US refiners on course to digest excess diesel by March

MOSCOW (MRC) -- If they can maintain recent progress, US oil refiners should be able to bring stocks of diesel and other middle distillates close to normal levels in the first quarter of 2021, reported Reuters.

Distillate inventories were still 20% above the five-year average last week, but the surplus was down from 22% at the end of August, 27% at the end of July and 29% at the end of June.

Refining margins for distillate show tentative signs of recovery, based on futures prices for crude and ultra-low sulfur diesel delivered in March 2021, consistent with a normalization of stocks in the first quarter.

Forward margins have turned slightly higher, albeit from a very low level, for the first time since June, when there were still hopes for a rapid recovery in oil consumption after the first wave of the novel coronavirus.

To try to digest excess diesel stocks built up in the second quarter of 2020, refiners continue to restrain crude processing and configure their equipment to maximize gasoline production.

In the last four weeks, refiners have cut crude processing to almost 19% below the five-year average, while the volume of products supplied to the domestic market has been down by 13%.

Distillate production has been running 10% below the five-year average, while consumption is down by around 8% The ratio of distillate to gasoline production has remained close to multi-year lows in recent weeks.

The strategy is starting to pay off, with distillate stocks declining in four out of the last five weeks, after being basically flat over the previous two months.

If refiners can hold this course, excess inventories should be mostly absorbed over the next six months, with a resumption of more normal refining activity in the second and third quarters of 2021.

The principal risk is a severe resurgence of coronavirus or a second business cycle downturn over the northern hemisphere winter that cuts industrial diesel consumption and jet fuel demand even further.

As MRC informed earlier, global oil refiners reeling from months of lackluster demand and an abundance of inventories are cutting fuel production into the autumn because the recovery in demand from the impact of coronavirus has stalled, according to executives, refinery workers, and industry analysts. Refiners cut output by as much as 35% in spring as coronavirus lockdowns destroyed the need for travel. As lockdowns eased, refiners increased output slowly through late August. But in top fuel consumers the United States and elsewhere, refiners have been decreasing rates for the last several weeks in response to increased inventories, a sustained lack of demand, and in response to natural disasters.

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

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.

Sabic, Fibertex to use circular PP in nonwovens for hygiene sector

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Sabic, a global leader in the chemicals industry, is collaborating with Fibertex Personal Care, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of spunbond nonwovens for the hygiene industry, to create a range of nonwovens using high-purity recycled plastics from SABIC’s TRUCIRCLE™ portfolio and services, said the company.

This will be the world’s first nonwovens range based on recycled plastics in the hygiene industry. The initiative is seen by the two partners as an exciting step towards a more sustainable supply chain and greater recyclability for nonwovens.

The new nonwovens will be made from SABIC’s circular polypropylene, using feedstock derived from previously used plastics, certified under the ISCC PLUS (International Sustainability & Carbon Certification) system. The material is part of the SABIC PURECARES™ portfolio of polypropylene for Personal Hygiene applications that was introduced at the beginning of this year. The certified circular PP material produced by SABIC is created from post-consumer mixed plastics that have been broken down into their molecular building blocks and then re-polymerized to create virgin plastics. The new material can be used as a drop-in solution while meeting the brand owner’s requirements for purity and consumer safety for the hygiene industry applications.

SABIC applies the “mass balance” approach to polymers offered as part of its TRUCIRCLE portfolio and services which spans design for recyclability, mechanically recycled products, certified circular products from feedstock recycling of used plastics, and certified renewables products from bio-based feedstock. The widely recognized ISCC PLUS certification verifies that mass balance accounting follows predefined and transparent rules. In addition, it provides traceability along the supply chain, from the feedstock to the final product. Fibertex Personal Care’s recent attainment of the ISCC PLUS certification is a result of an extensive experience and focus on sustainability. Fibertex Personal Care will provide certified circular nonwovens to its customers with their Comfort, Elite, Dual and Loft product range. These certified nonwovens can be adopted in downstream processes, without compromising convertibility, product properties or performance of the final product.

Mikael Staal Axelsen, Group CEO, Fibertex Personal Care, said: “This is an important step forward in supporting our sustainable strategy and important step in development and expansion of a supply chain for bio-based and circular polymers. SABIC’s TRUCIRCLE initiative makes this possible. We are proud to cooperate with SABIC in developing the first circular nonwovens for the hygiene market." Sergi Monros, Vice President of Performance Polymers & Industry Solutions for Petrochemicals at SABIC, said: “With Fibertex Personal Care’s expertise in nonwovens, brand owners can take full advantage of our innovative TRUCIRCLE solutions and PURECARES product portfolio and integrate them into their hygiene applications. We are working together to find further solutions to drive forward the circularity in the hygiene industry."

The solution supports a mutual wish to gradually replace fossil resources and thereby help reduce carbon emissions. SABIC and Fibertex Personal Care look forward to engaging further with the hygiene industry.

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.

Itochu, Borealis and Borouge announce collaboration to enable uptake of renewable PP in the Japanese market

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Borealis, Borouge and Itochu have jointly announced that they have the strategic intent to jointly evaluate how to enable uptake of renewable polypropylene (PP) in the Japanese market, as per Borealis' press release.

