As Iran supply dries up, South Korea petrochemical firms find new, costly oil sources

MOSCOW (MRC) - With supply from major producer Iran uncertain, big condensate user South Korea is scouring the world for alternative sources of this key ingredient in its large chemical industry to avert shortages - a process that is proving to be costly for buyers, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

Condensate, a type of ultra-light crude oil, is a feedstock for South Korea’s petrochemical industry. A by-product of natural gas production, Iran and Qatar are major condensate suppliers. But Iran’s exports have fallen sharply this year as production in its South Pars gas field struggles to keep up with rising domestic demand while renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran’s petroleum industry crimp exports.

With Iranian condensate in the past years making up more than half of Korea’s overall supply, the shortfall is forcing Korean buyers to seek alternative supplies.

SK Incheon Petrochem, a unit of SK Innovation, Hyundai Chemical, a subsidiary of Hyundai Oilbank Corp and Hanwha Total Petrochemicals Corp (HTC) are South Korea’s biggest condensate buyers.

“There is huge uncertainty over sanctions, and we can’t build a strategy with huge uncertainty in volume,” said Sebastien Bariller, senior vice president of feedstock purchasing, energy and optimization at HTC.

Even if the United States extends waivers on sanctions, South Korea is bound by Washington’s condition to continue to reduce Iranian oil imports, said Kim Jae-kyung, research fellow at the Korean Energy Economics Institute (KEEI).

“South Korea needs to look for other sources,” he said. Bariller said 2018 had been “very special and difficult” because there were “no more supplies from Iran” since the middle of the year. HTC had bought condensate from “nearly all alternative origins,” he said.

The U.S. sanctions and rising domestic demand could cap Iran’s South Pars condensate exports at 100,000-200,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2019-2020, down from 400,000-500,000 bpd in 2017, according to consultancy FGE.

Trinseo reduces December PS prices in Europe

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Trinseo, a global materials company and manufacturer of plastics, latex binders and synthetic rubber, and its affiliate companies in Europe has announced price decrease for all polystyrene (PS) grades in December, said the producer on its site.

Effective December 1, 2018, or as existing contract terms allow, the contract and spot prices for the products listed below went down as follows:

- STYRON general purpose polystyrene grades (GPPS) - by EUR120 per metric ton;
- STYRON and STYRON A-Tech and STYRON X- Tech and STYRON C- Tech high impact polystyrene grades (HIPS) - by EUR120 per metric ton.

As MRC informed before, Trinseo last reduced its prices for all PS grades on 1 November 2018. Thus, November prices for the said products decreased, as stated below:

- STYRON GPPS grades - by EUR80 per metric ton;
- STYRON and STYRON A-Tech HIPS grades - by EUR80 per metric ton.

Trinseo is a global materials company and manufacturer of plastics, latex and rubber. Trinseo's technology is used by customers in industries such as home appliances, automotive, building & construction, carpet, consumer electronics, consumer goods, electrical & lighting, medical, packaging, paper & paperboard, rubber goods and tires. Formerly known as Styron, Trinseo completed its renaming process in 1Q 2015. Trinseo had approximately USD4.4 billion in net sales in 2017, with 16 manufacturing sites around the world, and approximately 2,200 employees.

One of Russian first urea ammonium sulphate plants was opened

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Eurochem, a leading global mineral fertilizer producer, and Stamicarbon, the innovation and license company of Maire Tecnimont Group, have announced the formal opening of Russia’s first urea-ammonium sulphate (UAS) plant at EuroChem’s Novomoskovskiy Azot plant, located about 200 kilometers south of Moscow, as per Hydrocarbonprocessing.

Stamicarbon designed the ammonium sulphate plant at Novomoskovsk with a capacity of 400 mtpd urea and 600 mtpd UAS. After commissioning of the granulation equipment, UAS production started earlier today under the supervision of Stamicarbon engineers on site. The startup went very smoothly and the first UAS granules are now rolling off the production line.

Stamicarbon developed a process for the production of granulated urea containing ammonium sulphate (UAS) following an increased demand for granulated urea containing macro- and micro-nutrients.

Main features of the Stamicarbon UAS technology are the large range of ammonium sulphate concentrations (0-50 wt%) that can be handled without modifying the granulation plant and the high quality of UAS granules produced.

Urea ammonium sulphate helps farmers significantly increase crop yields. UAS production will complement EuroChem’s current portfolio of sulphur-enriched fertilizers, which includes ammonium sulphate (AS) and ammonium sulphate-nitrate (ASN). The opening ceremony today was attended by Igor Nechaev, General Director of MCC EuroChem, the Group’s Russian arm, Henri Smolenaers, Project Manager Stamicarbon and Semen Evreinov, Head of Stamicarbon’s office Russia.

Tronox seeks permission for its pending Cristal acquisition

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Tronox Limited, a global mining and inorganic chemicals company, announced it has filed a motion with respect to its proposed acquisition of the TiO2 business of The National Titanium Dioxide Company Limited (Cristal), seeking permission to present a proposed remedy transaction to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), said the company.

