BASF opens innovative research center for catalysts and processes

MOSCOW (MRC) -- BASF officially opened a pioneering research center at the heart of the Verbund site in Ludwigshafen, close to the famous Ammonia Lab. This new pilot plant facility for catalyst and process development will be operated by the global research unit Process Research & Chemical Engineering, as per Hydrocarbonprocessing.

It houses highly automated experimental facilities for efficient process development and testing of new process catalysts. The highlights of the modernized lab include modular construction of the testing facilities, the use of digital technologies to better visualize and manage the pilot plant facilities, and a digitalized working environment.

To implement this concept, a 60-year old building was completely gutted and updated over the past two years. Now that the cutting-edge research facility has opened on the ground floor, renovations will continue on the floor above. BASF is investing a single-digit million euro sum each year in this complex project. Once the upgrades are completed in a few years, this building will be the central hub for experimental work with automated pilot plants for liquid and gaseous substances.

“With the increasing importance of the BASF segments Chemicals and Industrial Solutions, there is a growing need for product research and especially process research,” said Dr. Detlef Kratz, head of the research unit Process Research & Chemical Engineering. “In our pilot plant facility, we are using state-of-the-art infrastructure to carry out experiments. This enables us to pursue new research approaches and reduce the length of research and development projects, while also continuing to improve the quality of the data collected. We are thus systematically pursuing our goal of increasing the likelihood of success of our projects.”

During the planning and construction of the pilot plants, some of which are modular, aspects such as user-friendliness and easy maintenance were just as important as the aim of simplifying work processes via digitalization. The pilot plants can be managed and monitored from separate quiet workspaces or directly in front of the pilot plant via computer, tablet or smartphone. With the software hteControlTM, experimental programs can be visually planned and carried out with various distributed control systems. Measurement and analysis data are automatically collected, logically amalgamated and made available for further evaluation.

Professional data management completes the concept of the new technical center. The individual data systems at the pilot plants are perfectly harmonized. Seamless integration of process and analytical data enables automatic integration and evaluation of processes. Employees now have the optimal conditions to discover new solutions for process development and catalysis.

As MRC reported earlier, in December 2017, BASF’s Coatings division inaugurated a new automotive coatings plant at its Bangpoo manufacturing site, Samutprakarn province, Thailand. The new plant is the first BASF automotive coatings manufacturing facility in ASEAN, and will produce solventborne and waterborne automotive coatings to meet growing market demand in the region.

BASF is the leading chemical company. It produces a wide range of chemicals, for example solvents, amines, resins, glues, electronic-grade chemicals, industrial gases, basic petrochemicals and inorganic chemicals. The most important customers for this segment are the pharmaceutical, construction, textile and automotive industries.

PE imports to Ukraine increased by 2% in January-February 2019

MOSCOW (MRC) - Imports of polyethylene (PE) into Ukraine increased to 41,900 tonnes in the first two months of 2019, up 2% compared to the same period of 2018. At the same time, only the linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) and ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) segments accounted for a increase in imports, according to MRC's DataScope report.

Last month's PE imports to Ukraine decreased to 20,800 tonnes from 21,100 tonnes in January, with high density polyethylene (HDPE) accounting for a decrease in imports. Overall PE imports reached 41,900 tonnes in January-February 2019, compared to 41,200 tonnes a year earlier. Imports of LLDPE and EVA increased, while demand for other ethylene polymers decreased.

The supply structure by PE grades looked the following way over the stated period.

February imports of HDPE decreased to 6,500 tonnes against 7,100 tonnes in January, the reduction in supplies accounted on injection moulding and blow moulding polyethylene, while imports of film HDPE increased. Overall HDPE production reached 13,600 tonnes in the first two months of 2019, compared to 14,400 tonnes a year earlier. The main reduction in imports accounted for injection moulding and pipe HDPE, while external purchases of film and blow moulding polyethylene increased.

February imports of low density polyethylene (LDPE) rose to 6,700 tonnes from 6,100 tonnes a month earlier, local companies increased their LDPE purchases in Russia. Overall LDPE imports reached 12,800 tonnes over the stated period, down by 1% year on year.

February imports of linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) into the country were about 6,600 tonnes, which was close to the previous month level. In general, January - February LLDPE imports into Ukraine increased to 13,100 tonnes compared with 11,600 tonnes year on year.
Local films producers accounted for the main increase in imports.

