Output of chemical products in Russia grew by 0.9% in January-February 2019

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Russia's output of chemical products rose in February 2019 by 1.5% year on year. However, production of basic chemicals increased only by 0.9% in the first two months of 2019, according to Rosstat's data.

According to the Federal Service of State Statistics, last month's output of basic chemicals grew by 1.5% year on year. Production of many products decreased last month.

Thus, 242 ,000 tonnes of ethylene were produced in February, compared to 275,000 tonnes a month earlier. Overall, 517,000 tonnes of this olefin were produced in January-February 2019, down by 0.5% year on year.

Last month's output of benzene were 119,000 tonnes versus 122,000 tonnes in January. Overall production of this product reached 241,000 tonnes in the first two months of 2019, down by 4.9% year on year.

February output of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) was 101,000 tonnes (100% of the basic substance) versus 110,000 tonnes in January. Overall production of caustic soda dropped to 211,000 tonnes over the stated period from 217,000 tonnes a year earlier.

Last month's output of mineral fertilizers was 1,887,000 tonnes (in terms of 100% nutrients) versus 2,078,000 tonnes in January. Overall, Russian plants produced 3,965,000 tonnes of fertilizers in January-February 2019, up by 2.9% year on year.

Petrochemical blaze at storage site extinguished, company says

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Firefighters extinguished a fire at a Mitsui & Co petrochemical storage site outside Houston that has been billowing acrid smoke for days, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The blaze at Mitsui unit Intercontinental Terminals Co in Deer Park, Texas, was put out by 3 a.m., but fire crews continued to spray foam and water on the tanks to help keep them cool and prevent the fires from starting again, the company said in a statement. No serious injuries were reported, it said. Fire officials were not immediately available for comment.

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 other tanks, ITC said. By Tuesday morning, the fire had ignited 12 of 15 tanks.

The tanks each hold up to 80,000 barrels, or 3.3 million gallons, of volatile liquid fuels, making the fire difficult to extinguish. There were no employees or firefighters injured since the blaze began, an ITC spokesman said on Tuesday.

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

"All the monitors are indicating no risk right now and they are looking at particulates,” said Ryan Sitton, a commissioner with the state’s energy regulator, adding there were no toxins released by the fire. Soot particles “are not at a level that causes risk to people," he 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.

As the company had struggled to contain the blaze earlier this week, it has changed its explanation for the fire’s spread and the number of tanks involved. On Monday, it said eight tanks were burning then revised the figure to seven. On Tuesday morning it blamed a failure of two water pumps for the fire’s expansion to more tanks, and by the afternoon said there were no pump failures.

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.

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.

Dozens injured by petrochemical plant explosion in rural China

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Dozens of Chinese children were injured when benzene exploded at a petrochemicals plant located near a school in rural China, sparking anger at a safety lapse, said the Financial Times.

A fire and explosion engulfed the Tian Jia Yi Chemicals plant on Thursday afternoon. The plant was operated by the Nee Group near Lianyungang, a port in Jiangsu province north of Shanghai. China’s industrial safety has improved in recent years, but dramatic accidents are often a trigger for public anger. Many have revealed the dangers of locating industrial plants close to residential areas.

Videos posted by angry parents and townspeople in Xiangshui, near Lianyungang, made their way rapidly on to social media, outpacing censors who have played down industrial mishaps in recent months. Most of the videos showed adults and young children bleeding heavily from the face and hands. Others showed patients crowding into an overwhelmed local hospital.

One video showed bodies sprawled along a road. Chinese media have not reported any deaths from the explosion. The people in some of the videos can be heard cursing at the chemicals plant.

Reached on his cell phone, a company sales representative declined to comment. The nearby school was hastily evacuated. Photos show glass covering the classroom floor, a damaged bookcase and children’s backpacks and jackets left at their desks.

Three years ago, an explosion at a chemicals factory in the port city of Tianjin killed 173 people and destroyed a whole neighbourhood, giving rise to new regulations on hazardous chemicals. A gas pipeline explosion levelled a neighbourhood and killed at least 62 people in the city of Qingdao in 2013.


