First unit at Sasol Lake Charles chemical plant starts output

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Sasol began production at the first of seven units at its giant Lake Charles chemical plant in the U.S, boosting shares in the South African petrochemical group, reported Reuters.

The plant in Louisiana, which will cut the company’s reliance on fuel, has an expected output of 1.5 million tonnes of ethylene, a chemical used in industries such as packaging, detergents and adhesives.

Sasol, whose main business transforming coal to liquid fuel helped apartheid-era South Africa side-step a 1980s oil embargo, expects the project to add USD1.3 billion to its annual core earnings, or EBITDA, in the 2022 fiscal year.

The company reported core earnings of 46 billion rand (USD3.32 billion) in the 2018 financial year. The capital expenditure on the project could top USD11.8 billion, Sasol said in profit guidance last week.

As MRC wrote previously, in June 2018, Honeywell announced that Secunda Synfuels Operations, an operating division of Sasol South Africa Ltd., will use a Honeywell Connected Plant service to monitor the operating reliability of its two Honeywell UOP CCR Platforming units at its refinery in Secunda, South Africa.

Iran says self-sufficient in gasoline production -state TV

MOSCOW (MRC) - Iran has become self-sufficient in gasoline production, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said after the inauguration of the third phase of the Persian Gulf Star Refinery in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, as per Hydrocarbonprocessing.

"Fortunately, we do not need to import gasoline anymore. We have reached self-sufficiency. We can export our produced gasoline but have no export plans," Zanganeh was quoted as saying by Iran's state TV.

As MRC informed before, in January 2019, Japanese refiners loaded Iranian oil onto a tanker, resuming imports after halting purchases because of sanctions by the United States. Japan is the last of the four biggest Iranian oil buyers in Asia to resume imports after receiving a waiver from US sanctions on crude imports that started in November. China and India maintained their imports after November while South Korea halted imports for four months, resuming them earlier in January.

High-density polyethylene plant constructed within SOCAR Polymer project

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The high-density polyethylene plant was officially opened today within SOCAR Polymer project in the Sumgayit Chemical Industry Park, said Neftegaz.

The opening ceremony was attended by the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, SOCAR senior officials and representatives of the companies involved in the construction of SOCAR Polymer plants.

According to preliminary plans, SOCAR Polymer plants will produce 184,000 tons of 10 varieties of polypropylene and 120,000 tons of 4 high-density polyethylene varieties. During the operation period, the plants are expected to bring $6.6 billion revenues, 30 % of which will be the company's net profit.

In addition, SOCAR Polymer is expected to pay a total of $600 million taxes to the state budget. The high-density polyethylene is still an imported product in the country, but now SOCAR's new industrial complex will fully meet the demand of the domestic market and export the remaining 75% of the product to the Turkish and European markets.

In his report to the head of state, President of SOCAR Rovnag Abdullayev said: "About 3,500 people have been involved in the construction of SOCAR Polymer plants. 500 permanent workers will be employed during their operation. Maximum safety requirements were observed and over 18.5 million man-hours of work have been achieved accident-free. According to preliminary estimates, SOCAR Polymer complex at its full capacity will increase the export revenues of the country's non-oil sector by 18% and gross domestic product of the Absheron economic region by 14%."

SOCAR Polymer is the 1st petrochemical company in Azerbaijan based on a public-private partnership. Shareholders of SOCAR Polymer are SOCAR (52.2%), Vitol (19%), Pasha Holding (9,9%), Ecoland (9.8%), Polymer Investments (5%) and AKKIK (4.1%). About 60% of the project cost was paid by the loans of Russian Gazprombank.

SOCAR Polymer was founded in 2013 to accelerate the chemical industry development in Azerbaijan. The foundation of SOCAR Polymer plants based on advanced technologies was laid on October 25, 2015. The polypropylene plant under SOCAR Polymer was opened on July 18, 2018. The polypropylene plant’s 1st export product was delivered to Turkey last October.

Exxaro sells back 26% stake to Tronox Sands for R2bn

MOSCoW (MRC) -- South Africa’s largest coal producer, Exxaro Resources, confirmed on Monday that it had sold back its 26% stake in Tronox Sands LLP to the company for consideration of R2.06 billion in cash, said Citizen.

In November 2018, Exxaro announced it would be selling the remainder of its stake in the multinational mineral sands miner and processor following the proposed re-domiciliation of Tronox to the UK.

Exxaro has been a major shareholder in Tronox since 2012. The miner started reducing its stake after saying that the investment was no longer core, saying it was waiting for the right time to sell its remaining shares.

The disposal by Exxaro of its 26% ownership interest in Tronox Sands was originally agreed as part of the 2012 acquisition by Tronox of Exxaro’s mineral sands business.

The acquisition, which is the completion of the first stage of the sale, was being funded through Tronox’s 74%-owned South African subsidiaries, and would enable future cash generated in South Africa to be repatriated for general corporate purposes.

Tronox said on Friday that the transaction addresses several legacy issues related to Tronox’s 2012 acquisition of Exxaro’s mineral sands business and its ongoing relationship with Exxaro.

Jeffry N. Quinn, president and chief executive officer of Tronox, said the completion agreement enabled Tronox to proceed with its re-domiciliation to the UK.

"With the new South African mining charter in the process of being implemented, acquiring full control of our South African operations will increase our earnings from these valuable assets to the benefit of our shareholders," Quinn said.

Start date for Shintech Louisiana cracker still not set

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Shintech has not yet chosen a new target startup date for its new 500,000 mt/year cracker in Plaquemine, Louisiana, said Spglobal.

Shintech is in the "commissioning phase ... making alternations and fine-tuning any flaws found in the course of the work thus far," an executive said during the call , according to a transcript on Shintech parent company Shin-Etsu's website.

Contractor issues last summer caused a construction slowdown on the $1.4 billion project that delayed its original mid-2018 startup. Shintech, the largest US PVC producer, had expected to wrap up construction and possibly start up by the end of 2018, but the process of testing all systems pre-startup remains underway.

The cracker will expand Shintech's in-house feedstock output and reduce ethylene purchases from other producers.

Shintech is not alone in significant project delays. Sasol also had planned to start up its new 1.5 million mt/year cracker at its Lake Charles, Louisiana, complex, along with a new 470,000 mt/year linear low density polyethylene plant by the end of 2018, but incomplete engineering work, weather issues and productivity losses pushed the cracker startup to July this year. The company announced this week that the LLDPE plant had reached on-spec status, about two months late.

Sasol will start up a new 420,000 mt/year low density PE plant and a 300,000 mt/year ethylene oxide/ethylene glycol plant later this year.