Geely Automobile forms JV with LG Chem for car batteries

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. and South Korea's LG Chem Ltd. have formed a joint venture to produce batteries for electric vehicles, reported MorningStar.

Geely's unit Shanghai Maple Guorun and LG Chem will hold a 50% stake each in the joint venture and its registered capital will be USD188 million, the Chinese carmaker said in a stock exchange statement.

The joint venture will leverage the expertise of both companies to manufacture batteries for new energy vehicles in China and ensure a stable supply in the future as the government stresses on reducing emissions, Geely said.

As MRC wrote previously, LG Chem is planning to spend USD2.4-billion to expand its naphtha cracking center (NCC) and polyolefin (PO) plant in Yeosu, South Korea. The project, which will expand the NCC and PO facility by 800,000 t/y each, is expected to be completed in the second half of 2021.

LG Chem Ltd., often referred to as LG Chemical, is the largest Korean chemical company and is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. According to ICIS report, it is 15th biggest chemical company in the world in 2011. It has eight domestic factories and global network of 29 business locations in 15 countries. LG Chem is a manufacturer, supplier, and exporter of petrochemical goods, IT&E Materials and Energy Solutions.

Saudi Energy Minister hopes OPEC agrees to extend production cut

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Sunday that OPEC would probably meet in the first week in July in Vienna and that he hoped it would reach consensus on extending its agreement to cut oil output, said Reuters.

Falih said earlier this month that OPEC was close to agreeing to extend the agreement beyond June, although more talks were still needed with non-OPEC countries that were part of the production deal.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries plus Russia and other producers, an alliance known as OPEC+, have a deal to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) from Jan. 1. The pact ends this month and the group meets in coming weeks to decide their next move.

“We are hoping that we will reach consensus to extend our agreement when we meet in two-weeks-time in Vienna,” Falih told reporters on the sideline of a G20 energy and environment ministerial meeting in Karuizawa, northwest of Tokyo.

Asked when the meeting will be held, he said: “Probably the first week of July”.

It was not completely clear whether the agreement would also include OPEC+.

OPEC was set to meet on June 25, followed by talks with its allies led by Russia on June 26. But Russia suggested a date change to July 3 to 4, according to sources within the group.

Falih said that oil demand usually picks up in the second half the year, with refineries coming back from maintenance and with seasonal demand boost, and that the new agreement would help rebalance the market.

“I’m fairly confident that fundamentals are going in a right direction,” he said.

Refinery receives first clean oil after Russian pipeline contamination

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The PCK oil refinery at Schwedt in eastern Germany had started receiving clean Russian crude oil via the Druzhba pipeline, oil industry group MWV said after contamination issues had been disrupting flows since April, as per Hydrocarbonprocessing.

PCK Schwedt was receiving some oil, yet not the full amount, a MWV spokesman said, adding full capacity would possibly be reached within days as pipeline capacity and supplies were being successively revved up.

He did not give any details about oil flows at the Leuna refinery which had also been affected by the pipeline halt.

Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft expects the Druzhba pipeline to resume full operations from July 1, TASS news agency reported on Friday.

Wacker expands silicone elastomer production in China

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Wacker has inaugurated a new production line for silicone elastomers at its Zhangjiagang site in China, said the producer on its site.

With an annual capacity of several thousand metric tons, the facility will help support WACKER’s future growth path in China and improve the availability of high consistency silicone rubber (HCR) in the Asia-Pacific region. The plant’s cutting-edge equipment includes world-class kneaders which are essential for manufacturing high quality HCR grades. The expansion measure – a lower double digit million investment - underscores WACKER’s commitment and technological leadership in the silicone rubber industry.

