Lukoil eyes investment decisions on petchems project due in 2021

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Russian energy major Lukoil (Moscow) is studying several potential petrochemical projects in Russia and Bulgaria, with investment decisions expected to be made on two of them in 2021, reported Chemweek.

Lukoil has signaled its intention previously to further diversify towards petrochemicals, with the company “still analyzing potential projects in the petrochemical industry,” says Lukoil’s Pavel Zhdanov, vice president/finance. “We have two projects for polypropylene (PP) production, at Nizhny Novgorod refinery (Kstovo, Russia) and at the Burgas refinery in Bulgaria,” says Zhdanov, speaking on 25 November during a briefing with analysts about the company’s third quarter results.

“As we mentioned on numerous occasions, Lukoil has a number of competitive advantages. We have experience in implementing major complex projects, we have a feedstock, and we can benefit from the infrastructure of the refineries to which these projects could be attached,” he says. “However, we’re still analyzing the risks and opportunities related to those rather long-haul projects.” Asked when an investment decision is likely to be made, Zhdanov said Lukoil is “expecting to have that decision next year.”

Lukoil announced an investment decision in June last year to proceed with a 500,000-metric tons/year PP plant at its Kstovo refinery. In September this year it selected Lummus Technology’s Novolen PP technology and basic design engineering for the facility’s production unit. Kstovo is one of Lukoil’s largest crude refineries in Russia with a throughput of 17 million metric tons/year, with the company recently adding a catalytic cracking unit that almost doubled the refinery’s production of propylene feedstock to 300,000 metric tons/year.

At Budennovsk in Russia’s far south west, the company’s Stavrolen petchems complex currently has the capacity to produce 350,000 metric tons/year of ethylene, 300,000 metric tons of polyethylene (PE), 120,000 metric tons/year of PP, and 80,000 metric tons of benzene. Lukoil has for several years been considering construction of a new gas chemicals plant at Stavrolen to crack more ethane extracted from associated petroleum gas produced by its oil and gas fields in the north of the Caspian Sea. The potential new plant would raise Stavrolen’s ethylene and PE output to around 600,000 metric tons/year each, and increase PP production to 200,000 metric tons/year.

Lukoil’s Neftohim Burgas refinery in Bulgaria, meanwhile, has a PP production capacity of 80,000 metric tons/year. Lukoil has been reported by local media as considering plans to raise its PP production capacity in Bulgaria to around 150,000 metric tons/year, with pre-front end engineering and design studies undertaken.

Lukoil produced 1.138 million metric tons of petrochemicals in 2019, with more than half produced at its Stavrolen complex.

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

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. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market reached 880,130 tonnes in the nine months of 2020 (calculated using the formula: production minus exports plus imports, excluding producers' inventories as of 1 January, 2020). Supply increased exclusively of PP random copolymer.

Lukoil is one of the leading vertically integrated oil companies in Russia. The main activities of the company include exploration and production of oil and gas, production and sale of petroleum products. Lukoil is the second largest privately-owned oil company in the world in terms of proven hydrocarbon reserves. Lukoil's production capacities include polyethylene polypropylene. The structure of Lukoil includes one of the largest petrochemical plant in Russia - Stavrolen.

Flugger to acquire 70% of Sweden-based paints manufacturer

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Flugger (Rodovre, Denmark) says it has agreed to buy 70% of Eskaro Group (Gothenburg, Sweden), a company that makes paint and related products with operations in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, and Finland, said Chemweek.

The acquisition is awaiting approval by the competition authorities, which is expected to be granted in early 2021, the company says. Flugger has five factories across three countries, producing tools, paint, and designer wallpaper, and it owns 60% of the almost 400 stores in a retail chain in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and China that markets these products.

Flugger will own 70% of Eskaro, following the completion of the acquisition and the remaining 30% will be owned by Eskaro’s co-founder Igor Chumakov, the company says. Chumankov will be in charge of Eskaro’s day-to-day operation and management, and develop the company’s short- and long-term business plans in cooperation with Flugger’s management, it says.

