Sipchem turnarounds for polymer, ethyl acetate plants in Saudi Arabia

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Sahara International Petrochemical (Sipchem) has announced a scheduled turnaround at its polymers plant, International Polymers (IPC) and its ethyl acetate plant, Sipchem Chemicals (SCC), said Chemweek.

The turnaround at IPC began on 1 February and is expected to last for six days. IPC produces 200,000 t/yr of polypropylene (PP) and low-density polyethylene (LDPE) each.

The turnaround at SCC, which is conducted on its 100,000 t/yr ethyl/butyl acetate swing unit, also began on 1 February and is expected to last for 16 days.

Sipchem, a producer of methanol, polymers, and acetic acid, in 2019 merged its operations with fellow Saudi Arabia-based Sahara Petrochemicals, a supplier of PP. Since the merger, Sipchem has begun to operate a 468,000 t/yr propane dehydrogenation unit.

As per MRC, Sahara International Petrochemical Co. (Sipchem) is planning to mothball the Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT) plant, owned by its affiliate, Sipchem Chemical Co., and Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) Film plant that is owned by affiliate firm, Saudi Specialized Products Co. Steps to implement the decision are underway, Sipchem said in a statement to Tadawul, adding that the suspension of both plants will start on Jan. 1, 2021, until further notice. The company expects a positive financial impact starting from Q1 2021 results.

As per MRC ScanPlast, November imports of other ethylene polymers, including ethylene-vinyl-acetate (EVA), were 9,100 tonnes, compared to 10,100 tonnes in October. Overall imports of other ethylene polymers reached 90,200 tonnes over the stated period versus 85,200 tonnes a year earlier.

Rohm schedules September turnaround for plant at Worms, Germany

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Rohm (Darmstadt, Germany) says it will carry out a scheduled turnaround in September 2021 of its methacrylate monomers plant at Worms, Germany, said Chemweek.

No specific date or duration for the planned maintenance program has been given.

The company announced in early January a series of scheduled shutdowns for four of its methyl methacrylate (MMA) and methacrylate monomer facilities in the first half of 2021, including one planned for 10–22 March also at its Worms plant. The other plants planned for turnaround in the first six months of the year are in Wesseling, Germany; Shanghai, China; and Fortier, Louisiana.

As per MRC, Rohm (Darmstadt, Germany) has put methyl methacrylate (MMA) and all its other methacrylate monomer products in Europe on sales control with immediate effect. The sales control measure has been imposed due to a shortage of raw material, it says. The company has also separately announced it will carry out planned maintenance on four of its MMA and methacrylate production facilities in Germany, China, and the US in the first half of 2021.

In October 2020 Rohm lifted sales control in Europe for MMA after resuming production following annual maintenance at its Worms plant, having imposed it mid-September due to increased demand and limited availability of raw materials. The Worms plant has a production capacity of 225,000 metric tons/year of MMA, while the Wesseling facility has a nameplate capacity of 95,000 metric tons/year of MMA.

According to MRC's DataScope report, last month's SPVC imports to Russia dropped to 0,600 tonnes from 1,600 tonnes in November. High PVC prices in foreign markets and a seasonal decline in demand in the last two months have put serious pressure on import purchases of PVC from Russian companies. Thus, overall imports were 40,800 tonnes in January-December 2020, compared to 50,900 tonnes a year earlier, with PVC from China and the United States accounting for the main reduction in imports. PVC shipments from these countries decreased by almost a third over the stated period.

Bayer sued by shareholders over Monsanto acquisition

MOSCOW (MRC) -- German law firms representing Bayer shareholders are suing the company for what it claims was a failure to warn shareholders adequately of the risks from pending lawsuits against Bayer’s acquisition target Monsanto, said Chemweek.

The share price of the Bayer group including the Crop Science and pharma divisions has almost halved since the takeover of Monsanto in June 2018 in the wake of lost lawsuits and mounting litigation against Monsanto for alleged health risks from the legacy business’s herbicide, Roundup (glyphosate). Bayer rejects the lawsuits as “unfounded”.

Business weekly WirtschaftsWoche reports that two firms are seeking compensation in a pilot lawsuit before a Cologne court on behalf of various investors.

They accuse the company of “breaches of duty under capital market law”, claiming that the “risks of the purchase were not adequately presented to the shareholders”. One of the firms believes that the case before the court could develop into a “model investor proceeding”, citing a previous trial involving the car manufacturer, Volkswagen (VW). “One lawsuit then becomes representative of all others negotiated.” That firm was reportedly involved in the VW proceedings. The second firm is representing shareholder Kingstown Capital Management, which seeks EUR37 million (USD45 million at the current rate) in compensation from Bayer, according to the WirtschaftsWoche report.

Bayer says that it will defend itself against what it perceives as unfounded allegations. "We believe that our company and its leaders have at all times acted in accordance with the obligations and applicable laws regarding the allegations made in the lawsuits, and that Bayer conducted appropriate due diligence regarding the acquisition process," it says. “This has also been confirmed by the studies of independent experts."

Bayer lost three cases brought against the legacy business, starting shortly after it had acquired Monsanto.

In August 2018, a California jury awarded a former school groundskeeper some USD279 million in a similar case. The state judge overseeing that trial reduced the award to some USD78 million. That case has gone to an appeal in which the plaintiff is seeking the reintroduction of the original penalty, while Bayer is counter-suing for the case to be dismissed. In March 2019, a federal jury convened by the US District Court for the Northern District of California awarded another California resident some USD80 million. The following July, a federal judge cut that award to just above USD25 million.

