Air Liquide signs a long-term power purchase agreement for renewable electricity in Spain

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Air Liquide signs a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) to source renewable electricity equivalent to 15% of the Group's current consumption for its activities in Spain, said the company.

This contract is the first PPA for renewable energy in Europe and illustrates Air Liquide's commitment to lower its carbon footprint, in line with the Group’s Climate Objectives to increase purchase of renewable electricity by nearly 70% by 2025 (in comparison with 2015).

Thanks to this long-term agreement over 10 years, Air Liquide will be able to use renewable energy sources to supply some of its industrial and medical gas production assets in Spain. The wind farm that will supply Air Liquide with renewable electricity equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 15,000 households is under development in Andalusia and is scheduled to be operational by 2021.

The wind-generated electricity will save 250,000 tons of CO2 emissions over the term of the agreement. This agreement will expand Air Liquide's offer of low-carbon solutions at competitive prices and give customers the ability to add more renewable content in their end products.

In a context of unprecedented transformation of Europe’s energy system, Air Liquide is accelerating its commitment to take a leading role in the energy transition by supporting the development of renewable resources and a low-carbon economy in Europe.

Francois Jackow, Executive Vice President and a member of the Air Liquide Group’s Executive Committee, said: “Fighting climate change is central to the mission of Air Liquide and we are developing a wide range of solutions. With this long-term commitment we are facilitating the development of renewable infrastructure. This agreement demonstrates our ability to provide our customers with solutions to contribute to CO2 emissions reduction and to lead the way in the energy transition in Europe through concrete actions in line with our Group Climate Objectives."

As MRC informed earlier, Air Liquide has entered into a long-term supply agreement with NLMK Group (Moscow) that will see it invest around EUR100 million (USD114 million) in the steel producer’s site at Lipetsk, Russia, on the construction of a new air separation unit (ASU) and the acquisition of existing hydrogen and rare gases production units.

We remind that Shell Singapore restarted its naphtha cracker in Bukom Island in early December 2019, following a two months maintenance shutdown since the beginning of October 2019. Thus, this cracker was taken off-stream for the turnaround on 1 October 2019. The cracker is able to produce 960,000 tons/year of ethylene and 550,000 tons/year of propylene.

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

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 595,170 tonnes in the first five month of 2020, up by 10% year on year. Deliveries of all ethylene polymers, except for linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE), rose partially because of an increase in capacity utilisation at ZapSibNeftekhim. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market was 457,930 tonnes in January-May 2020 (calculated by the formula production minus export plus import). Deliveris of exclusively PP random copolymer increased.

Sika earnings fall as lockdown squeezes sales

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Sika (Baar, Switzerland) reports a fall of 7.6% in net profit in the first half of 2020, to 275.6 million Swiss Francs (USD297.1 million) compared with SFr330.7 million in the same period of the year before, reported Chemweek.

This is mainly attributed to the adverse impact of COVID-19 on sales, Sika says. Revenue declined 3.2% year on year (YOY), to SFr3.61 billion, due to the effect of lockdown measures on demand, the company says. The acquisition of Parex in 2019 had a positive effect on sales, amounting to 13.4%, Sika says. Second-quarter figures have not been disclosed.

EBITDA and EBIT decreased 4.8% and 14.8% YOY, respectively, due to a negative operating leverage in March-May, initial expenses in connection with structural adjustments and efficiency measures, integration costs in connection with the acquisition of Parex, and strongly negative currency effects, Sika says.

In the EMEA region, Sika's sales of SFr1.58 billion compared with SFr1.62 billion in the first half of 2019, with Central Europe the area affected most by measures against COVID-19, the company says. In the Americas, sales went down to SFr942 million from SFr986.7 million in the prior-year period, mainly due to the impact of COVID-19 on the construction sector in the US, Sika says. However, the company’s sales in the APAC region went up to SFr746.7 million, due mainly to China’s economy recovering after the first quarter, it says. In the rest of the world, Sika’s sales were 28.5% lower YOY, at SFr341.7 million.

