COVID-19 - News digest as of 15.05.2020

1. Mitsui Chemicals full-year net profit falls

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Japanese producer Mitsui Chemicals on Thursday reported a 50.1% fall in its full-year net profit as sales dropped following the spread of the coronavirus, said Chemweek. Sales prices fell due to the fall in naphtha and other raw materials as well as fuel prices. Operating income fell due to unfavourable terms of trade in addition to decrease in sales resulting from the spread of the coronavirus and increase in fixed costs.


Mitsubishi Chemical eyes turnaround at Kashima cracker in H1 May

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Mitsubishi Chemical is likely to undertake a planned shutdown at its naphtha cracker, according to Apic-online.

A Polymerupdate source in Japan informed that, the company has scheduled to start turnaround at the cracker by mid-May 2020. The cracker is likely to remain under maintenance till end-June, 2020.

Located at Kashima, Japan, the cracker has an ethylene production capacity of 540,000 mt/year and a propylene capacity of 260,000 mt/year.

As MRC informed earlier, the company last started a two-month maintenance at this cracker in H1 May, 2018.

Ethylene and propylene are feedstocks for producing polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 557,060 tonnes in the first three month of 2020, up by 7% year on year. High density polyethylene (HDPE) and linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) shipments rose because of the increased capacity utilisation at ZapSibNeftekhim. Demand for LDPE subsided. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market was 267,630 tonnes in January-March 2020, down 20% year on year. Homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers accounted for the main decrease in imports.

Mitsubishi Chemical with headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, is a diversified chemical company involved in petrochemicals, polymers, agrochemicals, speciality chemicals and pharmaceuticals. The company's main focus is on three business pillars: petrochemicals, performance and functional products, and health care.

Borealis supports Austrian face mask initiatives through production of meltblown fabrics at its pilot line in Linz

MOSCOW (MRC) - Borealis announces that it has started production of meltblown fabrics for face mask applications on its unique pilot line in Linz, Austria, said the producer in its press release.

Borealis has managed quickly to convert the way of working from pure development to smaller scale pilot production to regularly produce rolls of fine fibre fabrics for face masks. Recently developed by Borealis, a new proprietary polypropylene (PP) meltblown resin has boosted filtration properties due to its capability for finer fibres. By exploiting a robust network of co-operation partners in the country, Borealis is helping bolster the supply of filtration media to increase face masks production.

A broad variety of PP based meltblown fabrics might not be visible to us, but belong to our daily lives. Such advanced PP solutions for meltblown fabrics are used not only in household appliances (e.g. vacuum cleaners), but also air cooling and heating devices. Their crucial importance for the hygiene and healthcare industries - in particular for face masks and protective wear - has been made painfully apparent as the global coronavirus pandemic has led to dramatic global shortages of essential personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and others.

Borealis holds a 35-year track record in PP meltblown innovations and grades, and the unique pilot line in Linz has played an important role in the development. The pilot line is now being re-purposed to help meet the need for face masks. By teaming up with value chain partners, local and regional governmental organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Borealis shows its dedication to enhance health and safety of communities in which it does business. This is done by supplying filtration fabrics for face masks in order to quickly respond to an urgent need in the region. The temporarily converted small-scale pilot testing facilities are located in the Application Hall at Borealis Innovation Headquarters in Linz. The newly developed Borealis HL912FB is being used to produce meltblown fabric to be applied for customised inlays in cotton-based mouth-nose masks, for conventional mouth-nose masks, and also for high-end face masks worn by medical professionals (FFP1 to FFP3).

A typical mask is made out of spunbonded outer layers and a meltblown middle layer. The spunbonded layers provide the structure while the meltblown layer is providing the barrier properties. For high-end FFP1 to FFP3 masks, more advanced meltblown structures with extremely fine fibres are essential. Borealis offers both the unique meltblown materials and a variety of spunbond PP grades.

The well-known Borealis meltblown resins HL708FB and HL712FB are reference grades for filtration. Recently, a new resin Borealis HL912FB was introduced to the market, which can be processed at higher processing temperatures allowing the production of even finer fibres. According to in-house testing, the use of Borealis HL912FB results in a significant improvement in filtration efficiency. All three grades are manufactured at Borealis facilities in Europe and made available to customers worldwide.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a sudden steep increase in the need for PPE, while supply chains are being disrupted around the globe. We would like to assure our partners that we remain the reliable supplier of advanced polymers for the manufacture of high-quality face masks and other PPE," says Lucrece Foufopoulos, Borealis Executive Vice President Polyolefins, Innovation and Circular Economy Solutions. "True to our company purpose, ‘Life demands progress – we are re-inventing for more sustainable living’, we are offering innovative solutions like Borealis HL912FB and are re-purposing our own pilot facilities to a small-scale production line for meltblown fabrics. We have capitalised on our close collaboration with governments, NGOs and value chain partners to optimally deploy our innovation and manufacturing capabilities at the service of society."

