SABIC spotlights major milestone in trailblazing initiative with Airborne to digitize, automate large-scale composites manufacturing

MOSCOW (MRC) -- SABIC is celebrating a major milestone for its ground-breaking Digital Composites Manufacturing line. The company, in collaboration with Airborne and powered by Siemens and Kuka technologies, has successfully completed the pilot phase of the world’s first automated digital system for rapid, large-scale laminate manufacturing using SABIC’s continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite tape, as per the company's press release.

Plans for the new system were originally announced at JEC World 2018 and today, SABIC and Airborne are beginning the transition to full-scale production, which is slated for the end of 2019. To preview this unique system, SABIC is presenting a 360-degree virtual reality experience called "Innovations of Scale" at its JEC World stand.

The new automated digital manufacturing system was built at Airborne’s facility in The Netherlands and is capable of producing four thermoplastic composite laminates every 60 seconds, totaling up to 1.5 million parts annually. Potential applications include cases and covers for consumer electronics, aircraft inserts, automotive components and sports goods.

"Composites offer amazing properties found in no other materials such as extreme strength and ultra-low weight for diverse applications, ranging from wind turbine blades to sporting goods," said Gino Francato, Global Business Leader, Advanced Composites, SABIC. "Until now, however, their adoption has been restricted because of time-consuming, inefficient and expensive processes. By focusing on new materials and manufacturing automation to overcome these hurdles, the industry will make tremendous strides; and it is precisely efforts such as our collaboration with Airborne that are helping to make the industrialization of composites a reality."

"The good thing about this collaboration is that we work closely together with SABIC, so the material development, automation technology development and the product development go hand in hand", said Arno van Mourik, Chief Executive Officer of Airborne. "With such a holistic approach we can create real breakthroughs in cost efficiency for mass volume applications."

Industrialization of laminate production using the new Digital Composite Manufacturing line will enable customers in diverse industries to mass-produce high performance thermoplastic composite parts, gaining advantages of faster speed, higher efficiency and lower costs. To allow JEC World visitors to experience first-hand the line’s automated conversion process, SABIC is leveraging virtual reality technology to put visitors inside the manufacturing facility. The immersive experience called "Innovations of Scale" features a 2-meter screen with touch capabilities and Dolby Surround Sound. Visitors to the stand can interact with the display by touching 10 different points on the screen - representing different features of the new automated digital manufacturing system - to learn more.

The Digital Composites Manufacturing line uses cutting-edge digital technologies, including robotics, to enable mass customization of flat laminates while reducing cycle times and cost. The highly sophisticated, fully digital system can run multiple laminate sizes simultaneously. Adaptive process controls allow settings to be modified almost immediately. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will be used to achieve continuous yield improvements over time, maximize quality and repurpose irregular parts to minimize scrap.

To support and enhance these capabilities, SABIC will offer customers a range of services including simulation-based part and laminate design assistance and guidance on hybrid molding processes in order to streamline the switch to composites. The company can customize its composite tapes and laminate products to meet customer requirements. Importantly, SABIC can leverage its wealth of experience in injection molding to help customers mitigate warpage, a common issue, by making modifications to part design, materials selection, and processing.

JEC World 2019 is running from March 12 to 14 in Paris, France. SABIC management and technical experts are available throughout the show to answer questions and share insights on the company’s portfolio of advanced composite materials and technical capabilities.

As MRC wrote before, in November 2017, plastics-maker Sabic introduced new materials for customers producing LED automotive lighting parts. LEXAN HF4010SR resin is one of the new offerings. This polycarbonate (PC) material can make it possible for customers to develop complex headlight bezels with enhanced aesthetics. Sabic also added new grades to its existing LEXAN XHT resin line, which can offer improved flow at high temperatures compared to other high-heat polycarbonate materials available today.

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.

Saudi Aramco to build Jafurah gas plant next year

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Saudi Aramco is planning to build a gas plant in Jafurah next year to produce various products, chief executive officer Amin Nasser said during the Al-Ahsa Investment Forum, said the company.

"The new facility is part of Saudi Aramco’s plan to produce 3 billion cubic feet of unconventional gas daily in the next decade," Nasser added.

"Al-Ahsa region has big volumes of shale gas, which are highly promising quantities and economically feasible as they contain a high rate of liquids. Activities to develop these reserves are ongoing," he further noted.

In 2014, the world’s largest oil exporter said Jafurah basin holds unconventional hydrocarbon resources.


INEOS set to acquire Cristals North American titanium dioxide business from Tronox for USD700 mn

MOSCOW (MRC) -- INEOS set to acquire Cristals North American Titanium Dioxide Business from Tronox for USD700 million, said company.

Jim Ratcliffe, INEOS Chairman said, "This is a great opportunity for INEOS to enter the pigments market and become the second largest producer of titanium dioxide in the key North American market."

