Japanese company makes biodegradable resin from cellulose

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Environmental problems such as plastic pollution, global warming due to human population explosion, are getting severe in the world and especially the microplastic problem in the marine environment is becoming a devastating issue, said Chemweek.

It is predicted that the amount of plastic garbage will be more than that of fish in the world by 2050. There are also some scientific reports that these microplastics are already in our human body. Therefore, plastic recycling, reduction of plastic usage itself, and biodegradable plastic usage and development, have been intensively challenged and carried out.

In this regard, Dr. Ryohei Mori at Green Science Alliance Co., Ltd. has developed biodegradable Textile, fiber, yarn, film with cellulose based resin. They have also applied their nano cellulose composite technology into this cellulose based material, and made so to speak "cellulose + nano cellulose" material and products. Green Science Alliance had confirmed previously that mixed nano cellulose in the biodegradable resin can increase biodegradability. This "cellulose + nano cellulose" resin is a very interesting new type of biodegradable resin material. In addition, cellulose can be said to be a very environmentally friendly biodegradable resin since most of biodegradable resins are composed of either petroleum or edible biomass. Using edible biomass such as corn, sugarcane, potato, etc. as raw material can be risky since they compete with human nutritious food.

They will keep making an effort to improve resin properties such as mechanical properties, molding properties, etc., in order to create good biodegradable resin fiber, yarn, film, as well as non-woven.

As MRC informed earlier, Mitsui Chemicals, Inc. is collaborating with Kaisei Inc. on a project aimed at the development of bio-PP at commercial scale. The project has been adopted by Japan's Ministry of the Environment as part of its plans for a carbon-free society ambition. Mitsui Chemicals' bio-PP pilot project will aid in the country’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's PP shipments to the Russian market totalled 347,440 tonnes in January-April 2020 (calculated by the formula production minus export plus import). Supply exclusively of PP random copolymer increased.


Johnson Matthey awarded methanol technology contract for Russia Amur facility

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Johnson Matthey (JM), a global leader in sustainable technologies, is pleased to announce that its combined reforming methanol technology has been selected by JSC Technoleasing for the new Amur Oblast facility, located in Skovorodino, Russia, said Globenewswire.

JM will provide a license for the 3,000 mtpd plant and will include their new Advanced Series Loop technology, which utilises an innovative synthesis loop arrangement together with existing reactor technology to achieve a significant improvement in natural gas efficiency. The contract also includes the associated engineering, proprietary equipment and catalyst supply.

Pending a final investment decision (FID) by Technoleasing, this will be the first JM licenced methanol plant in Russia using the combined reforming and Advanced Series Loop technology. It represents JM’s commitment to providing its world class expertise and sustainable technologies to Russia’s growing petrochemical industry.

Johnson Matthey’s leading methanol technology has been licensed for more than 45 years with over 90 plant licenses granted in that time. Its world scale syngas generation technology options include steam methane reforming, combined reforming, autothermal reforming (ATR) and gas heated reforming that allow bespoke designs unique to each customer's project requirements.

“Johnson Matthey’s combined reforming methanol technology turned out to be the best available technology for the Skovorodino plant. We are very much focused on ecological issue as well as plant’s efficiency in consumption of natural resources. We are looking forward for cooperation with JM in building the plant and introducing this technology in Russia,” said Vadim Medvedev, Technoleasing General Director.

“We are delighted that Technoleasing has entrusted JM as their strategic partner and are proud to be a part of this ground-breaking project,” said John Gordon, Managing Director at JM. “This win demonstrates our unique ability to bring tailored solutions to our customers through our innovative methanol plant flowsheets, in-depth know-how and catalyst technologies. Our new Advanced Series Loop technology will provide energy efficiency and significant economic benefits in gas consumption per ton of methanol over conventional loops for the Amur facility for many years to come."

Johnson Matthey is a global leader in science that enables a cleaner and healthier world. With over 200 years of sustained commitment to innovation and technological breakthroughs, we improve the performance, function and safety of our customers’ products. Our science has a global impact in areas such as low emission transport, pharmaceuticals, chemical processing and making the most efficient use of the planet’s natural resources.

AS MRC imformed earlier, SIBUR Holdinghas resumed its polyethylene (PE) plants after planned maintenance, which had begun on 23 May 2020. Based in Russia, the turnaround includes both old and new PE plants of SIBUR which consists of Tomskneftekhim with 270,000 tons/year of low density polyethylene (LDPE) unit, as well as ZapSibNeftekhim with a 700,000 tons/year high density polyethylene (HDPE) unit and 800,000 tons/year linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE)/HDPE swing plant.

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.

