North America chemical rail volume stable last week

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Chemical railcar traffic in North America held stable during the week ended 19 September, reported Chemweek with reference to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

Volume totaled 42,933 carloads, up 2.7% from the previous week and down 3.8% year over year (YOY). On a four-week basis, volume was down 3.4% from 2019 and 5.8% from 2018, improving over respective shortfalls of 3.8% and 6.6% recorded the previous week (chart). For the year to date, chemical railcar traffic in North America was down 4.5% from 2019 and 5.8% from 2018, equal to the previous week’s figures.

Chemical railcar traffic in the US contributed 29,931 carloads to the total, down 7.3% YOY and up 2.4% from the previous week. For the year to date, US chemical railcar traffic is down 5.0%.

Canadian chemical rail traffic totaled 12,136 carloads, up 6.1% YOY and up 4.4% from the previous week. For the year to date, Canadian chemical railcar traffic is down 3.1%.

Chemical railcar traffic in Mexico totaled 866 carloads, a YOY decrease of 6.7% and a sequential decrease of 8.4%. For the year to date, Mexican chemical railcar traffic is down 5.7%.

As MRC informed before, in early July, 2020, Dow agreed to sell the rail infrastructure assets and related equipment at six major sites in North America to Watco Companies (Pittsburg, Kansas), a transportation services company operating in North America and Australia. Dow expects the deal, which is slated to close in the fourth quarter, to yield over USD310 million in cash. Watco will provide Dow with rail services from the assets under a long-term agreement.

We remind that Dow Chemical restarted three polyethylene (PE) plants it shut in April on improving demand after widespread economic shocks in April and May, confirmed a company spokeswoman July 23.

As MRC wrote before, Russia"s output of chemical products rose in August 2020 by 5% year on year. At the same time, production of basic chemicals increased in the first eight months of 2020 by 5.3% year on year, according to Rosstat"s data. According to the Federal State Statistics Service of the Russian Federation, polymers in primary form accounted for the greatest increase in the January-July output.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's overall PE production totalled 1,712,400 tonnes in the first seven months of 2020, up by 58% year on year. Linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) accounted for the greatest increase in the output. At the same time, overall PP production in Russia increased in January-July 2020 by 24% year on year to 1,063,700 tonne. ZapSibNeftekhim accounted for the main increase in the output.

Evonik to carve out superabsorbents business unit in portfolio reshuffle

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Evonik's ELUCARE brand will be gradually expanded over the next few months to become home to a wide range of oxo alcohols, said the company.

These serve as high-quality intermediates to produce surfactants, special esters, lubricants, resins and special solvents. "ELUCARE embodies what C4 specialties stand for: a consistent focus on market and customer requirements," says Christian Bierhaus, head of Marketing and Sales at Performance Intermediates.

As the first product in the new brand family, Evonik is now marketing the C4 specialty ITDA under the brand name ELUCARE TD. The clear strategy of the PI business line: to be the first point of contact for customers, in the long term, when it comes to C4 specialties.

"With the introduction of the ELUCARE TD brand, we are once again creating the future of C4Chemistry together with our customers, while demonstrating that we can be relied on," emphasizes Hinnerk Becker, market segment manager for C4 specialties at PI. "The demand for ITDA has been growing steadily for years. With our capacity expansion at the end of 2019, we reacted to this growth early on. This is how we can support the growth strategies of our customers in a long-term, consistent and reliable manner."

PI ensures the long-term and reliable availability of ELUCARE TD by means of a sustainable and complete integration of the corresponding raw material flows into the C4 network at the Marl and Antwerp production sites. ELUCARE® TD is distributed worldwide via Evonik's regional platforms.

ELUCARE TD (ITDA) is a high-purity C13 alcohol and an important intermediate to produce surface-active substances, so-called surfactants (ethoxylates) and special esters. ITDA ethoxylates are used in high quality applications like homecare products or I&I cleaners. ITDA special esters are used in special lubricant formulations as well as in high-quality paints and coatings.

Evonik is one of the world leaders in specialty chemicals. The company is active in more than 100 countries around the world and generated sales of EUR13.1 billion and an operating profit (adjusted EBITDA) of EUR2.15 billion in 2019. Evonik goes far beyond chemistry to create innovative, profitable and sustainable solutions for customers. More than 32,000 employees work together for a common purpose: We want to improve life, day by day.