As of October last year, lawsuits from approximately 60,300 plaintiffs claiming to have been exposed to glyphosate-based products manufactured by Monsanto had been served upon the Bayer business in the US. Plaintiffs allege personal injuries resulting from exposure to those products, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and multiple myeloma, and seek compensatory and punitive damages. By the same date, nine Canadian lawsuits relating to Roundup seeking class action certification had been served against Bayer.

Bayer has moved to settle the bulk of outstanding lawsuits for some USD10.9 billion and that settlement is pending before US District Judge Vince Chhabria. The company reached a settlement deal in June 2020 involving most of the total approximately 125,000 known filed and unfiled claims, and to put in place a mechanism to resolve potential future claims. As of last October, the company had an agreement covering some 88,500 claimants with ongoing discussions over deals with thousands more.

As MRC informed earlier, Bayer’s supervisory board has announced the appointment of Sarena Lin to the company’s management board as chief transformation and talent officer, effective 1 February. She will be responsible for human resources, strategy, and business consulting and “drive the accelerated transformation of Bayer,” the company says. She will also serve as labor director. Lin will be based at Bayer’s Leverkusen, Germany, headquarters.

As MRC reported earlier, Covestro closed the sale of its European polycarbonates (PC) sheets business to the Munich-based Serafin Group effective January 2, 2020. This includes key management and sales functions throughout Europe as well as production sites in Belgium and Italy.

Covestro (formerly Bayer MaterialScience) is an independent subgroup within Bayer. It was created as part of the restructuring of Bayer AG from the former business group Bayer Polymers, with certain of its activities being spun off to Lanxess AG. Covestro manufactures and develops materials such as coatings, adhesives and sealants, polycarbonates (CDs, DVDs), polyurethanes (automotive seating, insulation for refrigerating appliances) etc.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated consumption of PC granules (excluding imports and exports to\from Belarus) rose in January-November 2020 by 18% year on year to 83,600 tonnes (70,600 tonnes a year earlier).

Evonik invests in German internet, big data start-up

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Evonik Industries says that its venture capital arm, Evonik Venture Capital, has invested in chembid (Oldenburg, Germany), an internet and big data start-up that has developed a search and market intelligence platform for chemicals, to strengthen the company’s e-commerce activities and online customer interactions, reported Chemweek.

The investment supports the development of an independent digital sales platform for the chemical industry, Evonik says. Financial terms have not been disclosed.

The start-up company has developed a meta-search engine that connects buyers with suppliers, and it provides a dashboard of market intelligence such as price trends and demand patterns by analyzing the search data with intelligent algorithms, Evonik says.

“As sales platforms gain traction in the chemical industry, it’s important to be a driver in the digital service space,” says Bernhard Mohr, head of Evonik Venture Capital. “A strong, comprehensive, and independent platform is desirable for the chemical industry as a whole. This investment supports that idea by accelerating the development of the industry’s biggest meta-search engine.”

Evonik says it will contribute to chembid the knowledge gained from developing and operating its OneTwoChem digital marketplace, and discontinue its own platform. Evonik is also enhancing chembid’s offerings by making its digital laboratory assistant, COATINO, available on the platform.

“Supporting the development of chembid is an intelligent way to develop our e-commerce activities further and reach a broader customer base,” says Henrik Hahn, chief digital officer at Evonik. “OneTwoChem taught us much about digital customer experience, which is the quality of the online interactions that a customer has with our brand.”

As MRC informed earlier, in February, 2020, Dow and Evonik entered into an exclusive technology partnership. Together, they plan to bring a unique method for directly synthesizing propylene glycol (PG) from propylene and hydrogen peroxide to market maturity.

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

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, PP shipments to the Russian market reached 1 240,000 tonnes in 2020 (calculated using the formula: production, minus exports, plus imports, exluding producers' inventories as of 1 January, 2020).

Evonik is one of the world leaders in specialty chemicals. The focus on more specialty businesses, customer-oriented innovative prowess and a trustful and performance-oriented corporate culture form the heart of Evonik’s corporate strategy. They are the lever for profitable growth and a sustained increase in the value of the company. Evonik benefits specifically from its customer proximity and leading market positions. Evonik is active in over 100 countries around the world with more than 36,000 employees.

S.Korean S-Oil expects 2021 refining margins to improve gradually

MOSCOW (MRC) -- South Korea's S-Oil Corp expects refining margins to improve gradually this year, boosted by a continuing recovery in demand as coronavirus vaccines are rolled out, amid limited capacity additions, reported The Economic Times.

The country's third-largest refiner, whose major shareholder is Saudi Aramco, on Thursday posted operating profit of 93 billion won (USD83.19 million) for the quarter to December, up from 9.5 billion in the corresponding year-ago period.

It was S-Oil's first operating profit since the fourth quarter of 2019.

The company's revenue in the fourth quarter was 4.3 trillion won, down 34 per cent from the previous year.

Full-year operating loss was 1.1 trillion won and revenue was 16.8 trillion won.

S-Oil, which has a 669,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery near Ulsan, operated its crude distillate units at 100.8 per cent on average in the fourth quarter, higher than 96.1 per cent for the entirety of 2020, according to the company's statement.

The company said its planned 2021 capital expenditure was 252 billion won, down from 397 billion won in 2020.

Shares of S-Oil closed down 0.9 per cent after the earnings announcement, while the wider market declined 1.7 per cent.

As MRC reported earlier, S-Oil, South Korean petrochemical major, took off-stream its residue fluid catalytic cracker (RFCC) unit for a turnaround in June, 2020. The company undertook a planned shutdown at the unit by early-July, 2020. The unit remained off-line for about two weeks. Located at Onsan, South Korea, the RFCC unit has a propylene capacity of 705,000 mt/year.

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

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, PP shipments to the Russian market reached 1 240,000 tonnes in 2020 (calculated using the formula: production, minus exports, plus imports, exluding producers' inventories as of 1 January, 2020).