Merck KGaA, Siemens partner to advance digitalization of modular production

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Merck KGaA says it has entered a collaborative partnership with Siemens for the joint development of an overall process-control system for the automation of modular production of materials and products for the electronics, pharmaceutical, and life science industries, said Chemweek.

Merck will build a first modular plant based on this production system at its Darmstadt, Germany, site by 2022, investing EUR10.0 million (USD11.9 million) for the first phase, it says. Merck has experience with modular production systems, and the aim of the collaboration is to advance the concept of flexible and simple interlinking of individual modules worldwide in the process development and production network of all its business sectors, the company says.

"The time needed from the product idea to market readiness is a critical success factor. The resulting technology platform for standardized, modular production will also be usable in product development in the future. This allows data-based decisions to be made as early as the product development phase and applied seamlessly to the production process. Therefore, in the future, we will be able to respond quicker and even more flexibly to high customer requirements," says Kai Beckmann, CEO/performance materials and board member at Merck responsible for the Darmstadt site.

Merck is taking on the establishment of the production infrastructure and Siemens is responsible for the development of process orchestration layer (POL) technology, the company says. POL is a supervisory control system that interlinks various production modules to an overall process, which is expected to operate without the need for additional programming, Merck says.

"This will create new opportunities for us to drive forward modular production and to meet growing requirements for chemical and pharmaceutical processes in our joint development work,” says Eckard Eberle, CEO/process automation at Siemens.

The project forms part of a EUR1-billion investment program announced last year for Merck's headquarters at Darmstadt until 2025, which will also be funded by the German federal ministry of economic affairs and energy on the basis that the plan's investments in modular, flexible, and efficient technology can reduce the carbon footprint of production, Merck says.

As MRC informed earlier, Merck KGaA has presented its new sustainability strategy, with which it aims to integrate sustainability more deeply as an essential component of its corporate strategy. The main aims of the strategy are to develop sustainable science and technology, integrate sustainability into all the company's value chains by 2030, and achieve climate neutrality and reduce its resource consumption by 2040, Merck says. The company will report annually on the current implementation status of the strategy.

We remind that Russia's output of chemical products rose in September 2020 by 6.7% year on year. At the same time, production of basic chemicals increased by 6.1% year on year in the first nine months of 2020, 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-September output. Last month's production of primary polymers decreased to 852,000 tonnes from 888,000 tonnes in August due to shutdowns in Tomsk, Ufa and Kazan. Overall output of polymers in primary form totalled 7,480,000 tonnes over the stated period, up by 16.4% year on year.

Headquartered in Darmstadt, Germany, Merck opened an OLED application center in Pyeongtaek, Korea, in 2015. Merck Korea now has 11 operation sites and some 1,200 employees and operates businesses in functional materials, health care and life sciences. The functional materials business encompasses advance materials for information technology products such as displays and semiconductors. It also includes cosmetics and paints for automobiles.
Its health care business involves pharmaceutical and medical devices for treatments of cancer, multiple sclerosis and infertility. The life sciences business deals in an extensive portfolio of over 300,000 products used for protein research, cell biology, antibodies, water purification and microbiome tests.

WeylChem to build aromatic-ring chlorination plant at Frankfurt

MOSCOW (MRC) -- WeylChem (Frankfurt, Germany), the fine chemicals platform of International Chemical Investors Group (ICIG; Luxembourg), says it is investing to build a production facility for aromatic-ring chlorination at the group's Frankfurt-Hochst site, said Chemweek.

The start of production at the new facility is planned for the first quarter of 2022, the company says. Further details have not been disclosed. The facility will strengthen the company’s capabilities in side-chain chlorination and expand them to aromatic-ring chlorination for the specialty chemicals market, meeting the growing demand in Europe for local and resilient supply chains, the company says.

WeylChem will also establish a sustainable production cycle with the new plant, in which 4-chlorobenzotrichloride, a by-product of side-chain chlorination, will be refined to 2, 3, 4, 5-tetrachlorobenzoyl chloride and no longer need to be disposed of, the company says. With all the other by-products being refined or sold, the side-chain chlorination will reduce the company's waste footprint significantly, it says.

It will also enable Weylchem to backward integrate and install its own proprietary supply chain to use these products in its halogen exchange multipurpose plant at Allessa in Frankfurt-Fechenheim, the company says.

As per MRC, Clariant, a world leader in specialty chemicals, announced the closing of the sale of its Detergents and Intermediates business to International Chemical Investors Group (ICIG). The total consideration of the sale amounts to CHF 58 million, out of which CHF 20 million in cash became due at closing. Worldwide, 660 employees were transferred from Clariant to the new ICIG business, which from now on will operate under the WeylChem brand umbrella.

As MRC informed earlier, October production of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) were 109,000 tonnes (100% of the basic substance) versus 108,000 tonnes a month earlier. Overall output of caustic soda totalled 1,054,600 tonnes in the first ten months of 2020, down by 1.6% year on year.

INEOS Styrolution and Ferrero AND FERRERO to collaborate on recycling of complex plastic waste

MOSCOW (MRC) -- INEOS Styrolution (Frankfurt, Germany) announced an agreement with Ferrero to explore the feasibility of using its advanced recycling concepts such as depolymerization for future packaging solutions, said the compane.

The aim of INEOS Styrolution is to develop a process to convert complex plastic waste back to fully recyclable materials that comply with food contact regulations. The INEOS Styrolution recycling concept aims at contributing to a circular economy, based on the depolymerization process that converts post-consumer complex plastic waste back to its monomers. The new material created through this process would also comply with food contact regulations.

