIS markets, according to ICIS-MRC Price report.

Negotiations over October PE shipments from Europe to the CIS countries began on Monday. Despite the increase of EUR10/tonne in ethylene prices, most European producers announced a roll-over of their September PE prices for this month.

Thus, negotiations over October high density polyethylene (HDPE) shipments were held in the range of EUR1,090-1,165/tonne FCA, which virtually corresponded to September prices. Some producers still had restrictions for export deliveries because of shutdowns for maintenance.

Deals for October shipments of European low density polyethylene (LDPE) were negotiated in the range of EUR1,030-1,090/tonne FCA, which virtually corresponds to the same figure a month earlier. There were no restrictions on LDPE shipments.

Blast at Vynova chemical plant in Belgium causes chemical spill

MOSCOW (MRC) -- A chemical leak occurred after an explosion at the Vynova plant in Belgium, as per BreakingtheNews with reference to local media's Thursday reports.

Gas clouds were seen rising from the chemical facility located in the Belgian province of Limburg after a blast was heard.

There is still no information on the substance of leaked chemicals. However, the authorities have advised the local citizens to remain inside and seal their doors and windows.

Belgian media reports there are no injuries or casualties so far. The investigation is ongoing at the moment.

As MRC wrote before, 17 September 2018, the company declared force-majeure on supply of caustic soda from the petrochemical complex in Tessenderlo, Belgium, because of a production glitch at another plant, located at the same site, which can produce 740,000 tonnes of vynil chloride monomer (VCM) per year. The annual capacity of the caustic soda plant is 302,000 tonnes.

US East Coast refiners cash in by the trainload on Canadian oil

MOSCOW (MRC) -- US East Coast oil refiners are ramping up rail deliveries of crude from Western Canada, grabbing stranded barrels that full pipelines have driven to a record discount, reported Reuters.

That trend is expected to accelerate, as prices will remain weak, with no new Canadian export pipelines expected until late 2019. Rail volumes from Canada to East Coast refineries averaged 35,000 barrels a day for the 12 months ending in July, up from 16,000 bpd for the prior 12-month period.

Canada is having difficulty building and expanding pipelines due to environmental and aboriginal opposition, prompting a swing back to its crude-by-rail delivery system.

Bottlenecks helped drive the discount of Western Canadian Select heavy crude, the primary grade of oil produced in the province of Alberta, to a record USD43.50 below U.S. West Texas Intermediate oil futures late last week.

Canadian light synthetic crude trades around USD18 below WTI, making both Canadian benchmarks more attractive to US East Coast refiners than US grades of oil or crude imported from Europe or Africa. Brent, the international benchmark, is currently trading at nearly a USD10 premium above US crude.

"Historically, East Coast refiners would be at the mercy of global waterborne Atlantic pricing, but given how North American crude differentials materially weakened, this has been a significant boon," said Michael Tran, commodity strategist at RBC Capital Markets.

With five of the top 10 US refiners of Canadian crude scheduled to go offline for maintenance in the next six months, Canadian prices may remain depressed, Tran said.

If the Canadian differential stays wide and rail capacity grows, traders expect volumes east to return to record levels around 100,000 bpd, last reached in 2014.

Just one East Coast refinery regularly processes the heavy oil that accounts for most Western Canadian production, traders said. Recent rail shipments of heavy crudes have gone to PBF Energy Inc’s 190,000-bpd Delaware City refinery, and light crude to Philadelphia Energy Solutions Inc’s 335,000-bpd complex, sources said.

Phillips 66 took in Canadian heavy crude to its 258,000-bpd New Jersey refinery in April for the first time in a year and a half, and also imported in May and June, the last months for which data is available. PBF, Phillips 66 and PES declined to comment on commercial operations.

Rail volumes from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries are larger than those to the East Coast, but their growth rate is slower. Those volumes averaged 81,000 bpd in the 12 months to July, up 26 percent from the previous 12-month period, EIA data showed.

"There’s existing shippers who have increased their volumes to the east," said Iqbal Gill, head of hydrocarbon supply for BarrelTex. "Gulf Coast shipments have increased as well but not to the degree Eastward movements have."

Canada’s overall crude exports by rail hit a new record at 206,624 bpd in July. This is expected to keep rising, yet shipments may be hindered by competition from other commodities like grains and a shortage of rail cars.

Regulators are fast-tracking the phase-out of older, more puncture-prone cars, while top US railroad BSNF is limiting the use of retrofitted cars on its lines, citing safety concerns.

Those changes together affect roughly 17 percent of the current fleet of crude rail cars in North America, said Matt Murphy, an energy analyst with Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co.

This will limit volumes of Canadian crude to East Coast refineries, say traders.

"Every refinery out there that has access to rail is looking for more unit trains but they’re nowhere to be found," said one East Coast refinery trader, who declined to be named, citing company policy.

Honeywell launches new industrial cybersecurity services to address customer skills gap

MOSCOW (MRC) – Honeywell has added new cybersecurity consulting services designed to help industrial and critical infrastructure customers identify and eliminate dangerous security weaknesses, as per Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The Honeywell CyberVantage™ Security Consulting Services portfolio now includes Penetration Testing, providing active “white-hat” hackers who exploit customer defenses in order to fix them. It also now offers System Hardening to reduce software vulnerabilities and assist customers in safely complying with global Center for Internet Security (CIS) industry benchmarks.

Delivered by consultants with expertise in both operational technology (OT) and industrial cybersecurity, the services help organizations lower the risk and possible impact of security incidents and improve their industrial cybersecurity maturity levels. Strategically, CyberVantage Security Consulting Services provide capabilities that enable safer connected plants, digital transformation, and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) efforts.

The need for industrial cybersecurity skills is particularly critical as the process industries face a growing worldwide skills gap, with research company Cybersecurity Ventures predicting 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021. As well, fines introduced by government legislation can cost non-compliant customers millions of dollars. Tapping Honeywell’s specialized knowledge of requirements such as industrial control system (ICS) security standard IEC-62443 and a variety of country specific standards can help avoid such penalties while improving cybersecurity preparedness.

The new Penetration Testing and System Hardening offerings expand the Honeywell CyberVantage Security Consulting Services portfolio of more than 30 services that deliver comprehensive cybersecurity expertise to industrial clients, from assessments and audits to remediation. CyberVantage customers have access to hundreds of cybersecurity experts, as well as multiple Industrial Cybersecurity Centers of Excellence located around the world to simulate, validate and accelerate their multi-vendor industrial cybersecurity solutions. The purpose-built, state-of-the-art facilities are staffed by Honeywell cybersecurity experts.

The news of CyberVantage Security Consulting Services was announced at the 2018 Honeywell Users Group EMEA Conference in Madrid, Spain, where hundreds of automation users and industry experts gathered to explore the latest industry trends and technology developments as well as share experiences and transfer knowledge.