Exxon Mobil secured U.S. hardship waiver from biofuels laws

MOSCOW (MRC) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted oil major Exxon Mobil Corp a financial hardship waiver this year temporarily freeing its Montana refinery from U.S. biofuel laws, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Exxon, which reported earnings of almost USD20 billion in 2017, became the largest known company to be awarded a such a waiver by the Trump administration’s EPA under a program meant to protect the smallest fuel facilities from going bust.

Farm-state lawmakers have complained that the hardship waivers are being overused in a way that is killing demand for corn-based ethanol, and they were likely to criticize the waiver awarded to one of the world’s biggest and most profitable companies.

The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard requires refiners to blend biofuels like ethanol into their fuel each year or buy compliance credits from competitors that do. But it allows the EPA to exempt plants of less than 75,000 barrels per day if they show complying would cause financial hardship.

The EPA has vastly expanded the program under President Donald Trump, but is reviewing how it handles further requests as it seeks to balance the competing interests of refiners and ethanol producers. Exxon’s waiver was granted before the review began, and covers its 60,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Billings, Montana, for the 2017 compliance period, said the sources, who asked not to be named.

EPA spokesman Michael Abboud declined to comment on whether the refinery received a waiver, but pointed out that the waiver program requires the agency only to consider the financial situation of the refinery and not its owner.

“This was a decision Congress made when drafting the Renewable Fuel Standard and EPA implements the small refinery exemption program consistent with that explicit direction,” he told Reuters in an emailed statement.

ExxonMobil declined to comment. Reuters reported earlier this year that Andeavor (MRO.N) and Chevron (CVX.N), both large and highly profitable refiners, were also granted recent EPA exemptions for their small facilities.

The EPA keeps the identities of companies receiving waivers secret, arguing the information is business sensitive. But the agency recently began publishing the numbers of exemptions granted. It said it awarded 29 exemptions to small refineries in 2018 for the 2017 compliance year so far, up from 19 for 2016 and just seven for 2015.

Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine extended restrictions on trading activity with Russia for one more year

MOSCOW (MRC) -- At its Tuesday meeting, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine extended the embargo on shipments of a number of goods from the Russian Federation and the import duty on other Russian goods, introduced in 2016 in response to Russia's trade bans and restrictions regarding Ukraine, until 31 December, 2019, according to the website of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine.

The government of Ukraine made this decision without discussion.

According to the decision of the Government of Ukraine dd. 30 December, 2015, as part of the response measures, the import duty established by the Customs Tariff of Ukraine have been applied to all goods originating from Russia since 2 January, 2016. At the same time, the preferential treatment with respect to the Russian Federation (free trade) was cancelled due to the violation of the agreement on a free trade zone dd. 18 October, 2011 by the Russian Federation.

Thus, the Cabinet of Ministers made changes to its resolution dd. 30 December, 2015 No. 1147 "On the prohibition of imports of goods originating from Russia into the customs territory", according to which it was extended until 31 December, 2019 (inclusive).

According to this decree, a complete ban was introduced on imports of such goods originating from the Russian Federation as of 10 January, 2016: vodka, confectionery, meat, chocolate and chocolate candies, baby food, fish, processed cheeses, beer, filter cigarettes, dog and cat food, and a number of other food items. Equipment for railways or tramways, diesel-electric locomotives was also banned.

And in 2017, additional items, such as polyethylene (PE) with a specific density of 0.94 or more, as well as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), not mixed with other substances; ammonium sulfate, a mixture of ammonium nitrate with calcium carbonate or other inorganic substances that are not fertilizers were included in the list.

At the same time, it is envisaged that this act will become null and void from 1 January, 2020, or after the cessation of the use of discriminatory and unfriendly actions by Russia in relation to Ukraine.

As reported earlier, that in May 2018, Ukraine imposed sanctions on Russian oil companies Rosneft, Lukoil and a number of Gazprom subsidiaries. This is stated in Annex No. 126 dd. 2 May, 2018, to the decision of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC), published on the website of the President of Ukraine. According to the document, the blocking of assets, the restriction of trade operations and the prevention of the withdrawal of capital outside Ukraine are applied in relation to these companies. Restrictions were imposed for a period of 3 years.

