Venezuela Amuay and Cardon refineries halted by blackout

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Venezuela’s Amuay and Cardon refineries are halted following a blackout in the early morning hours, reported Reuters on Sunday with reference to two oil industry sources with knowledge of the issue.

The twin refineries together form the 955,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Paraguana Refining Center, which has been operating well below capacity for years because of chronic operational problems that have been aggravated by Venezuela’s economic crisis.

"Blackout in both refineries," one employee who works in the complex wrote in a text message. "It’s going to be difficult to get the system back up."

We remind that, as MRC informed before, in late February 2019, Houston-based Citgo Petroleum slowed work on an overhaul of its 235 Mbpd Aruba refinery due to a lack of financing stemming from US sanctions on Venezuela's state-run PDVSA.

China aims to launch low-sulfur bunker fuel oil futures in 2019

MOSCOW (MRC) -- China aims to launch a bonded low-sulfur bunker fuel oil contract that will allow foreign investors to participate in trading by the end of 2019, reported Reuters with reference to the Shanghai Futures Exchange's (ShFE) statement.

A 0.5 percent sulfur content cap in shipping fuel set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) comes into effect in 2020.

"The contract will help expand China’s pricing influence in global bunker fuel oil market and help China to improve its maritime transportation capacity," ShFe Chairman Jiang Yan said in a statement.

"Bunker fuel markets will see bigger opportunities and challenges in 2020. China may reverse the current situation of fully relying on imports on high-sulfur bunker fuel oil and become the world’s biggest low-sulfur heavy bunker fuel oil supply center," Jiang said.

China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has planned a low-sulfur fuel oil supply of 4 million tonnes a year, a senior company executive said. The first batch of the fuel was dispatched from its Dalian Petrochemical plant in early June.

Sinopec Group, another Chinese oil giant, said last year it would start supplying IMO 2020 standard bunker fuel in 2019 and all of its supplies would meet IMO 2020 standard by Jan. 1.

The low-sulfur fuel oil contract would be China’s second bonded oil futures followed by crude oil futures on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange (INE), a ShFE subsidiary.

INE has recorded 103 million lots of trade in crude oil contracts since its launch in March 2018 till the end of June this year.

European PP prices dropped significantly for the CIS markets in July

MOSCOW (MRC) - July contract price of propylene in Europe was agreed down by EUR80/tonne from the level in June. Therefore, all European producers announced a proportional decrease in export polypropylene (PP) prices for July shipments to the CIS markets, according to ICIS-MRC Price report.

Negotiations over July prices of European PP have begun this week. All market participants said that European producers had to cut export prices of polymers of propylene for shipments in July significantly under the pressure the lower cost of the main raw materials in the region.

Deals for July shipments of homopolymer propylene (homopolymer PP) were negotiated in the range of EUR1,070 -1,120/tonne FCA, whereas last month's deals were done in the range of EUR1,150 -1,200/tonne FCA.

Deals for block copolymers of propylene (PP block copolymers) were negotiated in the range of EUR1,140-1,180/tonne FCA.

Demand for European PP has subsided significantly from consumers in the CIS countries in May-June due to high export prices. But a significant reduction in July prices may change the situation with the demand for a European polymer for the better.

Lotos delayed coking unit reaches ready for start-up phase

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The key plant constructed as part of the Grupa Lotos EFRA Project, namely the Coker Complex consisting of the Delayed Coking Unit (DCU) and auxiliary installations, has reached the Ready For Start-Up (RFSU) status, according to Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The RFSU means formal completion of the construction. It was preceded by a long process of testing all 95 mechanical, electrical, automatic, IT and other systems, confirming their correct construction and operation, as well as detecting and removing any defects. After the RFSU phase was reached, the systems will be handed over for commissioning, i.e. for testing by its operator: the EFRA Plant owned by LOTOS Asfalt, the Coker Complex owner.

"The Ready For Start-Up status of the EFRA Project’s main unit is very good news to LOTOS, which will now have an even more efficient, innovative, environmentally friendly and profitable refinery, producing almost exclusively high-margin products," says Mateusz A. Bonca, President of the Grupa LOTOS Management Board " With the DCU we will be able to discontinue the production of heavy fuel oil. This is important because January 2020 will see the entry into force of IMO regulations that ban the combustion of heavy fuel oil by ships, i.e. the main consumer of this fuel with a high sulfur content. Instead of this low-value and non-ecological product, we will use heavy residues remaining after crude oil processing to obtain high-quality diesel oil, aviation fuel and coke, thus increasing our refining margins."