With its new manufacturing line in Zhangjiagang, China, Wacker is significantly expanding its global production capacity for high consistency silicone rubber (HCR). The facility will significantly shorten delivery lead times for customers in the region. (Photo: WACKER)

"Today’s event not only is another milestone in WACKER’s efforts to expand its operational footprint in China, but also shows our determination to further serve and develop local and regional markets," said Paul Lindblad, President of WACKER Greater China, at the inauguration ceremony. The expansion of Wacker’s silicone elastomer plant is yet another example of the company’s ongoing investments into its Chinese facilities. "The new manufacturing line will contribute significantly to our silicone rubber production capacity. This will enable us to improve our service to customers and business partners, who are willing to grasp the opportunities in today’s ever-changing and increasingly sophisticated marketplace", Lindblad said.

Wacker’s new production line is located in a new building complex covering 2,000 square meters. The facility’s kneaders are currently the largest of their kind in the industry. The plant’s mixing and screening equipment and the state-of-the-art waste treatment process are also setting industry standards in terms of productivity and sustainability. The new production line will enable shorter lead times, speed up market response, and improve overall customer experience.

As MRC informed before, in November 2017, rhe Group began building a new spray dryer for dispersible polymer powders at its Ulsan site, which will have a total capacity of 80,000 metric tons per year. The Munich-based chemicals company is also constructing an additional reactor for dispersions based on vinyl acetate-ethylene copolymer (EVA), which are needed as the raw material for the spray dryer to produce dispersible polymer powders. Ulsan’s plant complex, which covers the entire production chain from VAE dispersions to dispersible polymer powders, will be one of the largest of its kind in the world. Investments will total around EUR60 million and production was scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2019.

Wacker has been operating its own subsidiary in Greater China for over 25 years and has greatly expanded its regional activities since then. The company not only maintains seven sales offices in all the country’s key economic regions, but also two technical centers and three production sites. The Group produces silicones and polymers in Zhangjiagang and Nanjing. Both sites are located in Jiangsu province. The plants are the largest of their kind in China. In 2018, Wacker generated sales of over EUR1 billion in the Greater China region, including Taiwan.

Brazil oil workers join pension reform protests with strike action

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Oil workers at state-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA have begun a 24-hour strike in eight Brazilian states as part of nationwide protests against a government proposal to reform pensions, reported Reuters with reference to umbrella union group FUP's statement.

The pension reforms, aimed at restoring public finances and reviving a flagging economy, are fiercely opposed by some sectors of society for raising the minimum retirement age and workers’ contributions.

The union’s strikes of the kind announced on Friday rarely affect output because of the use of contingency teams.

Workers at nine refineries, including Reduc in Rio de Janeiro state and Paulinia in Sao Paulo state, were participating in the strike, which also affected a Petrobras port terminal in Pernambuco and a fertilizer plant in Bahia, FUP said.

On the Campos basin in Rio de Janeiro, workers were keeping operations to a minimum, it added.

In Rio de Janeiro, where the oil company is headquartered, the police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators and free roads near the port area, Globo TV reported.

In Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, public transport was disrupted as subway workers adhered to the strike, affecting train schedules and closing some stations, local media reported.

Sao Paulo will host the inaugural game of the Copa America soccer tournament, which Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is expected to attend in the evening. A special plan is in place to make sure fans arrive to the stadium, according to the city’s transport department.

Roadblocks and demonstrations in streets and highways in and around Sao Paulo, including burning tires close to the city’s international airport, have been reported.

As well as seeking to block changes in public sector pensions, the oil workers were protesting against “the privatization of the Petrobras system,” FUP said, referring to the oil company’s sales of assets to reduce debt.

As MRC wrote previously, in late October 2017, Petrobras’s minority stakes in Braskem and Deten Quimica was excluded from Petrobras’s divestment program, according to a government decree published in Brazil’s Official Gazette last week. The decree prevents Petrobras from immediately selling its minority stake in Braskem, which had been announced this year. A new decree will be required to release the stock sale.

Headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, Petrobras is an integrated energy firm. Petrobras' activities include exploration, exploitation and production of oil from reservoir wells, shale and other rocks as well as refining, processing, trade and transport of oil and oil products, natural gas and other fluid hydrocarbons, in addition to other energy-related activities.