Clariant signs catalysis research partnership with prestigious university

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Clariant, a focused, sustainable and innovative specialty chemical company, has signed a cooperation agreement with ETH Zurich to support research in catalysis and sustainable chemistry with a significant financial contribution over an initial period of ten years, according to Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The goal of the partnership is, firstly, to advance the understanding of catalyst properties - from nano- to macroscale – and their performance. Secondly, together with the ETH Foundation, Clariant will sponsor and collaborate in fundamental chemical research projects, promoting talented ETH scientists and students.

Hans Bohnen, member of Clariant’s Executive Committee, commented, “We are honored to announce our research agreement with the prestigious ETH Zurich. The partnership, like those with other academic institutions, underscores our commitment to fostering innovation and R&D to develop groundbreaking products and solutions that add value to people, industries, and the environment.”

Marvin Estenfelder, Head of R&D at Clariant Catalysts, added “There is no better way to develop the next generation of products than through a continuous exchange of ideas with future generations of scientists. We look forward to realizing many successful projects with ETH Zurich.”

Detlef Guenther, Vice President for Research of ETH Zurich, stated, “The new research collaboration with Clariant opens great opportunities for our scientists and students to expand their knowledge in catalysis, and benefit from first-hand expertise in the industrial application of novel technologies.”

ETH (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich) is one of the world’s leading universities, currently recognized as the sixth best by QS World University Rankings. Founded in 1855, the university has a strong tradition in science and technology, which is reflected in its affiliation with 21 past Nobel Prize winners, including Albert Einstein. At the forefront of catalysis research, the cutting-edge methods and materials developed by ETH have provided deep insights into previously undiscovered aspects of catalysis.

Clariant’s research cooperation with ETH Zurich is another important milestone for the company, further expanding its partnerships with prominent global academic institutions, which already include the Technical University of Munich, Germany, and Tianjin University, China.

As MRC informed earlier, in October 2020, Clariant (Muttenz, Switzerland) announced the construction of a new state-of-the-art catalyst production site in China. This project represents a significant investment which further strengthens Clariant’s position in China and enhances its ability to support its customers in the country’s thriving petrochemicals industry.

The new facility will be primarily responsible for producing the Catofin catalyst for propane dehydrogenation, which is used in the production of olefins such as propylene. Thanks to its excellent reliability and productivity, Catofin delivers superior annual production output compared to alternative technologies, resulting in increased overall profitability for propylene producers, says the company. Construction at the Dushan Port Economic Development Zone in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province was scheduled to commence in Q3 2020, and Clariant expects to be at full production capacity by 2022.

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, excluding producers' inventories as of 1 January, 2020).

Clariant AG is a Swiss chemical company and a world leader in the production of specialty chemicals for the textile, printing, mining and metallurgical industries. It is engaged in processing crude oil products in pigments, plastics and paints.

Improved margins, volumes lift petchem earnings at PKN Orlen

MOSCOW (MRC) -- PKN Orlen (Plock, Poland), the country’s largest petrochemicals producer, says higher margins and sales volumes boosted fourth-quarter EBITDA in its petchems business to 508 million zloty (USD137 million), up 187% year on year (YOY), reported Chemweek.

Improved petchem margins compared to the prior-year period were enhanced by sales volumes in the quarter that rose 17% YOY to 1.4 million metric tons, according to the refining and energy group. Sales volumes for polyolefins rose 47% YOY, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) volumes soared by 115%, purified terephthalic acid (PTA) rose 15%, and fertilizers increased 12%, while olefins sales were broadly flat, it says.

Sales in Poland rose 13% YOY on higher sales of ethylene, PTA, fertilizers, and PVC, while sales in the Czech Republic increased 22% YOY, driven by higher sales of polyethylene (PE) - following the startup of PKN’s new 270,000-metric tons/year PE3 production unit at Litvinov, Czech Republic - polypropylene (PP), and PVC. Sales at PKN’s subsidiary Orlen Lietuva (Mazeikiu, Lithuania) grew 200% YOY on higher volumes of propylene sold to external customers, it says.

PKN’s refining segment reported a net EBITDA loss of Zl145 million for the fourth quarter due to adverse macroeconomic conditions, contracting margins, and negative currency effects.

As MRC informed earlier, the only Czech refinery and major petrochemical producer Unipetrol was renamed Orlen Unipetrol from 1 January, 2021. Unipetrol is 100% owned by the Orlen Group.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 2,220,640 tonnes in 2020, up by 2% year on year. Only shipments of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) increased. At the same time, polypropylene (PP) shipments to the Russian market reached 1 240,000 tonnes in 2020 (calculated using the formula: production, minus exports, plus imports, excluding producers' inventories as of 1 January, 2020).

Total rebrands in pivot away from oil

MOSCOW (MRC) -- France's Total posted better than expected earnings in the fourth quarter as oil prices stabilized, and said it would change its name as part of a push to diversify and grow renewable power and electricity production, reported Reuters.

