Russian petrochemical producers are well-positioned for market recovery post-COVID-19

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The COVID-19 outbreak has led to an unprecedented decline in demand affecting all sections of the Russian economy, which has impacted the demand for petrochemicals in the short-term. However, the pandemic triggered an increase in the demand for polymers in food packaging, and cleaning and hygiene products, according to Hydrocarbonprocessing with reference to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

With Russian petrochemical companies having the advantage of access to low-cost feedstock, and proximity to demand-rich Asian (primarily China) and European markets for the supply of petrochemical products, these companies appear to be well-positioned to derive full benefits from an improving market environment and global economy post-COVID-19, says GlobalData.

Dayanand Kharade, Oil and Gas Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Oil and gas majors in the country are reducing spend in response to a substantial drop in crude prices and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Sibur Holding, one of the largest petrochemical producers in Russia, has lowered its capital expenditure (capex) outlook for 2020, which is approximately 30% lower in comparison to its initial budget. However, companies continue to evaluate their capital structure and focus on key projects ensuring sustainable growth.”

The majority of the upcoming projects in Russia are in the early stages of development, for example, pre-construction phase. Changes in supply/demand patterns, due to reduced economic activity across the globe, is likely to affect the pace of progress of these projects. Major announced projects such as Baltic Chemical project and EuroChem- Northwest Kingisepp project in Leningrad Oblast, and Gazprom and Novatek projects in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug could face delays in startup. However, companies should continue to assess the impact based on prospective developments.

Kharade concludes: “With economic growth correlated to petrochemicals growth, the short-term outlook is expected to result in lowered petrochemical demand in the country. However, with an improving market environment, Russian producers are well-positioned to derive full benefit with the country’s access to low-cost feedstock.”

As MRC reported before, in December 2020, Sibur, Gazprom Neft, and Uzbekneftegaz agreed to cooperate on potential investments in Uzbekistan including a major expansion of Uzbekneftegaz’s existing Shurtan Gas Chemical Complex (SGCC) and the proposed construction of a new gas chemicals facility. The signed cooperation agreement for the projects includes “the creation of a gas chemical complex using methanol-to-olefins [MTO] technology, and the expansion of the production capacity of the Shurtan Gas Chemical Complex”.

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

According to MRC's DataScope report, PE imports to Russia decreased in January-November 2020 by 17% year on year and reached 569,900 tonnes. High density polyethylene (HDPE) accounted for the greatest reduction in imports. At the same time, PP imports into Russia increased by 21% year on year to about 202,000 tonnes in the first eleven months of 2020. Propylene homopolymer (homopolymer PP) accounted for the main increase in imports.

Nanjing Yangzi shuts two rubber plants after fire

MOSCOW (MRC) -- China's Nanjing Yangzi Petrochemical Rubber, part of Sinopec Group, shut its 100,000 mt/year butadiene-rubber unit and 100,000 mt/year styrene-butadiene-rubber plant in Jiangsu province Jan. 12 following a fire at the petrochemical complex, reported S&P Global with reference to a source with direct knowledge of the matter's statement Jan. 13.

The fire was extinguished on Jan. 12, according to the source.

The rubber plants may remain shut for two to three months, the source said, but this could not be officially confirmed with the company.

As MRC informed earlier, Sinopec Corp's Qilu refinery resumed operations after a more than three-month overhaul of its 160,000 barrels per day (bpd) crude processing facility, according to the company's statement on 17 December, 2020. The refinery, based in China's oil refining hub Shandong province, has total crude oil processing capacity of 13 million tonnes per year, or 260,000 bpd.

Butadiene is the main feedstock for the production of acrylonitrile-butaiene-styrene (ABS).

According to ICIS-MRC Price report, ABS imports into Russia rose in the first eleven months of 2020 by 2% year on year to 32,000 tonnes from 31,300 tonnes a year earlier. South Korean shipments accounted for 62% (19,900 tonnes) in January-November 2020 versus the share of 58% (18,200 tonnes) a year earlier.