The developments of climate change are attracting attention in Japan and overseas, and countermeasures are urgently required. Under these circumstances, Japan has formulated a basic plan to introduce approximately two million tons of renewable plastic products by 2030. There is a need to shift to renewable plastics, which feature enhanced environmental considerations without compromising the superiority of plastics.

PP is a principal raw material characterised by its high strength and high heat resistance. It is used extensively, including in food containers, daily commodities and automotive parts. Meanwhile, it has been considered difficult to commercialise polypropylene production from renewable materials due to the many technical difficulties in the production.

Since its foundation in 1994, Borealis has been in business in at least 120 countries as a world-class plastic and resin manufacturer. In the environmental sector, it engages in manufacturing and sales of renewable plastics and recycled resins. In March 2020, it embarked on the commercial production of renewable PP and is now working to expand sales in Europe and around the world.

The renewable PP is made from sustainable feedstock from organic waste and residue streams. Unlike using feedstocks produced with agricultural crops suitable for food and livestock feed, this renewable feedstock is composed of various wastes and residues like from vegetable oil production or used cooking oil from the food industry. Re-using waste products to manufacture renewable feedstocks further enhances their appeal from a sustainability perspective. This step clearly showcases ambition in terms of thinking circular. The traceability from the point of origin to the final product is ensured through the mass balance model and certified by a third-party independent body.

Borouge provides innovative plastics solutions for the packaging, energy, infrastructure, mobility, healthcare and agriculture industries. Borouge is working to bring about a plastics circular economy on several fronts, including developing new disruptive packaging designs for re-use and recyclability, and introducing mono-material solutions that enable recyclability and help to unlock value for customers while supporting their sustainability goals.

Borouge is also actively working across the entire value chain to drive innovations in quality, supply and usage of recyclate materials, and create ready to use, value-adding solutions that our customers require to advance their circularity. Borouge aims to be a one-stop shop to its customers for all their sustainable packaging requirements.

Itochu aims to enhance its corporate value by addressing social issues through its core business. Itochu will move forward with the expansion of the global renewable plastics business, particularly in Japan and in Asia. It targets to commercially launch Japan’s first food containers and packaging materials made of Renewable PP by the end of 2020 as well as other sanitary goods, miscellaneous daily goods, cosmetic containers, office supplies, home electric appliances, automotive parts and other items in many different fields.

Itochu will actively use its Group networks in Japan and overseas to create a new business model in the domain of renewable plastics and to accelerate actions towards achieving a society for sustainable global development.

As MRC reported previously, the light-feed 625,000-metric tons/year Borealis steam cracker at Stenungsund, Sweden, is expected to restart operations in the fourth quarter this year after a fire broke out at the plant in May, 2020. The cracker has been under force majeure for almost four months after the blaze at the plant on 10 May, which was subsequently brought under control the following day.

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.

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.

Chandra Asri, Vopak sign LOI to set up infrastructure, terminal for Indonesia petchems complex

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Indonesia's largest petrochemical producer Chandra Asri and Netherlands-based storage and terminal operator Vopak are planning to set up an infrastructure joint venture in Indonesia, said Chemweek.

The two companies signed a letter of intent on 5 October to set up the partnership, which aims to establish a new jetty and tank farm business that will serve third-party customers and to build secondary infrastructure at Chandra Asri's new petrochemical complex, the Indonesian firm said.

Chandra Asri's second petrochemical complex will include a 1.1mn t/yr naphtha-based cracker, 450,000 t/yr high-density polyethylene (HDPE) unit, 300,000 t/yr low-density polyethylene unit (LDPE) and a 450,000 t/yr polypropylene (PP) unit.

The producer is aiming to commission the complex in 2024, barring any delays because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chandra Asri currently operates a 136,000 t/yr HDPE unit, two linear low-density polyethylene/HDPE swing units with nameplate capacity of 200,000 t/yr and 400,000 t/yr respectively and a 590,000 t/yr PP plant at its complex in Cilegon.

Vopak's Indonesian interests include a 49pc stake in an oil terminal in Jakarta and a 95pc stake in a chemical terminal in Merak.

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.

Polyplex to invest USD103 million to build BOPET film plant, debottleneck PET resin plant in Alabama

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Polyplex (Thailand) Public Limited Company (PTL), a subsidiary of Polyplex Corporation Limited (PCL; Gautam Buddh Nagar, India), will invest USD102.8 million to build a biaxially oriented polyethylene terephthalate (BOPET) thin film line at Decatur, Alabama. The production capacity of the planned plant will be 50,000 metric tons/year, said Chemweek.

The company also intends to debottleneck the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resin plant at Decatur, to raise the capacity from the current 58,000 metric tons/year to 86,000 metric tons/year. The project is expected to be commissioned in 24 months.

In June 2019, the company decided to invest USD48 million to build a biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) film plant in Indonesia, with a capacity of 60,000 metric tons/year.

As per MRC' ScanPlast, total calculated polyethylene terephthalate (PET) consumption in Russia in August reached 55,220 tonnes, down 27% year on year. Russia's overall estimated consumption of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) decreased in the first eight months of 2020 by 21% year on year to 476,940 tonnes.