Ferrero comments: "We are pleased to work with INEOS Styrolution to explore opportunities for future packaging solutions that, today, are not available in practice and at scale. We are interested to see whether INEOS Styrolution’s approach can offer a circular solution and support the Ferrero commitment to make all its packaging 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025."

Sven Riechers, Vice President Business Management, Standard Business EMEA at INEOS Styrolution: "We are pleased to work with Ferrero and are convinced that chemical recycling can produce high-quality recycled plastics, while reducing post-consumer waste and reducing the use of valuable raw materials at the same time."

As MRC informed earlier, Styrenics Circular Solutions (SCS), a value chain initiative to increase the circularity of styrenics, announced that it has successfully demonstrated that polystyrene (PS) is mechanically recyclable to food contact standards.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated consumption of PS and styrene plastics totalled 362,820 tonnes in the first nine months of 2020, down by 1% year on year. September total estimated PS consumption in Russia was 48,690 tonnes, up by 13% year on year.

Koppers stock up on Q3 earnings and revenue beat

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Koppers Holdings Inc.’s KOP shares rose after the company came up with its third-quarter 2020 results, wherein both earnings and revenues surpassed the respective Zacks Consensus Estimate and also grew on a year-over-year basis, reported YahooFinance.

The Pennsylvania-based company also raised its earnings outlook for 2020. Its shares popped 5.8% last Thursday on forecast-topping results and upbeat earnings outlook.

Koppers logged profits (attributable to the company) of USD75.6 million or USD3.53 per share for the third quarter, up from a profit of US19.9 million or 94 cents a year ago.

Barring one-time items, earnings were USD1.64 per share for the quarter, up from USD1.16 per share a year ago. Earnings topped the Zacks Consensus Estimate of USD1.29.

Koppers recorded revenues of USD437.5 million for the quarter, up 0.8% year over year. It also surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of USD425.8 million. Sales were driven by favorable impacts of currency swings.

Sales from the Railroad and Utility Products and Services segment went down around 4% year over year to USD191 million in the reported quarter. The decline was due to decreased volumes in the commercial crosstie market, offset by improved demand for utility poles in Australia and crosstie disposal services in the United States.

The Performance Chemicals unit recorded sales of US147.9 million in the quarter, up around 19% year over year. Sales were driven by sustained demand for copper-based preservatives in the United States and pent-up demand in international markets.

Sales from the Carbon Materials and Chemicals division fell around 12% year over year to USD98.6 million. Sales were impacted by reduced prices for carbon pitch and phthalic anhydride and lower demand for carbon black feedstock globally.

Koppers ended the quarter with cash and cash equivalents of USD39.5 million, down around 3% year over year. Long-term debt was USD796.1 million, down around 16% year over year.

Koppers envisions sales for 2020 to be roughly USD1.6 billion. The company also expects adjusted EBITDA to be in the band of USD204-USD210 million for the year, higher than its earlier view of USD196-USD204 million. Moreover, Koppers sees adjusted earnings per share for 2020 in the band of USD3.65-USD3.90, also up from its prior expectation of USD3.25-USD3.50.

The company also expects investments of $55-$60 million in capital expenditures this year, mainly associated with improving safety and reliability of its existing infrastructure. It also plans to cut debt by around USD125 million in 2020.

As MRC reported earlier, Koppers has restarted its phthalic anhydride (PA) unit following a maintenance turnaround. The company resumed operations at the unit on October 10, 2019. The unit remained under maintenance for about 40 days. Located in Stickney, Illinois, USA, the unit has a production capacity of 100,000 mt/year.

Phthalic anhydride is widely used in for the production of paints and varnishes and plasticizers for PVC products. In a small amount it is used in the manufacture of rubber products, tires. In addition, it is used in the light, pharmaceutical and electrical industries.

According to MRC's DataScope report, imports of suspension polyvinyl chloride (SPVC) into Russia totalled 38,500 tonnes in the first ten months of 2020, down by 16% year on year. At the same time, exports decrease by 1%.

Sasol lifts force majeure declaration on LLDPE, HDPE at Lake Charles facility: company

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Petrochemical producer Sasol has lifted its force majeure declaration on linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) at its Lake Charles, Louisiana, complex, Sasol spokeswoman Kim Cusimano said Nov. 25, reported S&P Global.

Sasol previously declared force majeure on Aug. 31 on all North American polyethylene, including all LLDPE and HDPE grades.

The force majeure was in response to the landfall of Hurricane Laura, which struck the Lake Charles, Louisiana, area on Aug. 27, resulting in widespread power outages.

Sasol's LLDPE capacity is 471,000 mt/year, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics data.

In recent months, HDPE has been tight for blowmolding and injection but readily available for film. Meanwhile, LLDPE has been somehow tight as sources note limited availability for exports.

As MRC informed before, Sasol's low density polyethylene (LDPE) plant reached beneficial operation on 15 November 2020. The LDPE unit is the seventh and final Lake Charles Chemicals Complex unit to come online. The LCCP is now 100% complete with total capital expenditure forecast to be within the previously communicated guidance of USD12,8 billion.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 1,594,510 tonnes in the first nine months of 2020, up by 1% year on year. Only high denstiy polyethylene (HDPE) shipments increased.

Sasol is an international integrated chemicals and energy company that leverages technologies and the expertise of our 31 270 people working in 32 countries. The company develops and commercialises technologies, and builds and operates world-scale facilities to produce a range of high-value product stream, including liquid fuels, petrochemicals and low-carbon electricity.