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.

YPF to invest USD2B in two refineries

MOSCOW (MRC) -- YPF, Argentina's state-controlled oil company, will invest around USD2 billion over the next five years to carry out a desulfurization process in two of its refineries, sources said, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

YPF will initially invest more than USD1 billion in its Mendoza province refinery and hire about 900 people to adapt the plant for the process, said the sources, declining to be named. The rest of the investment will go towards the company’s refinery in La Plata.

The process will allow compliance with “international standards requiring fuels to be more environmentally friendly,” said one of the sources, who is working on the project. YPF has also carried out pilot tests for the improvement of oil recovery from conventional wells, known as tertiary recovery, two of the sources said.

For that, YPF ordered 10 mobile polymer plants, intended to improve oil extraction. Two of the plants are already in Buenos Aires port waiting to be transported to oil fields in Mendoza, Chubut and Santa Cruz provinces.

The polymer plants are due to start operating in the second quarter of the year, one of the sources said.

YPF declined to comment.

Covestro fosters open innovation in China

MOSCOW (MRC) -- China faces a transformation of digitalization, a booming market need for Electric Vehicles (EV) as well as an increasing focus on sustainability, as per the company's press release.

In response to these trends, Covestro is further intensifying its cooperation with Tongji University in Shanghai to address the market needs even faster. The Covestro -Tongji Innovation Academy is now expanding its open innovation collaboration by focusing particularly on digitalization, enhancing EV battery performance, and deriving innovative materials to improve car interior air quality as well as exploring the Chinese robotics industry.

"It’s obvious that China is on its way to become a leader in innovation for many important industry trends,” says Dr. Markus Steilemann, CEO of Covestro. “This we want to support: As a global company, we are committed to innovate in China for the Chinese market as well as for the Asia Pacific region. I’m thrilled to see that our local innovation team is taking over more and more the global responsibility for core technologies. It’s the spirit of open innovation and open venturing with leading Tongji University, that helps us push the boundaries for the industry together with our partners."

Prof. Dr. Wu Guangming, Vice President of Tongji University adds, “The Innovation Academy has set a good example to the industry-academia collaboration. With Covestro’s substantial support, the Academy has made significant achievements in the past eight years. I firmly believe, with the strengthened alliance, the Academy can help accelerate the industrialization of innovation results by further promoting business model innovation to the industry."

The Covestro-Tongji Innovation Academy was inaugurated in 2011. “The academy is intensifing the collaboration in the field of market driven innovation, sustainability and commercialization,” emphasized Dr. Michael Schmidt, dean of the Academy and Head of Innovation for the Asian-Pacific region at Covestro. “Although we have a strong history of innovation, we cannot rest on our laurels. The academy gives us inspiration on how we can leverage speed, new technologies and new business models to further enable sustainability for the country and beyond."

The Covestro-Tongji Innovation Academy also offers funding of business model incubation for students of Tongji participating in an annual business plan competition. This is to further develop applications and commercialize students’ projects, as well as to establish their own start-ups.

Saudi Aramco signs agreement to establish engineering, procurement, construction, and installation facility

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Saudi Aramco has signed a land lease agreement with McDermott Arabia Company, Ltd., a subsidiary of McDermott International, Inc. to grant McDermott a lease to establish a fabrication facility located within the King Salman International Complex for Maritime Industries in Ras Al-Khair, Saudi Arabia. This is pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Saudi Aramco and McDermott, as per Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The new facility will be used for large scale fabrication of offshore platforms and onshore/offshore modules. To further enhance project execution capabilities in Saudi Arabia, McDermott will also expand its in-country engineering and procurement offices, as well as establish a new marine base in the Eastern Province to support the installation of offshore platforms, subsea pipelines and cables, skids, and associated structures and assemblies.

“This facility will serve as a major Engineering, Procurement, Construction, and Installation (EPCI) hub for not only the Kingdom, but for the GCC region,” said Ahmad Al Sa'adi, Saudi Aramco Senior Vice President of Technical Services.

“Having this facility with International Maritime Industries (IMI) in the King Salman International Complex for Maritime Industries offers an integrated portfolio of maritime products and services” said Mohammad Al Assaf, Saudi Aramco Vice President of New Business Development. “The localization of these capabilities will contribute to diversifying the economy, create almost 7,000 jobs, and achieve a target of 60% Saudization by 2030,” Al Assaf added.

The new facility in Ras Al Khair will be located near the Jubail Industrial City on the Kingdom’s east coast. It will cover an area of approximately 1,150,000m2 and will utilize cutting edge technologies to ensure world class standards in safety, quality and efficiency.

“Expanding our fabrication capacity in Saudi Arabia demonstrates McDermott’s commitment to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 objectives,” said David Dickson, McDermott’s President and CEO.

“We will establish a world class fabrication facility that enables us to better serve the needs of Saudi Aramco and other customers in Saudi Arabia and across the region,” added Linh Austin, McDermott Senior Vice President, Middle East and North Africa.

At peak production, the facility will have a throughput capacity in excess of 60,000 metric tons per year. It will localize expertise in multiple disciplines related to the industry and is expected to create a significant number of direct and indirect job opportunities in the Kingdom. Apprenticeship and training programs will also be provided to ensure that a sufficient number of qualified nationals of the Kingdom are available for hire to meet the in-Kingdom content requirements. The facility is expected to be operational by 2022.

As MRC informed earlier, Saudi Aramco said it has agreed to buy a 70% stake in Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) from Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund for USD69.1 billion, in a deal which the world's top oil producer called "historic". SABIC and Aramco said in a statement the agreed purchase price is 123.39 riyals per share, a slight discount from SABIC's closing price on Wednesday.

Saudi Aramco, officially the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, is a Saudi Arabian national oil and natural gas company based in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco"s value has been estimated at up to USD10 trillion in the Financial Times, making it the world"s most valuable company. Saudi Aramco has both the largest proven crude oil reserves, at more than 260 billion barrels, and largest daily oil production.