As MRC reported earlier, Austria-based petrochemicals producer Borealis declared force majeure on its steam cracker operations at Stenungsund, Sweden, on 11 May 2020, following a technical incident that led to the shutdown of the olefins plant. The company has informed the affected customers. Borealis says it does not know when the force majeure will be lifted. The shutdown has impacted the output of the company’s downstream production and supply of certain low density polyethylene (LDPE) grades. Its LDPE plant was shut down and the potential start-up date of the facility is currently being investigated.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, PP shipments to the Russian market was 267,630 tonnes in January-March 2020, down 20% year on year. Homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers accounted for the main decrease in imports.

Borealis is a leading provider of innovative solutions in the fields of polyolefins, base chemicals and fertilizers. With headquarters in Vienna, Austria, Borealis currently employs around 6,500 and operates in over 120 countries.

PVC production in Russia up by 2% in January-April 2020

MOSCOW (MRC) - Russian producers of unmixed polyvinyl chloride (PVC) have decreased capacity utilisation in April. Overall PVC output totalled 351,000 tonnes in January-April 2020, up by 2% year on year, according to MRC's ScanPlast report.

April production of unmixed PVC in Russia was 83,900 tonnes from 89,900 tonnes a month earlier, producers RusVinyl and SayanskKhimPlast decreased capacity utilisation. The total volume of PVC production increased to 351,000 tonnes in January-April against 343,400 tonnes a year earlier.

The structure of PVC production by plants looked the following way over the stated period.

RusVinyl (JV of SIBUR and SolVin) produced about 26,500 tonnes of PVC in April, with emulsion polyvinyl chloride (EPVC) accounting for 2,500 tonnes, compared to 29,900 tonnes a month earlier. Total SPVC production at RusVinyl increased to 118,700 tonnes in the first four months of this year, compared to 116,100 tonnes in the same period in 2019.

SayanskKhimPlast produced 27,000 tonnes of suspension PVC (SPVC) in April, whereas this figure was 28,500 tonnes in March. The Sayansk plant managed to produce about 110,300 tonnes of PVC in January-April, compared to 108,000 tonnes a year earlier.

Baskhir Soda Company produced about 23,200 tonnes of SPVC in April, against 24,200 tonnes a month earlier. Total SPVC production at Baskhir Soda Company increased to 92,900 tonnes in the first four months of this year, compared to 91,100 tonnes in the same period in 2019.

Kaustik (Volgograd) produced about 7,200 tonnes of SPVC in April, compared with 7,400 tonnes in March. The plant's overall production of PVC reached 29,100 tonnes over the stated period versus 28,200 tonnes a year earlier.

Saudi Arabia, Russia committed to oil market stability

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Saudi Arabia and Russia are firmly committed to achieving oil market stability and expediting a rebalancing of the market, the energy ministers of the two countries said in a joint statement, said Hydrocarbonprocesing.

Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Russian counterpart Alexander Novak held a phone conversation as part of their consultations on oil market developments, the statement said.

“We are also pleased with the recent signs of improvements in economic and market indicators, especially the growth in oil demand and the ease in concerns about storage limits as various countries around the globe begin to emerge from their stringent lockdowns,” the ministers said.

They said they were “confident that our partners within OPEC+... will comply with the OPEC+ agreement.” OPEC and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, agreed last month to reduce output by 9.7 million bpd for May and June, a record production cut.

Saudi Arabia on Monday said it would voluntarily deepen oil output cuts from June by 1 million barrels per day, saying the new reductions were designed to expedite draining a global supply glut and rebalancing the oil market. Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates both joined Saudi Arabia and also pledged to cut more than their commitments under the OPEC+ supply pact by a total of 180,000 bpd.

The joint statement said Novak welcomed the additional voluntary substantial production cuts made by Saudi Arabia and the steps that United Arab Emirates and Kuwait took to support Saudi efforts. The statement said such action was needed to help to expedite the rebalancing of the oil market.

Producers will slowly relax the production curbs under the OPEC+ agreement after June, but supply reductions will remain in force until to April 2022.

Sources told Reuters this week that OPEC and its allies want to maintain existing oil cuts beyond June rather than scaling them back to help to shore up prices and demand, which has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ethylene and propylene are feedstocks for producing PE and PP.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 383,760 tonnes in the first two month of 2020, up by 14% year on year. High density polyethylene (HDPE) and linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) shipments increased due to the increased capacity utilisation at ZapSibNeftekhim. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market were 192,760 tonnes in January-February 2020, down by 6% year on year. Homopolymer PP accounted for the main decrease in imports.