PE imports to Belarus down by 11.3% in Jan-Oct 2018

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Overall polyethylene (PE) imports into Belarus decreased in the first ten months of 2018 by 11.3% year on year, reaching 91,600 tonnes. At the same time, local companies reduced purchasing of exclusively linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE), according to MRC's DataScope report.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics of Belarus, October 2018 PE imports to Belarus grew to 8,500 tonnes from 7,300 tonnes a month earlier. Local companies increased their purchasing of low density polyethylene (LDPE) in Russia and high density polyethylene (HDPE) in Saudi Arabia. Overall PE imports totalled 91,600 tonnes in January-October 2018, compared to 103,000 tonnes a year earlier. Demand for LLDPE subsided significantly, whereas demand for HDPE increased.

The structure of PE imports to Belarus by grades looked the following way over the stated period.

October 2018 total LLDPE imports rose to 3,000 tonnes from 2,700 tonnes a month earlier, local companies increased their purchases in Russia on the back of the shutdown for maintenance at the local producer. Overall imports of this PE grade into Belarus totalled 31,500 tonnes in January-October 2018, which virtually corresponded to the last year's figure.

October HDPE imports were about 5,000 tonnes, compared to 4,200 tonnes a month earlier. Local companies increased their purchasing of PE in Saudi Arabia. Thus, overall HDPE imports totalled 46,100 tonnes in the first teb months of 2018, up by 10.4% year on year.

Overall LLDPE imports reached 13,200 tonnes over the stated period, whereas this figure was 30,200 tonnes a year earlier.


Output of chemical products in Russia grew by 2.4% in January-November 2018

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Russia's output of chemical products rose in November 2018 by 3.4% month on month.
However, this figure increased by 2.4% in the first eleven months of 2018, according to Rosstat's data.

According to the Federal Service of State Statistics, last month's production of basic chemicals increased by 3.4% from October 2018, with ethylene accounting for the main increase. Overall production of chemical products grew in January-November 2018 by 2.4% year on year.

270,000 tonnes of ethylene were produced in November versus 196,000 tonnes a month earlier, Kazanorgsintez, Stavrolen and Ufaorgsintez's production capacities were shut down for maintenance in October. 2,700,000 tonnes of this olefin were produced in the first eleven months of 2018, up by 4.4% year on year.

Last month's production of benzene rose to 112,000 tonnes from 96,600 tonnes in October. Overall output of this product reached 1.278,400 tonnes over the stated period, up by 3.4%year on year.

November production of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) were 109,000 tonnes (100% of the basic substance), which equalled the October figure. Overall output of caustic soda grew to 1.164,500 tonnes in January-November 2018, up by 3.2% year on year.

Last month's output of mineral fertilizers was 1.886 m tonnes (in terms of 100% nutrients) versus 1.736 m tonnes in October, Russian producers increased their production of nitrogen and potash fertilizers. Overall, Russian plants produced 20.850,000 tonnes of mineral fertilizers in the first eleven months of 2018, up by 1.2% year on year.
Nitrogen fertilizers accounted for the greatest increase - up by 3.8% year on year.

Indian HPCL-Mittal Energy to start new PP plant in 2021

MOSCOW (MRC) -- India's HPCL-Mittal Energy Limited, or HMEL, will start a new 500,000 mt/year polypropylene (PP) plant in Bhatinda in 2021, as per Apic-online.

The company has an existing 440,000 mt/year PP unit at the same site.

Sources welcomed the news, given that India's net deficit in PP was growing.

India is short of around 0.5 million mt/year of polypropylene in 2019, according to S&P Global Analytics.

As MRC wrote before, in March 2018, HMEL received clearance from India’s ministry of environments for the polymer addition project at its Guru Gobind Singh refinery and Petrochemical complex. The proposed units at the petrochemical complex include a 1.2m tonnes/year naphtha cracker, two linear low density polyethylene/high density polyethylene (LLDPE/HDPE) swing plants of 400,000 tonnes/year capacity each. The complex, in Bhatinda region of Punjab province, will also house a 450,000 tonnes/year HDPE unit, a 500,000 tonnes/year PP plant and a 55,000 tonnes/year butane-1 line.

Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) is an Indian state-owned oil and natural gas company with its headquarters at Mumbai, Maharashtra and with Navratna status. HPCL has about 25% marketing share in India among PSUs and a strong marketing infrastructure. The Government of India owns 51.11% shares in HPCL and others are distributed amongst financial institutes, public and other investors.