The French oil and gas major, which like rivals suffered in 2020 as fuel consumption tumbled during the pandemic, said it would rebrand as TotalEnergies as it tries over the next decade to reduce oil products to a third of its sales from over half now.

The company plunged to a USD7.2 billion net loss for 2020 as a whole, hit by around USD10 billion of impairments as oil prices collapsed. But it had already recorded most of the charges, including some linked to write downs on its Canadian oil sands assets, in the first half of last year and on an adjusted basis, net income came in at USD4.06 billion for the year.

Earnings fell less sharply in the fourth quarter than in the previous three months. Adjusted net income, which strips out some one off items, was down 59% from the year earlier period to USD1.3 billion, beating analysts' expectations, and in contrast with some peers including Shell.

"Overall a rock steady performance in a tough quarter and year," analysts at Bernstein said in a note, adding that cash flow levels were strong.

Total shares were up 1.2% by 1055 GMT.

Chairman and Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne said the company's rebranding reflected a bid to move as fast as possible as it tries to improve on its environmental goals.

"By proposing this name change to shareholders, we're also fundamentally asking them to approve this change in strategy," Pouyanne told reporters.

The group said it has already spent more than USD2 billion on acquisitions in the renewables sector this year, and planned to spend 20% of its investment budget for 2021 on this drive, up from around 15% in 2020.

Total will have some USD5 billion of investments to finance overall in the renewables segment this year, with a mixture of debt and capital, Pouyanne said, and some USD60 billion by 2030.

Total said the oil market outlook remained uncertain, and it would target another USD500 million in cost cuts in 2021, after saving USD1.1 billion last year.

It is targeting USD12 billion in net investments overall this year, down from USD13 billion last year.

Total forecast a 10% improvement in sales of liquefied natural gas this year, in part thanks to a ramp up of operations at the Cameron LNG export plant in the United States.

It also on Tuesday signed a fiscal stability agreement with Papua New Guinea which could pave the way for work to begin on a long-stalled LNG project in the country.

Total said it would propose a dividend payout of 0.66 euros per share for the October to December period, in line with previous quarters in 2020.

As MRC wrote earlier, within the framework of its net zero strategy, Total will convert its Grandpuits refinery (Seine-et-Marne) into a zero-crude platform and will invest more then EUR500 mln into this project. By 2024 the platform will focus on four new industrial activities: production of renewable diesel primarily intended for the aviation industry, production of bioplastics, plastics recycling and operation of two photovoltaic solar power plants.

We remind that in November 2019, Total disclosed that itis evaluating construction of a new gas cracker at its Deasan, South Korea, joint venture (JV) with Hanwha Chemical.

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

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 2,220,640 tonnes in 2020, up by 2% year on year. Only shipments of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) increased. At the same time, polypropylene (PP) shipments to the Russian market reached 1 240,000 tonnes in 2020 (calculated using the formula: production, minus exports, plus imports, excluding producers' inventories as of 1 January, 2020).

Total S.A. is a French multinational oil and gas company and one of the six "Supermajor" oil companies in the world with business in Europe, the United States, the Middle East and Asia. The company's petrochemical products cover two main groups: base chemicals and the consumer polymers (polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene) that are derived from them.

Toyo and Velocys partner to produce renewable fuels

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Velocys plc (VLS.L), the sustainable fuels technology company, has announce the signing of a collaboration agreement with Toyo Engineering Corporation (Toyo) to start the development of their commercial projects to produce Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and other renewable fuels in Japan, according to Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The agreement follows on from the successful work already conducted in 2020 between Velocys and Toyo at the biomass-to-jet-fuel demonstration facility in Japan. This included the provision of technical engineering and operational services, as well as the completed construction and delivery of Velocys’ Fischer-Tropsch (FT) technology.

As part of this new collaboration the parties have engaged in the preliminary engineering evaluation of the FT island in a joint effort to deliver a commercial scale biomass-to-jet fuel project in Japan.

As previously announced, Velocys will grant an exclusive right for Toyo to secure and use the licence and technical services of the Velocys FT Technology for the commercial plant in Japan. An advance deposit of USD4 million was received in 2019 of which USD3.5 million remains in escrow, which will be offset against future revenues.

In addition, the collaboration will extend to include the supply of the Velocys FT technology in other SAF, e-Fuels and biomass-to-liquids projects in the Japanese market. This will be led by Toyo, including other partners introduced by Toyo. Subsequent project execution for SAF, e-Fuels and other renewable fuel projects will be delivered by Toyo and their partners, potentially in Japan and other regions, with Velocys providing technical engineering and operational services around the FT technology.

Henrik Wareborn, CEO of Velocys, said: “Velocys has a long-standing relationship with Toyo Engineering and today’s collaboration agreement further supports this commitment. It indicates that Velocys is now firmly in the phase of delivering our commercial scale technology to our clients’ commercial projects. Making our first steps into commercial delivery in the Japanese market strengthens our position in an additional geography to North America and Europe.