Crude oil futures slide as concerns of demand recovery persist

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Crude oil futures were marginally lower in mid-morning trade in Asia June 16 amid persistent concerns over demand recovery, reported S&P Global.

At 10:17 am Singapore time, on 16 June, ICE Brent August crude futures was 26 cents/b (0.65%) lower from June 15's settle at USD39.46/b, while the NYMEX July light sweet crude contract was 25 cents/b (0.67%) lower at USD36.87/b.

Sentiment took a risk-off tone in Asia trading, despite prices settling higher on June 15 during the US trading hours, amid news of additional economic support by the Federal Reserve.

"A full recovery to early March levels will need continued supply discipline, demand recovery, and time to work off US inventories and spare capacity," Axicorp chief global markets strategist Stephen Innes said in a June 16 note.

Concerns over a second wave of COVID-19 infections amid easing lockdowns continued to cloud the demand outlook.

The market is also looking towards fresh US inventory data to be released later in the week. The data last showed a substantial build, which dampened sentiment.

"A tall order indeed that could be prone to less satisfactory results over the short term, but a draw in this week's inventory data will go a long way to soothe supply concerns," Innes said.

On the OPEC+ front, some bullish sentiment emerged from reports that Iraq is adhering to the accord. Baghdad had signaled that it would sharply cut back on oil exports in June, Platts reported.

There were also concerns as to whether US shale production will increase as prices get supported by the OPEC+ cuts.

Meanwhile, the ICE Brent crude futures market structure had remained largely steady at the prompt, amid a lack of fresh drivers at the moment.

"Whether it (ICE Brent) can reverse last week's bearishness and embark on another bullish run remains to be seen, given that the contango spread is still relatively flat now compared to last month," OCBC analysts said in a June 16 note.

As MRC wrote previously, global oil consumption cut by up to a third in Q1 2020. What happens next in the oil market depends on how quickly and completely the global economy emerges from lockdown, and whether the recessionary hit lingers through the rest of this year and into 2021.

Earlier this year, BP said the deadly coronavirus outbreak could cut global oil demand growth by 40 per cent in 2020, putting pressure on Opec producers and Russia to curb supplies to keep prices in check.

We remind that, in September 2019, six world's major petrochemical companies in Flanders, Belgium, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, and the Netherlands (Trilateral Region) announced the creation of a consortium to jointly investigate how naphtha or gas steam crackers could be operated using renewable electricity instead of fossil fuels. The Cracker of the Future consortium, which includes BASF, Borealis, BP, LyondellBasell, SABIC and Total, aims to produce base chemicals while also significantly reducing carbon emissions. The companies agreed to invest in R&D and knowledge sharing as they assess the possibility of transitioning their base chemical production to renewable electricity.

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

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 721,290 tonnes in the first four month of 2020, up by 4% year on year. Low density polyethylene (LDPE) and linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) shipments grew partially because of the increased capacity utilisation at ZapSibNeftekhim. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market totalled 347,440 tonnes in January-April 2020 (calculated by the formula production minus export plus import). Supply exclusively of PP random copolymer increased.

Sasol revamp to cut jobs

MOSCOW (MRC) -- South Africa's Sasol plans to cut jobs and end West African oil operations as part of a business revamp, the petrochemicals producer said on Thursday, adding it had also agreed a deal with lenders to relax borrowing rules, said Engineeringnews.

Sasol has been reviewing its business as it struggles with high debt levels, falling oil and chemical prices and lower global demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company, the world's top producer of motor fuel from coal, said the review had identified chemicals and energy as the focus areas for its future business.

"The revision of our strategy aims to have a greater focus on enhanced cash generation, value realisation for shareholders and business sustainability," it said in a statement.

Sasol said the revamp would affect its workforce, but did not say how many jobs might be lost. The company said it was seeking consultations with trade unions in South Africa and aimed to do the same in other countries.

It also said it had concluded discussions with lenders, adding they had agreed to waive a debt test due this month and relax one due in December 2020. That test will allow the firm to have net debt of four times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, up from three times previously.

The company added its liquidity headroom would remain well above USD1-billion.

As MRC wrote previously, in mid December 2019, Sasol announced that the LCCP Ethane Cracker was increasing production rates following the successful replacement of the acetylene reactor catalyst. Sasol’s Ethane Cracker with a nameplate capacity of 1.54 million tons per year achieved beneficial operation in August 2019 but has run approximately 50-60% of nameplate capacity due to underperformance of the plant’s acetylene removal system. The company stated that the issue had been resolved then.