"Eskaro has created a solid platform in Eastern Europe, which we believe has potential for further profitable growth. The company has grown by 15% annually since 2016, and we expect to be able to utilize significant synergies between Flugger and Eskaro over the coming years. With the acquisition of the Polish company Unicell in November 2019, we significantly strengthened our position in the Polish DIY market, and now we’re doing the same in large parts of Eastern Europe with the acquisition of Eskaro, which has a leading position in water-based decorative paints," says Jimmi Mortensen, CEO of Flugger.

Eskaro employs about 1,100 people and generates annual revenue of approximately 420.0 million Danish krone (USD67.2 million), Flugger says. Eskaro operates six factories across Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, and Finland that produce in total more than 30 million liters/year of paint, varnish, and primer, the company says. Eskaro expects 2020 EBIT of DKr27 million, an EBIT margin of 6.5%, and EBITDA of DKr40 million with an EBITDA margin of 9.5%.

The acquisition is also in line with Flugger’s strategy, Going Green, “where we see further growth potential in Eastern Europe and seek to expand Flugger group’s presence in Eastern Europe,” Mortensen says. It brings Flugger closer to achieving its 2023-24 financial targets of revenue above DKr2.5 billion and EBIT of more than 8%, he says.

As MRC informed earlier, Russia's output of chemical products rose in October 2020 by 7.2% year on year. At the same time, production of basic chemicals grew in the first ten months of 2020 by 6.3% year on year. According to the Federal State Statistics Service of the Russian Federation, polymers in primary form accounted for the greatest increase in the January-October output.

SABIC introduces new LEXAN anti-fog film for clear safety visors, lenses and goggles in high-humidity front-line work environments

MOSCOW (MRC) -- SABIC, a global leader in the chemical industry, has announced the successful commercialization of LEXAN HP92AF Anti-Fog film, targeted especially at demanding COVID-19 protection equipment such as safety face shields and goggles in front-line work environments, as per the company's press release.

The film product features a one-sided coating that extends the time-to-fog even at very high ambient humidity, ensuring long-lasting optical clarity. LEXAN HP92AF has confirmed its superior anti-fog performance in extensive testing under harshest conditions (see video) and does not exhibit any hazing at saturation as could be observed with competitive materials. Moreover, the anti-fog coating technology has no compromising effect on the abrasion resistance and impact strength of the polycarbonate (PC) film.

“We have identified a gap in the market when it comes to the effective protection of front-line workers against the COVID-19 pathogen. Particularly in work environments subjected to sudden temperature changes and high humidity, visors and safety goggles often fail to provide adequate long-term anti-fog performance. As a result, they may not be worn as required or must be taken off for frequent wiping,” says Ahmet Kizilirmakli, Senior Business Manager Americas, SABIC. “Our new LEXAN HP92AF Anti-Fog film offers the solution many companies have been looking for. Combining the characteristics of excellent optical quality, high impact strength of polycarbonate with our advanced anti-fog technology, makes the product the ultimate choice for face shields and other clear view personal protection equipment with long-lasting optical clarity in these environments.”

LEXAN HP92AF Anti-Fog film has already proven its excellent optical performance in several pilot applications for healthcare facilities and meat packing plants, where high humidity and temperature fluctuations can occur especially in transition zones between controlled and uncontrolled work climate. Next to visors, facemasks and safety goggles, further targeted applications include motorcycle visors, ski goggles, automotive cluster lenses, medical instrument lenses and displays as well as industrial lenses.

SABIC’s new anti-fog film product shows excellent die cutting and printability. The anti-fog film is thermoformable and withstands repeated cleaning, preferably using lukewarm, mild soap solutions or common glass cleaners. With a width of 48 inches (1,220 mm), LEXAN HP92AF Anti-Fog film is globally available in a wide range of gauges from 7 to 30 mil (175 to 750 µm).

