COVID-19 - News digest as of 08.10.2020

1. Pandemic pushes up cost of Norway oil and gas projects

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted the development of Norway's offshore oil and gas projects, pushing up costs and postponing startups, the government and oil company Equinor announced, said Hydrocarbonprocessing. The costs of ongoing projects rose by 13.2 billion Norwegian crowns (USD1.4 billion) from a year ago on an inflation-adjusted basis, government documents showed, as COVID-19 restrictions stalled construction at several fields. "The COVID-19 pandemic and weakened Norwegian (currency) have negatively impacted some of the projects, but the combined project portfolio is still very resilient," Equinor said in a separate statement.


Advanced Petrochemical Q3 net profit falls

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Saudi Arabia’s Advanced Petrochemical posted a 27% year-on-year decline in third-quarter net profit on lower polypropylene (PP) prices and sales volume, based on preliminary estimates, said Mubasher.

Advanced Petrochemical Company gained SAR 156 million in net profits over the third quarter (Q3) of the year, down 26.8% from SAR 213.12 million in the year-ago quarter, as shown by the firm's estimated financials. Revenue dropped by 15.8% in the three-month period ended on 30 September 2020 to stand at SAR 545 million, compared to SAR 647.18 million in the same period in 2019, according to a bourse statement on Tuesday.

The slump in Q3-20 earnings was due to a reduction in Polypropylene sales prices and volume by 12.5% and 3.8%, respectively, coupled with an increase in outsourced Propylene consumption by 22.5%. Meanwhile, Propane and outsourced Propylene prices went down by 7.5% and 12%, respectively, general and administrative expenses fell by 31.4%, while financial charges reduced by 81.8%.

In the January-September period, the profits declined by 26.7% yearly to reach SAR 416 million.

As MRC informed earlier, on 29 January 2015, Advanced Petrochemical Company announced the signing of long-term off-take agreements for the sale of PP with Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan (150,000 metric ton per annum) and Domo Investment Group of Belgium (100,000 metric ton per annum), to be effective from January 1, 2019 for a period of ten years after the expiry of the previous off-take agreements.

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.

Advanced Petrochemical Company (before Advanced Polypropylene) is a Saudi Joint Stock Company, established in October 2005. The company was initially launched by National Polypropylene Limited, jointly owned by Mr. Khalifa Al Mulhim, the chief executive officer of Advanced, and Mr. Monther Laheeq, who negotiated all the main deals related to the project, either before or after the establishment of Advanced Petrochemical. Currently, National Polypropylene Limited controls 7.9% of Advanced Petrochemical. Advanced Petrochemical started the construction of its plants in May 2005. The company produces 455,000 tons per year of propylene and 450,000 tons per year of polypropylene from its production facility located in Jubail Industrial City, in the Eastern coast of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

WSAVA stresses no new evidence of COVID-19 transmission from pets

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Experts have stressed there is no new evidence of COVID-19 virus transmission from pets to people, said Chemweek.

During a recent webinar hosted by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), speakers highlighted animals that have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 have displayed only mild symptoms and there is no evidence of transmission from a companion animal to a new human. This means if a pet caught the virus from their infected owner, there is no evidence the animal will then pass it to another person in the household.

The experts urged veterinarians to encourage pet owners not to abandon animals testing positive for the virus. Michael Lappin, chair of the WSAVA's One Health Committee, confirmed the virus is a reverse zoonoses where infected humans have passed it to companion animals in the very few cases that have been reported.

The WHO has reported more than 28 million confirmed cases in humans, while the number of incidences in companion animals tracked by the OIE "remains tiny". Dr Lappin added outbreaks on mink farms in the Netherlands and US earlier in 2020 were likely to have been caused by human transmission. He said while more dogs, cats and ferrets would undoubtedly test positive over time, veterinarians need to remember the context and numbers overall remain very small.

Turning to how SARS-CoV-2 affects companion animals, Dr Lappin explained experimental studies at Colorado State University found cats showed no signs, shed the virus for a short period only, could transmit the virus to other cats and demonstrated a robust antibody response. Dogs also showed no signs, did not shed live virus and also demonstrated a robust antibody response. Further data is being collected to investigate if the clinical illness in naturally infected dogs or cats is common or important – it is currently unclear whether these animals require specific treatment.

Richard Squires, chair of the WSAVA’s Vaccination Guidelines Group, reminded veterinarians risk-benefit analyses are always relevant to vaccination consultations but are more important than ever during the pandemic. He suggested vaccination priority should be the protection of puppies and kittens using core vaccines with the last or only dose given no earlier than 16 weeks of age, due to persistent maternal antibody interference in some young animals.