“Around 35 of the 100 countries Sika is present in experienced a full lockdown for about two months in the first half of the year, and the rest of our countries have been strongly impacted by the pandemic. With our local management structure in place, we quickly adapted globally to the changing market conditions in the respective countries. We swiftly implemented the necessary measures to protect our employees, customers, and suppliers, whilst simultaneously maintaining our supply chain and business activities with a focus on consistent cost management,” says Paul Schuler, CEO at Sika.

The company’s “strong focus on liquidity and cash management resulted in a high operating free cash flow of SFr254.7 million," which exceeded the year-earlier figure by SFr75 million, Sika says. “Key drivers of this were an optimized inventory management, a focus on accounts receivables, and reduced capital expenditures,” the company says.

For the second half of the year, Sika expects more favorable market conditions that should lead to higher sales volumes. The company saw an improvement in sales in June, due to the construction industry reopening and returning gradually to normality. The company also anticipates an over-proportional EBIT increase in the second half.

Sika has confirmed its targets for 2023. It is seeking to grow 6%–8%/year in local currencies in this period. It is also aiming for an EBIT margin of 15%–18% from 2021 onward. Projects in the areas of operations, logistics, procurement, and product formulation should result in an annualized improvement in operating costs equivalent to 0.5% of sales, Sika says.

As MRC reported earlier, in August 2015, Swiss specialty chemicals company Sika opened its forth production site in Russia. A new mortar factory and a plant to produce concrete admixtures were opened in Volgograd, in southern Russia. Thus, at the existing site in Lobnya, 30 km north of Moscow, a new production facility, which manufactures polymers for concrete admixtures, came on stream.

According to MRC's DataScope report, PE imports to Russia dropped in January-June 2020 by 7% year on year to 328,000 tonnes. High density polyethylene (HDPE) accounted for the main decrease in imports. At the same time, PP imports into Russia rose in the first six months of 2020 by 21% year on year to 105,300 tonnes. Propylene homopolymer (homopolymer PP) accounted for the main increase in imports.

Sika is a specialty chemicals company with a leading position in the development and production of systems and products for bonding, sealing, damping, reinforcing, and protecting in the building sector and motor vehicle industry. Sika has subsidiaries in 101 countries around the world and manufactures in over 200 factories. Its more than 20,000 employees generated annual sales of CHF 7.09 billion in 2018.

Lotte Chemical to resume operations at its Daesan cracker in mid-November

MOSCOW (MRC) -- South Korea’s Lotte Chemical has delayed the restart of its fire-hit naphtha-fed steam cracker in Daesan for the second time to mid-November, from October, reported S&P Global.

It had initially planned to restart the cracker in September.

"The restart has been moved back to mid-November, but could be delayed again," a company source told S&P Global Platts. Lotte Chemical has plans for the cracker to operate as per normal by the end of 2020.

As MRC wrote before, the cracker was shut on March 4 following an explosion, which injured more than 30 people.

Lotte Chemical has two steam crackers. The company's other steam cracker in Yeosu is currently running at more than 100% of capacity due to positive petrochemical margins.

The company last purchased 50,000 mt of naphtha for H2 August delivery to its Yeosu steam cracker, at a premium of around USD21/mt to the Mean of Platts Japan naphtha assessments, CFR, pricing 30 days prior to delivery.

The steam cracker in Daesan has a production capacity of 1.1 million mt/year of ethylene, 550,000 mt/year of propylene and 150,000 mt/year of butadiene, while the Yeosu steam cracker is able to produce 1.18 million mt/year of ethylene, 550,000 mt/year of propylene and 130,000 mt/year of butadiene.

We remind that Lotte Chemical shut down its Deasan cracker for maintenance turnaround on October 14, 2019. The cracker resumed production on November 10, 2019.

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

According to MRC's DataScope report, PE imports to Russia dropped in January-June 2020 by 7% year on year to 328,000 tonnes. High density polyethylene (HDPE) accounted for the main decrease in imports. At the same time, PP imports into Russia rose in the first six months of 2020 by 21% year on year to 105,300 tonnes. Propylene homopolymer (homopolymer PP) accounted for the main increase in imports.

Lotte Chemical runs two naphtha crackers in South Korea. One cracker is located in Daesan county in Seosan which can produce 1.1 million tonnes per year of ethylene with the other 1.2 million tonnes per year cracker in the southwestern city of Yeosu.