China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec Group) is a super-large petroleum and petrochemical enterprise group established in July 1998 on the basis of the former China Petrochemical Corporation. Sinopec Group"s key business activities include the exploration and production of oil and natural gas, petrochemicals and other chemical products, oil refining.

SK Capital invests in packaging producer Lacerta Group

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Lacerta Group, Inc., a leading designer and manufacturer of specialty thermoformed packaging solutions, announced today a strategic investment from funds advised by SK Capital Partners, LP, a New York-based private investment firm focused exclusively on the specialty materials, chemicals and pharmaceuticals sectors, said the company.

SK Capital is acquiring a majority interest in the Mansfield, Mass.-based business. Lacerta’s co-founders, Ali and Mory Lotfi, will continue to retain a significant ownership stake in the Company. Terms of the deal were not announced.

Privately held since it was founded in 1993, Lacerta is a leading provider of innovative packaging solutions primarily serving the food sector. The Company offers a comprehensive range of custom PET packaging products, including a leading line of tamper-evident products sold under the “Fresh N’ Sealed” brand. Lacerta has experienced top-line growth of 25% annually since 2013 driven by a customer-centric model that is supported by product innovation and fulfilment through its extensive in-house manufacturing capabilities. Given that the vast majority of its products are 100% recyclable, and the packaging solutions produced by the Company can be made with up to 100% recycled content, Lacerta promotes a more circular and sustainable approach to food packaging.

Lacerta offers a complete range of manufacturing services, from concept development, prototyping and mold making, to thermoforming, extrusion, printing and quality assurance. The Company operates thermoforming machines capable of producing millions of packages per year. It also has CNC milling machines for mold making and in-house prototyping thermoformers to help turn around prototypes –– usually within one week. In a rapid response to the needs created by the current pandemic, the Company has also developed a face shield made from PET resin for use by healthcare and retail workers.

SK Capital Senior Director Dave Mezzanotte added, “We view Lacerta as a platform that can be grown in a multitude of ways to serve a wider range of its customers’ requirements. We’re especially excited about the opportunity Lacerta has to enable its customers to meet their internal sustainability targets by utilizing packaging that’s fully recyclable and incorporating recycled content at increasingly higher levels."

Latham & Watkins LLP acted as legal counsel to SK Capital, and debt financing was led by Citizens Bank, N.A. Citizens M&A Advisory acted as exclusive financial advisor to Lacerta.

As per MRC, SK Capital Partners completed the acquisition of a 39.75% stake, roughly 42.4 million shares, in titanium dioxide maker Venator from Huntsman for roughly USD100 million. The deal includes a 30-month option for the purchase of Huntsman’s remaining approximate 9.5 million shares by SK at US2.15/share. Huntsman spun off Venator in a 2017 initial public offering.

As MRC reported earlier, Nanjing Jinling Huntsman, a joint venture between Huntsman and Sinopec Jinling, planned to shut its propylene oxide plant in Nanjing (Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China) on November 1 for scheduled maintenance. This plant with a capacity of 240,000 tonnes/year of propylene oxide will be closed until approximately 25 November.

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

According to MRC's DataScope report, PP imports into Russia increased by 21% year on year to about 202,000 tonnes in the first eleven months of 2020. Propylene homopolymer (homopolymer PP) accounted for the main increase in imports.


Solvay to sell its North American and European amphoteric surfactant business to OpenGate Capital

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The Solvay Group agreed to sell its North American and European amphoteric surfactant business to OpenGate Capital, a private equity firm with headquarters in Los Angeles, as per the company's press release.

The sale includes the three main production sites supporting the amphoteric product lines located in University Park, Illinois (USA), Genthin, Germany, Halifax, United Kingdom, and a tolling business in Turkey. The agreement also includes tolling and service agreements between Solvay and OpenGate to ensure a seamless transition and minimal customer disruption.

“This agreement represents another critical step in the execution of our strategic plan as we further focus our home & personal care portfolio on growing specialty formulations and custom solutions,” commented Michael Radossich, president of Solvay's Novecare global business unit.