Imports of other grades of polyethylene, including EVA for the period under review reached about 2,300 tonnes against 2,200 tonnes a year earlier.


Johnson Matthey to build cathode material plant in Poland

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Chemical company Johnson Matthey has announced the construction of a new factory for the production of its battery cathode materials, said the company.

This year will see the begin of construction of the production facility in Konin, Poland, after which production should start in 2021 or 2022.

According to the Group, the plant is expected to initially provide capacity for 10,000 tons of cathode material per year. Depending on demand, these will be expanded later to up to 100,000 tons per year. With regard to the location, the company has only said that the production facility planned in central Poland will be positioned “close to major customers in the supply chain for battery electric vehicles".

Competitor Umicore is also about to open a site in Poland. The Belgian group is investing 1.38 billion zloty (321 million euros) in a cathode materials factory that is scheduled to go into operation at the end of 2020.

For their plans, Johnson Matthey, in addition to its plant in Poland, the manufacturer has now concluded a ten-year contract with Nemaska Lithium for the supply of lithium hydroxide for its battery cathode materials, in which the quantities supplied are aligned with Johnson Matthey’s production plans.

As early as 2017, the chemicals group announced plans to invest 200 million pounds (around 234 million euros) in expanding its battery materials business. Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturer Cummins acquired Johnson Matthey’s electric and hybrid vehicle business. This was the Johnson Matthey Battery Systems division, a site with 50 employees.

Texas sues fuel tank company over Houston chemical fire, aftermath

MOSCOW (MRC) -- A Houston, Texas area petrochemical storage facility is being sued by Texas officials over a fire that burned for days, alleging violations of environmental laws and seeking damages to cover response costs for the disaster that released chemicals into the air and waterways, reported Reuters.

The county and state jointly filed suit in a county court against Mitsui & Co's Intercontinental Terminals Co (ITC). The suit seeks reimbursement of costs for emergency responders, temporary air and water monitoring systems, and health care workers. An auditor will determine costs, officials said.

"We have been working with state and federal partners to hold ITC responsible for the damages," Harris County Chief Executive Lina Hidalgo said on Tuesday at a hearing where local residents pushed for a response to the disaster that sent tons of carbon monoxide into the air and chemicals into waterways. Schools were closed and visits to area hospitals and clinics spiked.

Federal and state officials were already investigating the company as emergency workers pumped fuels from 11 damaged or destroyed tanks that spilled fuels out of the site. The fire began March 17 and spread among rows of giant tanks that can hold up to 80,000 barrels of fuel.

ITC has apologized for the incident but defended its response, saying the facility adheres to state regulations and fire prevention guidelines set by industry groups.

The spill of fuels, water and fire suppressant foam from the site halted traffic on a stretch of the Houston Ship Channel connecting Houston to the Gulf of Mexico. Restrictions on travel near the ITC site forced at least two refineries to curb production.

Unless crude oil tankers can reach Royal Dutch Shell Plc's Deer Park refinery by the weekend, it could be forced to shut down, people familiar with operations said.

Schools in Houston suburbs were closed for several days after air quality monitors detected elevated levels of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical that was contained in ITC tanks that burned.

"Until these people find themselves placed in jail, you're not going to see what needs to be done to keep these communities protected," said County Commissioner Steve Radack at a hearing where officials approved the lawsuit.

More than 1,000 patients visited a county health clinic last week, said Elizabeth Perez, a spokeswoman for Harris County Public Health. Local hospitals also reported more visitors, she said.

Arrivals complained of respiratory and other ailments.

“We were worried about the most immediate impacts, respiratory issues, burning eyes, ears and throat, especially for those who were closer to the incident and who had pre-existing conditions,” Perez said.

As MRC wrote before, in March 2016, Mitsui & Co., Ltd. and Hankuk Carbon Co., a company listed on the Korea Exchange, entered into a strategic alliance agreement to engage in collaborative business activities relating to the processing of composite materials.

German city bans older diesel vehicles

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The German city of Stuttgart has set a ban on older diesel vehicles that will take effect on April 1, city officials said, following a local court ruling last year, as per Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The city said it would ban vehicles with engines conforming to the Euro 4 emissions standard from driving or parking in the city unless they are given an exception.

Vehicles with engines conforming to the Euro 5 emissions standard will not be affected at the moment but a decision on whether to ban will be made after examining emissions results in mid-2019, the city said.