PE production in Russia up by 56% in H1 2020

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Russia's overall polyethylene (PE) production totalled 1,463,000 tonnes in the first six months of 2020, up by 56% year on year. Linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) accounted for the greatest increase in the output, according to MRC's ScanPlast report.

June PE production in Russia was 210,500 tonnes, whereas this figure was 259,100 tonnes a month earlier, output of high density polyethylene (HDPE) at the facilities of Zapsibneftekhim and Kazanorgsintez decreased. Thus, overall PE production reached 1,463,000 tonnes in January-June 2020, compared to 938,900 tonnes a year earlier. Production of all PE grades rose, but LLDPE accounted for the greatest increase, which was provided by ZapSibNeftekhim.

The structure of PE output by grades looked the following way over the stated period.

June HDPE production fell to 114,400 tonnes against 176,400 tonnes a month earlier, Kazanorgsintez reduced the capacity utilisation, and Zapsibneftekhim also shut its facilities for scheduled maintenances. Russian plants' overall HDPE output reached 892,800 tonnes in January-June 2020, up by 84% year on year.

Last month's total low density polyethylene (LDPE) production increased to 58,600 tonnes from 48,200 tonnes in May, Kazanorgsintez and Tomskneftekhim increased their output. Thus, overall production of this PE grade totalled 338,600 tonnes over the stated period, up by 3% year on year.

June LLDPE production rose to 37,400 tonnes from 34,500 tonnes a month earlier, ZapSibNeftekhim and Kazanorgsintez increased its capacity utilisation. Overall LLDPE output rose to 231,000 tonnes in the first six months of 2020 from 122,100 tonnes a year earlier.


US refiners ramp up crude imports from Mexico to 8-year high

MOSCOW (MRC) -- US crude oil imports from Mexico surged to the highest level in more than eight years in the second week of July as swelling inventories and a fire at the Latin American country’s largest refinery in late June led it to offload more barrels, reported Reuters.

US buyers boosted their purchases by 834,000 barrels per day (bpd) to about 1.3 million bpd in the week to July 3, the highest since February 2012, according to the Energy Information Administration. The surge helped send U.S. net imports last week to the highest since August 2019.

US Gulf Coast refiners including Lyondell Basell Industries’ Houston refinery, Valero Energy Corp , Shell and Marathon Petroleum Corp were among the buyers in recent weeks, according to market sources and Refinitiv Eikon data.

The crude was delivered to 10 different terminals, according to vessel-tracking firm ClipperData, with more than half the volumes going to Shell’s Deer Park and Valero’s Port Arthur refineries.

Lyondell Basell and Shell declined to comment. Valero and Marathon Petroleum did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mexico had an outage at the Salina Cruz refinery in late June after tremors from an earthquake caused a fire that led to the brief shuttering of the installation.

The country has resisted deep output cuts in the wake of a plunge in global oil demand due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mexico agreed at OPEC+ meetings earlier this year to cut 100,000 barrels per day of the 1.75 million bpd it pumps for a two-month period, far less than the 25% reduction from other members.

“Without the production cuts, they have extra to sell. Remember, they only cut 100,000 bpd for May and June. Now they can make as much as they want,” one trader who purchases crude from Mexico said.

Demand to book Aframax tankers from the East Coast of Mexico to the US Gulf remains busy, shipbrokers said, with companies including commodities merchant Vitol looking to book cargoes loading in mid-July.

Houston Refining, CNR and Marathon have provisionally chartered Aframax vessels this week to load Mexican crude next week, data showed. Freight rates for Aframax vessels are lower, helping to open up the arbitrage, one shipbroker said.

As MRC reported previously, Royal Dutch Shell Plc plans to idle a sulfur recovery unit (SRU) at the joint-venture Deer Park, Texas, refinery in 2021, said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith in July 2020. Currently, the refinery is operating at about 75% of its 318,000 barrel-per-day capacity because of reduced demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

According to MRC's DataScope report, PE imports to Russia dropped in January-June 2020 by 7% year on year to 328,000 tonnes. High density polyethylene (HDPE) accounted for the main decrease in imports. At the same time, PP imports into Russia rose in the first six months of 2020 by 21% year on year to 105,300 tonnes. Propylene homopolymer (homopolymer PP) accounted for the main increase in imports.