As MRC reported before, Dow and Evonik have recently entered into an exclusive technology partnership. Together, they plan to bring a unique method for directly synthesizing propylene glycol (PG) from propylene and hydrogen peroxide to market maturity.

Propylene is the main feedstock for the production of polypropylene (PP).

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russian plants' total PP production grew to 158,800 tonnes in July, compared to 149,400 tonnes a month earlier; ZapSibNeftekhim, Nizhnekamskneftekhim and Poliom increased their capacity utilisation. Russia"s overall PP production reached 1,063,700 tonnes in January-July 2020, compared to 854,500 tonnes a year earlier. Five out of eight producers raised their capacity utilisation, with a new producer - ZapSibNeftekhim - accounting for the main increase in the output.

Evonik is one of the world leaders in specialty chemicals. The focus on more specialty businesses, customer-oriented innovative prowess and a trustful and performance-oriented corporate culture form the heart of Evonik’s corporate strategy. They are the lever for profitable growth and a sustained increase in the value of the company. Evonik benefits specifically from its customer proximity and leading market positions. Evonik is active in over 100 countries around the world with more than 36,000 employees.

BASF and Sinopec expand capacity for neopentylglycol in Nanjing, China

MOSCOW (MRC) -- BASF-YPC Co., Ltd. (BYC), a 50-50 joint venture between BASF and SINOPEC, has expanded the production capacity of neopentylglycol (NPG) at the state-of-the-art Verbund site in Nanjing, China, as per BASF's press release.

The plant was established in 2015 with an annual capacity of 40,000 metric tons. With the completion of the expansion in August 2020, the annual capacity will reach 80,000 metric tons.

“The new expansion marks another milestone of long-standing partnership between SINOPEC and BASF. It reinforces our commitment to enhance local production and respond to the growing needs of Chinese customers for environmentally friendly powder coatings,” said Dr. Stephan Kothrade, President and Chairman Greater China, BASF.

“SINOPEC and BASF have been working closely together for many years. The start-up of the NPG expansion plant reflects a better cooperative relationship between the two parties and is also in line with the Chinese government's steer towards improving industrial restructuring and transformation to fulfil market demand with high-quality products,” said Mr. Hong Jianqiao, Chairman of Sinopec Yangzi Petrochemical Company Limited and BASF-YPC Company Limited.

“With NPG production facilities in Asia, Europe and North America, BASF is one of the world’s leading NPG manufacturers with decades of experience in manufacturing and supplying NPG to our customers across a broad range of industries. Customers will benefit from our regional presence, innovation strength and supply reliability they have come to know and trust,” said Vasilios Galanos, Senior Vice President, BASF Intermediates Asia Pacific.

NPG is a unique polyalcohol offering superior performance in many end-use applications, especially in the production of polyester and alkyd resins for various coatings and plastics due to its high chemical and thermal stability. NPG has proven itself in many applications, especially in the production of polyester and alkyd resins for various coatings and plastics. An essential field of application is powder coatings, which prove particularly successful in the construction industry, as well as in the coating of household appliances. BASF has NPG production sites in Ludwigshafen (Germany), Freeport (USA), Nanjing (China) and Jilin (China).

As MRC reported earlier, BASF-YPC undertook a planned shutdown at its polystyrene (PS) unit in China on May 5, 2020. The unit restarted on June 20, 2020. Located in Jiangsu, China, the PS unit a production capacity of 200,000 mt/year.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated consumption of PS and styrene plastics was 225,870 tonnes in the first half of 2020, down by 8% year on year. PS consumption increased by 2% year on year in June 2020, totalling 39,590 tonnes.

BASF-YPC Company Limited (BASF-YPC) is a 50-50 joint venture between BASF and Sinopec, founded in 2000, with a total investment of approximately USD5.5 billion. The integrated petrochemical site produces about three million tons of high-quality chemicals and polymers for the Chinese market annually. The products serve the rapid-growing demand in multiple industries, including agriculture, construction, electronics, pharmaceutical, hygiene, automotive and chemical manufacturing. All BASF-YPC plants are interconnected in order to use products, by-products and energy in the most efficient way, to save cost and to minimize the environmental impact. BASF-YPC posted sales of approximately CNY 19.6 billion in 2019 and employed 1,942 people as of the end of the year.