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

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 721,290 tonnes in the first four month of 2020, up by 4% year on year. Low density polyethylene (LDPE) and linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) shipments grew partially because of the increased capacity utilisation at ZapSibNeftekhim. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market totalled 347,440 tonnes in January-April 2020 (calculated by the formula production minus export plus import). Supply exclusively of PP random copolymer increased.

Sasol is an international integrated chemicals and energy company that leverages technologies and the expertise of our 31 270 people working in 32 countries. The company develops and commercialises technologies, and builds and operates world-scale facilities to produce a range of high-value product stream, including liquid fuels, petrochemicals and low-carbon electricity.

Lockdowns, uncertainty weigh on recovery, says CEO Huntsman

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Peter Huntsman, CEO of Huntsman, is more bearish on the global economy than at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Resurgent growth in China shows light at the end of the tunnel, but lockdowns and uncertainty continue to hinder recovery in the US and Europe, reported Chemweek.

"Demand probably has come back a bit slower than I had anticipated," he says. "Frankly, I've been rather disappointed with the prolonged nature of these lockdowns. This is just my personal opinion. I think that this entire lockdown situation has become politicized in many parts of the world, particularly in the United States."

Huntsman shared his views this morning with Lyn Tattum, publisher of Chemical Week, during a webcast of IHS Markit's Chemical Executive Conversations.

"When we look at the overall supply chain, and … the number of retail outlets that are still closed globally, I think that rather than a V- or a U-shaped recovery, we're probably going to see a W-shaped recovery," he says. "So I think you're going to see a W. You're going to see some good news and some positive results, and then you're probably going to see the continuation of some bad news."

Demand has been fairly resilient in the DIY and home construction segments, but there has been very little improvement in the aerospace and textiles segments, he says.

"Areas that we thought wouldn't have been that badly affected like textiles and clothing and so forth actually have been absolutely devastated," Huntsman notes. "And the entire United States and Western European economy—for the first time in industrial history, in the month of March and going to April, for a prolonged period of time, the United States (and) Europe did not assemble a single car, did not build a single airplane."

Export-oriented demand in China also remains severely depressed. "If you're doing business in China dependent on export, which is about 15–20% of our business in China, you're going to see about a 60–70% drop in business," says Huntsman.

However, demand driven by China's domestic market is snapping back. "We're seeing that business tracking about 95 to 100, 101% of where it was a year ago," Huntsman reports. "In total, our business in China is probably down 5–10% from a year ago. That's mostly because of the … export-oriented piece, but the Chinese-oriented business, where you're investing in domestic automobiles, construction, infrastructure projects, and so forth, those are going to remain. China is going to continue to be a very strong market for us."

The economic chaos surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has not only depressed demand, it has also thrown up hurdles to recovery. Although Huntsman entered the crisis with its strongest balance sheet ever, many of its customers were not so fortunate, the CEO points out. "A lot of them are going to start looking to us to be their bank, [will] want us to start financing their receivables," he says. "But we're not a bank, so we're going to have to work through those. We have to make sure that credit and sales are working hand in glove better than they ever have, perhaps."

As MRC reported previously, in April 2020, to further aid in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, LyondellBasell (LBI) donated a key ingredient to Huntsman Corporation to produce hand sanitizer for US first responders.

We remind that, in January 2020, Indorama Ventures Public Company Limited (IVL), a global chemical producer, completed its acquisition of Huntsman’s world-class integrated oxides and derivative businesses, including a large flagship site on the US Gulf Coast (USGC) at Port Neches, as well as Chocolate Bayou and Dayton in Texas, Ankleshwar in India, and Botany in Australia, as per IVL's press release.

The acquisition is a profitable and growing end applications business along with unique products and geographical profile among the crowded olefins space. It has a well-integrated assets base with an extensive infrastructure and future expansion possibilities. The area is adjacent to many USGC feedstock suppliers. The cash value of USD2.0 billion makes it the largest acquisition by Indorama Ventures ever and now our capital employed is nicely spread over plastic, chemicals and fibers. The transaction value translates to an EV/EBITDA of ~5.7x and is expected to add substantial synergies to Indorama’s existing 450kta Ethane/Propane Cracker and our 550kta EO/EG. IVL will now be integrated from Ethane to PET as well as the high-margin EO and PO derivative businesses.

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

According to MRC's ScanPlast report,

Huntsman Corporation is a publicly traded global manufacturer and marketer of differentiated and specialty chemicals with 2017 revenues of more than USD8 billion. Its chemical products number in the thousands and are sold worldwide to manufacturers serving a broad and diverse range of consumer and industrial end markets. The company operate more than 75 manufacturing, R&D and operations facilities in approximately 30 countries and employ approximately 10,000 associates within its four distinct business divisions.