“The rapid commercialization of LEXAN HP92AF Anti-Fog film underscores our commitment to helping our customers enhance the protection of front-line workers against COVID-19”, adds Mark Troszak, Film Segment Leader at SABIC. “In high-humidity environments and wherever else the time-to-fog makes a difference, this product can ensure optimum optical clarity over extended time periods, allowing the users of face shields and other transparent safety equipment to concentrate on their jobs in the safest way without being impaired by fogging.”

In addition, Troszak points out that SABIC has the capability to satisfy customer specific requirements by adapting this technology to other existing LEXAN coated film solutions.

As MRC reported earlier, responding to calls from major brands in the consumer electronics business and electrics and electronics (E&E) industry as a whole for more sustainable materials, SABIC has announced that its engineering thermoplastics business is expanding its portfolio of CYCOLOY and LEXAN resins containing high levels of post-consumer recycled material (PCR). Typical applications for the portfolio will include consumer electronics and accessories such as chargers and adapters, printers, copiers and laptop housing.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated consumption of PC granules (excluding imports and exports to/from Belarus) rose in the first three quarters of 2020 by 32% year on year to 75,600 tonnes (57,200 tonnes a year earlier).

Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic) ranks among the world's top petrochemical companies. The company is among the world's market leaders in the production of polyethylene, polypropylene and other advanced thermoplastics, glycols, methanol and fertilizers.

Indonesia says B40 biodiesel program unlikely to proceed next year

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Indonesia is unlikely to proceed with plans to raise the bio-content of its palm oil-based biodiesel to 40% next year as it struggles to fund the program, an energy ministry official told parliament, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

Instead, the Southeast Asian country will retain its biodiesel B30 program which makes it compulsory for diesel in Indonesia to be blended with 30% fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) made out of palm oil next year, Dadan Kusdiana, the director general of the country's energy ministry, said. "B40 is not ready," Dadan said, referring to the biodiesel program containing 40% bio-content and adding that Indonesia had allocated 9.2 million kilolitres of FAME to be used next year.

"Supporting B30 is now very challenging from the funding side, so we see that B40 will be more difficult," he added. Indonesia collects levies to help finance its palm oil programs, including biodiesel subsidies and replanting programs for smallholders.

Other than a higher percentage of bio-content, the B40 program will also be produced using a different formulation, combining 30% FAME and 10% "green diesel" made out of palm oil with conventional diesel. Dadan said that the ministry is still conducting trials for the new blend.

Although biodiesel promises lower emissions, the use of palm oil as a feedstock raises concern about deforestation in the clearance of land to grow it. The European Union is planning to phase it out as fuel for transport, creating trade friction with Indonesia, the world's biggest producer of palm oil.

As MRC informed earlier, European and U.S. oil refineries face a wave of closures due to plateauing fuel demand, tightening environmental rules and overseas competition, prompting some owners to opt for an easier alternative - converting plants to produce biofuels.

As MRC informed earlier, Russia's output of chemical products rose in October 2020 by 7.2% year on year. At the same time, production of basic chemicals grew in the first ten months of 2020 by 6.3% year on year. According to the Federal State Statistics Service of the Russian Federation, polymers in primary form accounted for the greatest increase in the January-October output.

Formosa Taiwan unit indefinitely delays USD9.4 billion Louisiana petrochemical complex

MOSCOW (MRC) -- FG LA, a division of Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group, has indefinitely suspended construction on a USD9.4 billion petrochemical complex in Louisiana until the global coronavirus pandemic subsides and/or a vaccine is widely available, reporte S&P Global with reference to a spokeswoman's statement Nov. 23.

"The widespread impacts of a global pandemic, including the challenge it creates in evaluating construction costs and the restrictions it has placed on international travel, are being felt across all industries and businesses, including FG," said Janile Parks, director of community and government relations, said in an email. "As a result, FG has deferred major construction until the pandemic has subsided and/or an effective vaccine is widely available."