Dr Squires said the second priority should be protection against potentially life-threatening diseases that are locally prevalent, using non-core vaccines. He stated the annual revaccination of adult dogs and cats with modified live virus core vaccines is a much lower priority. Dr Squires also pointed out veterinarians must remember there is no reason to believe existing coronavirus vaccines will protect pets against SARS-CoV-2.

Dr Peter Karczmar, member of the WSAVA One Health Committee, recommended all veterinary clinic staff should wear masks to protect themselves from other potentially infected people, as face shields alone do not offer adequate protection. He also suggested drop off services for clients, daily temperature monitoring of staff and the adoption of staggered shifts.

As mRC informed earlier, European petrochemical industry faces short-term and longer-term challenges caused by or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers on Monday at the European Petrochemical Association’s (EPCA) 54th annual meeting, being held in a virtual format, said the crisis had been a learning experience for the industry.

According to MRC's DataScope report, Russian companies significantly raised their purchasing of PP in foreign markets in August partially because of a major increase in demand, imports were 21,200 tonnes versus 17,200 tonnes a month earlier. Thus, overall PP imports into Russia reached 143,200 tonnes in January-August 2020, compared to 120,100 tonnes a year earlier.

Hexion hikes intermediates prices

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Hexion (Columbus, Ohio) says it will raise its prices worldwide by USD150/metric ton or EUR125/metric ton for its various glycidyl and vinyl esters, monomers, and versatic acid brands shipped on or after 8 November, or as contract terms allow, reported Chemweek with reference to the company's statement.

The price hike has been driven primarily by continued increases in key raw material costs, it says. All other terms and conditions of sale remain unchanged, it adds.

As MRC informed earlier, Hexion, a major American manufacturer of phenol and bisphenol A (BPA), plans to close its BPA plant in Pernis (Pernis, The Netherlands) in early October for scheduled maintenance. This 120 ktpa BPA production facility will be shut in the second week of October and is expected to resume production in three weeks.

Bisphenol A is used as a hardener in the production of plastics, as well as plastic-based products. It is one of the key monomers in the production of epoxy resins and polycarbonate (PC).

According to MRC's ScanPlast, in Russia, following the results of the first two quarters, the total estimated consumption of PC granulate in the Russian Federation (excluding imports and exports to Belarus) amounted to 47.3 thousand tonnes against 40.7 thousand tonnes in 2019. Total demand increased by 16%.

Hexion Inc., formerly Momentive Specialty Chemicals Inc., is a chemical company based in Columbus, Ohio. It manufactures thermosetting resins and related technologies and specialty products. Hexion has two divisions: the epoxy, phenolic and coating resins division and the forest products division.

PVC production in Russia down by 0.3% in Jan-Sep 2020

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Russia's overall production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) totalled 718,500 tonnes in January-September 2020, down by 0.3% year on year. At the same time, only two producers managed to increase their PVC output, according to MRC's ScanPlast report.

September total production of unmixed PVC grew to 86,000 tonnes from 75,500 tonnes a month earlier, SayanskKhimPlast and RusVinyl increased their capacity utilisation. Overall output of polymer were 718,500 tonnes in the first nine months of 2020 versus 720,500 tonnes a year earlier, only two producers raised their production volumes, and RusVinyl cut its output.

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

RusVinyl increased its capacity utilisation in September and produced 30,400 tonnes of PVC, with emulsion polyvinyl chloride (EPVC) accounting for 2,500 tonnes, compared to 26,100 tonnes a month earlier. RusVinyl's overall output of resin reached 246,500 tonnes in the first nine months of 2020, compared to 257,100 tonnes a year earlier.

SayanskKhimPlast also raised its capacity utilisation last month and produced slightly over 27,100 tonnes of suspension PVC (SPVC), whereas this figure was 20,500 tonnes in August. The Sayansk producer shut its production capacities for a one-month scheduled maintenance on 8 July. The plant managed to produce 216,600 tonnes of PVC in January-September 2020, compared to 213,200 tonnes a year earlier.

Bashkir Soda Company (BSK) maintained its capacity utilisation in September the same, the final output reached 21,500 tonnes versus 21,800 tonnes a month earlier. The Baskhir plant's overall production of resin reached 197,600 tonnes in January-September 2020, up by 3% year on year.

Kaustik, Volgograd's PVC production was 7,000 tonnes last month versus 7,100 tonnes in August. The plant's overall production of resin exceeded 57,800 tonnes in the first nine months of 2020 versus 57,900 tonnes a year earlier.