The motion outlines a proposed $700 million divestiture of the two-plant Ashtabula TiO2 complex to INEOS Enterprises A.G. (INEOS), a unit of INEOS, one of the world's largest chemicals companies and the 50th largest business in the world, with a focus on serving the developing needs of its customers from its 171 sites in 24 countries. Under the Company's proposed remedy, the Ashtabula complex, along with all of its associated assets – including research and development, sales, intellectual property and operations expertise – would be held separate during a short interim period while the proposed divestiture is pending.

"INEOS is an experienced and sophisticated purchaser of chemical operating assets, with dozens of successful acquisitions in the last two decades, particularly in chemical carve-out acquisitions. I believe this ideally positions the Ashtabula complex and INEOS to flourish as a stable and competitive new entrant into the TiO2 market," said Jeffry N. Quinn, president and chief executive officer of Tronox. "The proposed consent decree eliminates the competitive concerns alleged in the FTC's original complaint and it does so while providing the necessary foundation for the divested assets to be commercially successful."

Regulators in eight non-U.S. jurisdictions, including the European Union, have approved Tronox's proposed acquisition of Cristal. Approval by the FTC would allow Tronox and Cristal to close the transaction. Because the FTC took the unusual step of challenging the merger in its own administrative court, pursuant to "Part 3" of the FTC's rules and regulations, Tronox is unable to present the proposed remedy transaction to the FTC Commissioners unless consent is granted by the FTC's administrative law judge.

The motion asks the Court to make a written determination, within the five-day period provided by Rule 3.25(c), that there is a reasonable possibility of settlement and certify the proposed consent decree for the FTC Commissioners' consideration with a recommendation that the FTC Commissioners accept the proposed resolution of the case. Tronox's filing also requests that the FTC withdraw this matter from the Part 3 adjudication for the purpose of considering the proposed consent decree.

Under the proposed acquisition of the Ashtabula complex by INEOS, the competitive dynamics in North America would remain unchanged. Tronox's and Cristal's North American TiO2 production assets would continue to be operated by two different companies. There would be no increase in industry concentration, thereby eliminating the risks of anticompetitive effects alleged in the FTC's original complaint that initiated the Part 3 proceeding. The proposed remedy transaction would preserve the rest of Tronox's global acquisition of Cristal, which would enable Tronox to increase global manufacturing output and efficiency from Cristal's non-North American manufacturing assets, while entirely divesting Cristal's North American business to a new market entrant. Staff at the FTC have indicated that they would not recommend the proposed remedy transaction to the FTC Commissioners.

SABIC signs memorandum of understanding with PLASTIC ENERGY for supply of recycled feedstock

MOSCOW (MRC) -- SABIC, a global leader in the chemical industry, has announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with UK-based PLASTIC ENERGY Ltd., a pioneer in chemical plastics recycling, for the supply of feedstock to support SABIC’s petrochemical operations in Europe, as per the company's press release.

SABIC and PLASTIC ENERGY intend to build a first commercial plant in the Netherlands to refine and upgrade a valuable feedstock, known as TACOIL, a patented PLASTIC ENERGY product, which will be produced from the recycling of low quality, mixed plastic waste otherwise destined for incineration or landfill . The plant, which is anticipated to enter commercial production in 2021, is a significant milestone for SABIC towards the company’s commitment to establishing a circular economy and, more broadly, its sustainability goals.

"Sustainability is a core value at SABIC and the circular economy is a cornerstone of our strategy as evidenced by this unique agreement", said Frank Kuijpers, General Manager for Corporate Sustaina-bility, SABIC. "SABIC is proud to be the first petrochemical company to implement a project for the chemical recycling of challenging plastic waste into feedstock for steam crackers. This exciting project is testament to our commitment to scale up advanced chemical recycling processes of plastics back to the original polymer."

"We are delighted to be working with SABIC on this exciting project to support their petrochemical operations in Europe", said Carlos Monreal, Founder and CEO of PLASTIC ENERGY. "We have already two industrial plants in Spain operating 24/7 and a technology team with more than 10 years of expe-rience developing this patented technology. Our advanced expertise will promote this new opportunity to turn plastic back into plastic as part of the circular economy."

PLASTIC ENERGY has successfully commercialised a patented thermochemical conversion technology to convert a wide range of end-of-life, dirty and contaminated plastics, hardly recyclable for conventional processes, into usable feedstock. Plastics are melted in an oxygen free environment and then broken down into synthetic oils at which point the oils need to be refined and upgraded as feedstock for traditional petrochemical uses.

As MRC wrote previously, in October 2016, the first product of a new generation of low density polyethylene (LDPE) foam grades from Sabic was designed to increase production efficiency at the foam manufacturer.

Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic) ranks among the world's top petrochemical companies. The company is among the worldпїЅs market leaders in the production of polyethylene, polypropylene and other advanced thermoplastics, glycols, methanol and fertilizers.