INEOS Enterprises has today announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire The North American business of National Titanium Dioxide Company Limited (Cristal) from Tronox Limited for USD700 million. Cristal’s North American business includes two-plants located at the Ashtabula Ohio (US) complex. The deal forms the proposed remedy package submitted to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by Tronox ahead of its proposed acquisition of Cristal’s global titanium dioxide business.

The proposed sale of the North American business to INEOS, has received support from Cristal and Tronox’s North American customers and will make INEOS the second largest producer of this essential product in the country. The wider transaction and remedy proposal is subject to clearance by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Ashley Reed, CEO of INEOS Enterprises said, “This is a great opportunity for INEOS to enter the pigments market, by acquiring a competitive business, with excellent people and assets. INEOS has a strong track record of manufacturing excellence, running its businesses safely and reliably and working closely with customers to meet their growth aspirations."

Titanium dioxide is a white pigment found in a wide range of applications from paints and varnishes as well as paper and plastics. It is the most widely used white pigment because of its brightness. Pigment applications include printing inks, fibres, rubber, cosmetic products, glass and ceramics. The global titanium dioxide market is highly competitive, with players competing based on price, quality or product, technical service, and the availability of high-performance pigments.

Jiangsu Shenghong to use GTC process for integrated refining & petrochemical complex

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Jiangsu Shenghong Group recently selected GTC Technology's GT-BTX technology to be used in a grassroots, integrated refining-aromatics-olefins complex planned in Lianyungang City, China, as per Apic-online.

The complex, estimated to cost over USD10-billion, will process 16-million t/y of crude oil and produce 2.8-million t/y of paraxylene and 1.1-million t/y of ethylene, together with a complete chain of aromatics and olefins derivatives, GTC noted.

Start-up is expected in mid-2021.

The GT-BTX unit, which GTC said will be the "largest" aromatics extraction unit in the world, has been designed with two parallel feed lines, each with a processing capacity of 2-million t/y.

In addition to the process license, process design package and technical service, GTC will provide proprietary items related to the technology.

We remind that, as MRC wrote before, in May 2018, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and Shell Nanhai B.V. (Shell) have announced the official start-up of the second ethylene cracker at their Nanhai petrochemicals complex in Huizhou, Guangdong Province, China.

Houston petrochemical fire rages, Texas expands air monitoring

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Houston officials and environmental groups raced to expand air monitoring after a raging fire at a Mitsui & Co petrochemical storage site produced billowing acrid smoke that could be seen and smelled miles away, as per Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The blaze at Mitsui unit Intercontinental Terminals Co in Deer Park, Texas, burned for a third day after firefighting water pumps broke down for six hours on Monday evening and flames engulfed two more tanks, the company said. The fire began on Sunday when a leaking tank containing volatile naphtha, a fuel used in the production of gasoline, ignited and flames quickly spread to nearby tanks, ITC said.

Thick acrid smoke could be smelled miles away in Houston and was visible dozens of miles away. State and federal monitors said air quality was safe, but environmental groups disagreed and said they would conduct their own monitoring.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said there was an increase in soot and other contaminants at ground levels around the site but levels remained below those considered unhealthy. Monitoring by an Environmental Protection Agency aircraft also found “no significant detections," the EPA said.

But Neil Carmen, a director at the Texas chapter of the Sierra Club environmental group, said the airborne plume likely contained tens of thousands of milligrams of particles, well above levels considered safe. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a nongovernmental organization, was deploying 10 air-quality monitors to check for nitrogen oxides and soot around Houston and adding another 10 monitors in the near future, said Matt Tresaugue, an EDF spokesman. He said the city had requested the EDF monitors.

The tanks hold flammable liquids that are difficult to extinguish using water and foam suppressants. Five of the 15 tanks continued to burn Tuesday, while two have collapsed and volatile liquids in three others burned out, ITC said. A local fire official said the blaze may have to burn itself out. Each tank holds 80,000 barrels, or up to 3.3 million gallons, of liquids that are used to boost gasoline octane, make solvents and plastics.

Gasoline prices on the Colonial pipeline, which sends fuel to the U.S. East Coast from Houston, were up on Tuesday between 1- and 2-cents a gallon over levels prior to the fire. "I can’t tell you how long it will take to burn out,” said Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen at a morning briefing. “I’m not going to give you a timetable."

Some of the water and chemicals have washed into the adjacent Houston Ship Channel that links the Gulf of Mexico to Houston, the nation’s busiest petrochemical port, ITC spokesman Dale Samuelsen said.

Pumps on two boats feeding water to firefighters malfunctioned for about six hours on Monday evening, he said. As a result, two more tanks caught fire. On Tuesday, ITC added a 15-person crew experienced in battling tank-farm fires as well as additional high-pressure pumps and suppressant foam.

"We have been up to this point in defensive mode” trying to contain the fire, said Samuelsen. “Because of the expertise these guys bring, the expectation is we’ll be able to go into offensive mode." Samuelsen said the burning tanks are within a six-foot tall earthen berm that is collecting water and chemicals. Firefighters are pumping 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of water and foam a minute onto the tanks.