Work on multiple major petrochemical projects in the US was temporarily suspended or slowed in April and May, during the height of pandemic-related shutdowns that stymied construction activity. Startup dates were pushed back as much as a year for some projects, while others saw delays of a quarter or more.

But FG LA's deferral of a final investment decision on what the company has dubbed the "Sunshine Project" project marks the first indefinite delay of a major project because of pandemic fallout.

The announcement came after the US Army Corps of Engineers earlier in November suspended a key permit issued for the project in 2019, according to federal court filings. The Corps of Engineers informed the company of the permit suspension Nov. 10, pending a reevaluation.

On Nov. 20, FG LA said in a statement that the Corps told the company that some activity related to the project could resume despite the permit suspension, such as relocation of a local water line and highway improvements.

"FG will continue to comply with all notices and guidance from the Corps during the permit suspension and re-evaluation process," the company said.

The permit suspension emerged in a federal lawsuit filed against the Corps in January by the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups. The lawsuit alleges that the Corps issued a permit in September 2019 allowing dredge and fill activity without fully examining environmental fallout from wetland destruction and discharge of pollutants from the complex.

The Corps did not prepare an environmental impact statement and issued the permit based on an inadequate environmental assessment that "failed to take the legally required 'hard look' at the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of the Corps' decision to authorize the construction of the plastics facility and failed to analyze a reasonable range of alternatives to that decision," the lawsuit said.

The case had been headed for summary judgment, where a judge issues a decision without a trial, when the Corps Nov. 4 asked for a stay until the agency could notify FG LA of its intent to suspend the permit pending re-evaluation of alternatives analysis under Clean Water Act provisions.

The Corps told the company that any work authorized by the permit had to cease pending results of the re-evaluation, which would include a decision "either to reinstate, modify or revoke" it, according to a Corps letter to the company dated Nov. 10 included in the Nov. 13 filing.

In March, FG LA suspended major construction activity at the complex because of coronavirus pandemic concerns, to reduce the number of workers on site.

By May, the company had resumed work on a rail line and re-opened the site's office, but more substantive work remained on hold pending the final investment decision expected in the second half of 2020.

The first of the Sunshine Project phase, originally targeted for a 2024 startup, includes a 1.2 million mt/year ethane-fed cracker, a 600,000 propane dehydrogenation plant, a 600,000 mt/year polypropylene unit, linear-low-density (LLDPE) and high-density polyethylene (HPE) plants with capacities of 400,000 mt/year each, and a 900,000 mt/year ethylene glycol unit.

The second phase, originally targeted for startup by 2029, includes a 1.2 million mt/year cracker, LLDPE and HDPE plants with capacities of 400,000 mt/year each, and a second 900,000 mt/year ethylene glycol unit.

Permitting documents showed the EG plants will make monoethylene glycol, diethylene glycol, and polyethylene glycol.

As MRC informed before, Formosa Plastics USA, part of Formosa Petrochemical, has left a force majeure on polyvinyl chloride (PVC) supplies from its Texas and Louisiana plants in force as of 9 November. The force majeure circumstanses were announced in mid-August, 2020, due to difficulties to produce the product amid upstream steam cracker problems.

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

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. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market reached 880,130 tonnes in the nine months of 2020 (calculated using the formula: production minus exports plus imports, exluding producers" inventories as of 1 January, 2020). Supply increased exclusively of PP random copolymer.

Formosa Petrochemical is involved primarily in the business of refining crude oil, selling refined petroleum products and producing and selling olefins (including ethylene, propylene, butadiene and BTX) from its naphtha cracking operations. Formosa Petrochemical is also the largest olefins producer in Taiwan and its olefins products are mostly sold to companies within the Formosa Group. Among the company's chemical products are paraxylene (PX), phenyl ethylene, acetone and pure terephthalic acid (PTA). The company"s plastic products include acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) resins, polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP) and panlite (PC).