Thanks to the implementation of the EFRA Project, LOTOS will manufacture almost exclusively clean and high-margin products, whose share in its refining output will grow to over 89%, from approximately 77% in 2012. The financial effects of the launch of the Coker Complex should be visible in the Grupa LOTOS financial results for the fourth quarter of 2019.

The DCU has been built based on a globally unique, innovative Triplan technology (used in only one refinery to date), which ensures fully air-tight processes of unloading coke from the reactors and its further processing and transport. Coke removal will also meet the highest environmental standards.

"Implementation of the EFRA Project solves a problem that is common to all refineries in the world, namely the problem of heavy residues from oil processing. This project takes us to a higher technological level," emphasized Patryk Demski, Vice-President of the Grupa LOTOS Management Board for investment and innovation "However, this is not the end of our innovative path towards the improvement of our refinery. It is a new beginning. We are facing further challenges to make even better use of the potential of our plants and to achieve even better economic results."

The start-up process that is about to begin will be a complex project consisting of numerous tests, in which safety is the priority issue. It is also the time for further training of the personnel operating the DCU, being the first unit of this kind at the LOTOS refinery and in Poland, based on a technology different from other systems employed at the Gdansk plant. Training of the Coker Complex employees was partly conducted in the US, where they learned about systems of this type. Nearly 90 employees of LOTOS Asfalt have new responsibilities, and thus new work-related challenges in operating the EFRA units. Likewise, construction of the new units gave employment to more than 1,500 staff of the contractors, mainly Polish companies.

The cost of the EFRA Project run in 2015–2019 is some PLN 2.3 billion.

EFRA is the continuation of a wider process of technological modernization of the refinery and optimization of the oil processing chain initiated under the extensive 10+ Programme, which raised the refinery’s throughput by 4.5m tonnes annually. EFRA will significantly increase the depth of oil processing, enabling additional production of some 900,000 tonnes of high-margin fuels and 300,000 tonnes of coke per year. The new Coker Complex comprises the Delayed Coking Unit (DCU), the Coking Naphtha Hydrotreating Unit (CNHT), as well as facilities for storage and distribution of coke. Other units built and already commissioned under the EFRA Project include the Hydrowax Vacuum Distillation Unit (HVDU), the Hydrogen Generation Unit (HGU), Oxygen Production Plant, and a power distribution facility. In addition, many other units and facilities, mainly related to logistics, have been constructed and upgraded.

We remind that, as MRC reported earlier, Poland’s second-biggest oil refiner Lotos is looking to buy upstream assets to boost its own oil production, a strategy made all the more important given recent problems with supplies from Russia. Most of the crude refined at Lotos’s refinery in the northern Polish city of Gdansk comes from Russia via the Druzhba pipeline, but flows via Druzhba were suspended last month due to contamination, sending shockwaves through global oil markets.

Sabic raises stake to 75% in Saudi Methanol Co

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Sabic said it signed an agreement with the Japan Saudi Arabia Methanol Company (JSMC) to raise its stake in renew the JV partnership in Saudi Methanol Company (Ar-Razi) for another 20 years, as per Pipeline Oil&Gas News.

JSMC will pay more than 5 billion Saudi riyals to Sabic for renewing the joint venture partnership, which Sabic will use, in part or whole, to finance refurbishment of Ar-Razi’s existing methanol plants or set up new ones, Sabic said in a statement.

Under the agreement, which was approved by regulatory bodies, Sabic will raise its stake in Ar-Razi to 75%, reducing JSMC’s shareholding in Ar-Razi to 25 percent. Sabic will also become an equal co-owner with JSMC.

"Ar-Razi is the first joint venture in Sabic's history and one of the most successful partnerships that the company has had over 40 years," said Yousef Al-Benyan, Sabic vice chairman and CEO.

"Renewing the partnership for more 20 years is proof of its success and contribution to the Saudi-Japan strategic cooperation, in line with Vision 2030," he added.

Ar-Razi was set up in 1979, as a 50/50 joint venture between Sabic and JSMC with the aim of developing, establishing, owning and operating a methanol complex.

As MRC informed before, in February 2018, in response to customer needs, Sabic announced projects in Asia and the Netherlands designed to increase global capacity for two of its high-performance engineering thermoplastic materials, Ultem and Noryl resins. The planned new production facility in Singapore is expected to go online in the first half of 2021. The company also plans to recommission operations at its Bergen op Zoom PPE resin plant in the Netherlands by the end of 2019 to produce polyphenylene ether (PPE), the base resin for its line of Noryl resins and oligomers.

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.