NNPC issues 2019-2020 crude-for-product tender

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Nigeria’s NNPC has issued a crude-for-product swap tender, the company said. The Direct Sale Direct Purchase (DSDP) tender document did not specify the start date or the quantities involved but said the arrangement would be for one year, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The tender is set to close on May 2 at noon (1100 GMT), NNPC said on its official Twitter account. Crude-for-product swap contracts are the country’s main avenue to meet the bulk of its gasoline and gasoil needs.

Nigerian refineries have a capacity of about 445,000 barrels per day (bpd) but have underperformed for years, making Africa’s biggest oil producer almost wholly dependent on imports.

The crude-for-product swaps were extended until June, sources familiar with the matter said last year.
The existing contract holders, including trading houses Vitol, Trafigura, Mercuria and French oil major Total, started the swaps in mid-2017, accounting for just over 300,000 bpd of crude.

Nigeria produced 1.82 million bpd of crude in February, according to the Reuters OPEC survey. Nigeria has been using swaps for about 10 years. NNPC launched the DSDP model in 2016 and under it, NNPC sells crude oil to refiners or trading houses, who in return, supply mainly gasoline but also other petroleum products such as diesel.

Late last year, NNPC said it had also agreed a crude-for-product deal with oil major BP.

Mitsui petrochemical unit probed after fire rages for days

MOSCOW (MRC) -- State and local investigators have begun investigating a petrochemical storage company outside Houston, TX where a massive fire fed by giant tanks of fuel burned for days, darkening the skies with soot for dozens of miles, reported Hydrocarbonprocessing with reference to officials.

The blaze at Mitsui unit Intercontinental Terminals Co (ITC) in Deer Park, Texas, began on Sunday and was not extinguished until early Wednesday. It destroyed 11 tanks that can hold up to 80,000 barrels of gasoline and other fuels.

There were no injuries and a cause of the fire has not been determined, officials said.

The state’s environmental regulator said it has begun an investigation into the incident. The agency has cited Intercontinental Terminals for violations of state air-emissions rules 39 times in the last 16 years.

State regulator Texas Commission on Environmental Quality estimated that on the first day of the fire 6.2 million pounds of carbon monoxide and thousands of pounds of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and toluene were released.

Adam Adams, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official, said he did not know if the federal agency was conducting its own investigation.

The Harris County district attorney’s office assigned an environmental prosecutor to monitor local and federal reviews of the fire for possible wrongdoing said spokesman Dane Schiller.

That office last year charged chemical company Arkema North America and two of its executives with endangering the public with toxic emissions released during a fire that caused at least 21 injuries.

The EPA’s Adams said air-monitoring systems near the site along the nation’s busiest petrochemical shipping port found no hazardous levels of volatile organic compounds or particulate matter.

The agency will test local waterways for possible contamination from the millions of gallons of water and foam dropped on the fire since Sunday morning. Some of the liquids leaked out of a containment dike and into a nearby drainage ditch that feeds into the Houston Ship Channel, he said.

Measurements of soot and volatile organic compounds from the fire never exceeded dangerous levels, Adams and other officials said. A dark plume was visible from dozens of miles away and local residents reported acrid smells from the fire.

"We were fortunate there were good winds and vertical mixing that allowed the plume to rise and disperse more readily," said Daniel Cohan, an associate professor of environmental engineering at Rice University in Houston.

The smoke likely does not pose a health risk beyond mild irritation for most healthy adults in Houston, said Adrian Shelley, director of the Texas office of the non-profit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.

But those with respiratory illnesses such as asthma and emphysema were at higher risk of being affected by the elevated levels of particulate matter, Shelley said.

As MRC wrote before, Mitsui Chemicals is likely to take its naphtha-fed steam cracker off-stream for a maintenance turnaround in mid-June 2018. It is slated to remain under maintenance until end-July 2018. Located in Sakai, Japan, the cracker has an ethylene production capacity of 500,000 mt/year and propylene production capacity of 280,000 mt/year.

Mitsui Chemicals is a leading manufacturer and supplier of value added specialty chemicals, plastics and materials for the automotive, healthcare, packaging, agricultural, building, and semiconductor and electronics markets. Mitsui Chemicals is a Japanese Chemicals company, a part of the Mitsui conglomerate. The company has a turnover of around 15 billion USD and has business interests in Japan, Europe, China, Southeast Asia and the USA. The company mainly deals in performance materials, petro and basic chemicals and functional polymeric materials.