“Our clients recognise the importance of our here-and-now technology solution for commercial scale projects, not only greatly reducing Scope 3 life-cycle carbon emissions but also resulting in synthetic fuels with air quality advantages over conventional fuels. We look forward to working with Toyo and their partners to enable the supply of modern low greenhouse-gas synthetic fuels to the Japanese market.

“Whilst there is no immediate material impact on revenue, we are delighted that the collaboration provides a pathway to commercialisation in Japan.”

Haruo Nagamatsu, CEO of Toyo, said: “After the successful collaboration with the demonstration plant in Japan, we are pleased to be moving onto the next stage of the plan. The commercial deployment of the integrated technology that has been demonstrated during 2020, including the Velocys FT Technology, is now underway with the first stages of the engineering designs. We are pleased to be working with Velocys and their technical team and look forward to continuing our relationship.”

As MRC informed before, in late 2020, Agilyx Corp., Tigard, Oregon, and Toyo Styrene Co. Ltd., a Toyko-based affiliate of Denka Co. Ltd., announced they were 30% complete with the final phase of developing the front-end loading design to deploy Agilyx's technology near Toyo Styrene’s facility in the Chiba prefecture of Japan. According to a news release from Agilyx, the facility will focus on recycling postuse polystyrene (PS) plastic back to a styrene monomer. In April, 2020, Agilyx had announced the licensing of its technology to Toyo Styrene.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated consumption of PS and styrene plastics totalled 520,630 tonnes in 2020, which corresponded to the same figure a year earlier. December estimated consumption of PS and styrene plastics grew by 5% year on year to 47,490 tonnes.

Bain, Cinven to acquire Lonza specialty ingredients business for USD4.7 billion

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Lonza says it has reached an agreement with a consortium of private equity firms Bain Capital and Cinven for the previously announced sale of the Lonza Specialty Ingredients (LSI) business and operations, for an enterprise value of 4.2 billion Swiss francs (USD4.7 billion), said Chemweek.

The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2021, subject to customary closing conditions, Lonza says.
Lonza's plans to carve out LSI were first announced in June 2019. The company started to look for potential buyers in July last year and since October 2020 reports emerged of a potential sale of LSI to Bain and Cinven, or other financial and industry firms.

Bain and Cinven say they intend to collaborate closely with Lonza going forward, as well as with employee representative bodies in Switzerland and across the group. “Bain Capital and Cinven have shown they understand the value of the experience and expertise of our specialty ingredients employees. They presented the most compelling industrial strategy and vision for the business, they are also keen to prioritize R&D and innovation, as well as to invest in existing facilities to unlock the potential of the business," says Albert Baehny, chairman of Lonza.

LSI is one of two segments within Lonza. The other is pharma, biotech, and nutrition. The LSI business is a provider of microbial control solutions for professional hygiene and personal care products that operates across 17 manufacturing sites worldwide and has approximately 2,800 permanent employees. LSI was reported as discontinued operations in Lonza’s 2020 results. The segment’s sales declined 2.1% to SFr1.68 billion in 2020.

Baehny says that selling the LSI business “will allow Lonza to focus on its position as a leading partner to the healthcare industry, and the free cash flows resulting from the sale will allow us to accelerate our strategic priorities."

According to David Danon, managing director at Bain, “LSI has multiple attractive growth opportunities as the leading global player in the growing market for microbial control. Our strategy is to reinforce the company’s market position, to accelerate growth through further investment in R&D and innovation, and to use LSI as a platform for further industry consolidation, in line with Bain Capital’s and Cinven’s strategies in other sectors."

Bain owns chemical companies Diversey (Fort Mill, South Carolina) and Italmatch (Genoa, Italy), and in the past it owned Brenntag and Trinseo. Cinven has a majority stake in chemical distributor Barentz International (Hoofddorp, Netherlands), owns the construction chemicals firm Chryso (Daventry, UK), and in the past bought and sold the advanced ceramic business CeramTec (Plochingen, Germany) and the plastic packaging manufacturer Kloeckner Pentaplast (Luxembourg).

Bain says that advisors to the consortium include Kirkland & Ellis, Freshfields, Lenz & Staehelin, Ernst & Young, Boston Consulting Group, Alvarez & Marsal, ERM, Nexant, The Valence Group, Opus Corporate Finance, and Trumont International (London, UK).

As per MRC, Lonza said it is making a “significant” investment to expand particle-engineering and drug-product capabilities at its Bend, Oregon, site with a total of 11 new suites, to meet increased market demand.

We remind that in 2012, Lonza set up a task force to look at new supply routes and vendors to feed its cracker in Visp, Switzerland, following the shutdown of Petroplus’ refinery at Cressier in January, 2012. Lonza’s cracker has an ethylene capacity of 25,000 tonnes/year.

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

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 2,220,640 tonnes in 2020, up by 2% year on year. Only shipments of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) increased. At the same time, polypropylene (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).