LyondellBasell to cut Houston refinery staff by 10% on pandemic losses

MOSCOW (MRC) -- LyondellBasell Industries said on Tuesday that it plans to cut salaried staff at its Houston oil refinery because of losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The company confirmed the contents of an email seen by Reuters, in which executive vice president Torkel Rhenman said Lyondell wants "a reduction of approximately 10% of the refinery population." Refiners have posted large losses this year as air and road travel have cratered amid widespread lockdowns and work-from-home policies to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Several U.S. refineries have closed or reduced operations this year. In August, Marathon Petroleum said it would permanently close two plants in response to lower fuel demand. Calcasieu Refining idled its Louisiana plant for economic reasons the same month.

"The refinery utilization rate is within two to four bad weeks of taking out the all-time record low of 66.7%," Robert Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho Securities USA, said in a note on Tuesday. Gasoline margins are threatening to go negative, he said, and leave the price of a barrel of gasoline below the cost of the oil used to produce it. Lyondell employs about 800 workers at its Houston refinery.

The planned job cuts would not apply to refinery workers covered by a union contract, which prohibits layoffs. In a letter to employees, Refinery Manager Greg Nevermann said that before imposing involuntary layoffs the company would offer enhanced retirement packages to eligible employees and offer reassignments to the chemical maker’s other locations.

“Given the drop in demand and increase in industry refining capacity, we anticipate the outlook for the refinery will remain challenging for the next several years,” Nevermann said in the letter, which was seen by Reuters. Lyondell’s cost-cutting, including cutting travel and outside consultants and deferring non-safety-related maintenance, has not succeeded in reducing losses, he wrote.

In July, Lyondell said the refinery lost USD107 million in the first six months of this year before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. During the same period of 2019 it posted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the refining business of USD81 million.

The refinery dates to 1918. Between 1985 and 2007, the 263,776 barrel-per-day plant was an integral part of Lyondell’s operations, supplying feedstocks to its chemical units.

Following a merger with Basell in 2007 and emergence from bankruptcy in 2012, the company expanded chemical production plants around the world, making the oil refinery secondary to its petrochemical business.

As MRC reported previously, in early August, 2020, China’s Bora LyondellBasell Petrochemical, a JV between the privately owned Bora Enterprise Group and the world's petrochemical major - LyondellBasell, has started up its new steam cracker at the Panjin complex in northeast China. The steam cracker, when fully operational, is able to produce up to 1 mln mt/year of ethylene.

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.

LyondellBasell is one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies in the world. Driven by its 13,000 employees around the globe, LyondellBasell produces materials and products that are key to advancing solutions to modern challenges like enhancing food safety through lightweight and flexible packaging, protecting the purity of water supplies through stronger and more versatile pipes, and improving the safety, comfort and fuel efficiency of many of the cars and trucks on the road. LyondellBasell sells products into approximately 100 countries and is the world's largest licensor of polyolefin technologies.

Hanwha Total Petrochemical to resume production at No. 3 PP plant

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Hanwha Total Petrochemical, is in plans to bring on-stream its No. 3 polypropylene (PP) unit in Daesan, according to Apic-online.

A Polymerupdate source in South Korea, informed that, the company is likely to restart its unit on September 24, 2020. The plant was shut for a brief maintenance on September 14, 2029.

Located at Daesan, South Korea, the No. 3 PP unit has a production capacity of 360,000 mt/year.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, overall PP production in Russia increased in January-July 2020 by 24% year on year to 1,063,700 tonne. ZapSibNeftekhim accounted for the main increase in the output.

Daesan is one of Total's six world-class integrated complexes and a strategic asset for both shareholders. It comprises a flexible condensate splitter, a competitive steam cracker and units producing polymers, styrene and aromatics.

Hanwha Group, founded in 1952, is a global leader in a broad range of business spanning the spectrum of manufacturing, construction, finance, services and leisure industries. Hanwha Group consists of 56 domestic affiliates and 226 global networks, as of June 2016.

Total is a major energy player, which produces and markets fuels, natural gas and low-carbon electricity. Our 100,000 employees are committed to better energy that is safer, more affordable, cleaner and accessible to as many people as possible. Active in more than 130 countries, our ambition is to become the responsible energy major.