In OpenGate Capital, Solvay has identified a strong buyer for the North American and European amphoteric surfactant business while the sale will generate additional resources for Solvay to invest in its strategic growth segments as part of its portfolio simplification journey. Solvay expects to close the sale by the end of March pending completion of all required social dialogues and regulatory approvals.

As MRC reported earlier, in August, 2020, through the acquisition of the Solvay polyamide (PA) business, BASF enhanced its R&D capabilities in Asia Pacific with new technologies, technical expertise, and upgraded material and part testing services. BASF is planning to integrate the R&D centers from Solvay into its R&D existing facilities in Shanghai, China, and Seoul, Korea. The enhanced capabilities will boost BASF’s position as a solution provider to develop advanced material solutions for key industries.

We remind that BASF-YPC, a 50-50 joint venture of BASF and Sinopec, undertook a planned shutdown at its naphtha cracker on 30 April 2020. The company initially planned to start turnaround at the cracker on April 5, 2020. The plant remained under maintenance unitl 18 June, 2020. Located in Jiangsu, China, the cracker has an ethylene capacity of 750,000 mt/year and propylene capacity of 400,000 mt/year.

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

According to MRC's DataScope report, PE imports to Russia decreased in January-November 2020 by 17% year on year and reached 569,900 tonnes. High density polyethylene (HDPE) accounted for the greatest reduction in imports. At the same time, PP imports into Russia increased by 21% year on year to about 202,000 tonnes in the first eleven months of 2020. Propylene homopolymer (homopolymer PP) accounted for the main increase in imports.

Solvay is a science company whose technologies bring benefits to many aspects of daily life. With more than 24,100 employees in 64 countries, Solvay bonds people, ideas and elements to reinvent progress. The Group seeks to create sustainable shared value for all, notably through its Solvay One Planet plan crafted around three pillars: protecting the climate, preserving resources and fostering better life. The Group’s innovative solutions contribute to safer, cleaner, and more sustainable products found in homes, food and consumer goods, planes, cars, batteries, smart devices, health care applications, water and air purification systems. Founded in 1863, Solvay today ranks among the world’s top three companies for the vast majority of its activities and delivered net sales of EUR10.2 billion in 2019. Solvay is listed on Euronext Brussels (SOLB) and Paris and in the United States, where its shares (SOLVY) are traded through a Level I ADR program.

European PP prices increased by EUR90/tonne and more in January for CIS markets

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The January contract price of propylene was settled in Europe up by EUR65/tonne from the previous month. However, all European producers announced a greater increase in export prices of polypropylene (PP) to be shipped to the CIS markets in January, than the rise of monomer prices, according to ICIS-MRC Price report.

Negotiations over January prices of European PP began in the first days of the month. All market participants reported that European producers have gone for a significant increase in export prices for propylene polymers.
Moreover, some producers adjusted their export prices twice in the first two weeks of January.

In some cases, the price growth was recorded at the level of EUR90/tonne, and in some cases, the price increase reached EUR160/tonne.

It is also worth noting that all producers in Europe have serious export restrictions, and some producers do not even plan to sell PP to the markets of the CIS countries this month. Deals for January shipments of homopolymer propylene (homopolymer PP) were done in the range of EUR1,040-1,100/tonne FCA, whereas last month's deals were done in the range of EUR950-1,000/tonne FCA.

Deals for block copolymers of propylene (PP block copolymers) were done in the range of EUR1,100-1,190/tonne FCA, versus EUR970-1,030/tonne FCA a month earlier. The situation with the Middle East polypropylene is no better; local producers also started raising export prices under the pressure of rising oil prices.

Quotas for shipments to the markets of the CIS countries have been reduced in comparison with December. Also, the price of the Middle Eastern PP is under serious pressure from the growth of sea freight.

The deals for January shipments of Middle Eastern homopolymer PP were in the range of USD1,280 - 1,360/tonne CIF. Some sellers have already started negotiating deals for February shipments, and prices are reaching USD1,400 /tonne CIF.