LyondellBasell, Covestro declare force majeure on styrene from Maasvlakte POSM unit

MOSCOW (MRC) -- LyondellBasell and Covestro have declared force majeure on styrene supplies from their joint venture propylene oxide-styrene monomer (POSM) plant at Maasvlakte, Netherlands, reported Chemweek with reference to a customer notification.

“We regret to inform you that on 10 February 2021, a mechanical failure caused a shutdown of our POSM plant at Maasvlakte. Investigation on the root cause is in progress,” the producers say. “As a result, we are currently unable to meet our supply obligations for styrene monomer. Accordingly, we must declare a force majeure event per our agreement for the supply of styrene monomer, effective 11 February 2021,” the notification states.

The site at Maasvlakte produces 680,000 metric tons/year of styrene and 313,000 metric tons/year of propylene oxide (PO). Market sources suggested force majeure was also declared on PO supplies, but LyondellBasell did not comment on any such declaration at the plant.

“At Maasvlakte, we have safely contained the release. Cleanup efforts are in progress. I don’t have any other updates; as it is our company policy not to comment on our communication with our customers, I cannot answer your question,” a spokesperson said on Friday.

Operator LyondellBasell started up the POSM plant in 2003. LyondellBasell and Covestro each hold a 50% share in the JV facility.

OPIS is an IHS Markit company.

As MRC wrote previously, LyondellBasell (Houston, Texas), one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies in the world, reports fourth-quarter net income of USD855 million, up 40% year-over-year (YOY) from USD612 million on higher polyolefin volumes and margins. A USD147 million non-cash, lower-of-cost-or-market (LCM) inventory valuation benefit increased net income by USD119 million, or USD0.36 per share. Sales totaled USD7.937 billion, down 3.0% YOY from USD8.179 billion. Adjusted earnings per share of USD2.19 increased 15% YOY from USD1.91 and beat the consensus of USD1.31 as compiled by Zacks Investment Research.

Styrene is the main feedstock for the production of polystyrene (PS).

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated consumption ofPS 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.

LyondellBasell is one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies in the world. Driven by its employees around the globe, LyondellBasell produces materials and products that are key to advancing solutions to modern challenges, like enhancing food safety through lightweight and flexible packaging, protecting the purity of water supplies through stronger and more versatile pipes, improving the safety, comfort and fuel efficiency of many of the cars and trucks on the road, and ensuring the safe and effective functionality in electronics and appliances. LyondellBasell sells products into more than 100 countries and is the world's largest producer of polymer compounds and the largest licensor of polyolefin technologies. In 2020, LyondellBasell was named to Fortune Magazine's list of the "World's Most Admired Companies" for the third consecutive year.

COVID-19 - News digest as of 19.02.2021

1. Woodside aims to seal LNG plant stake sale ahead of USD11-B gas project go-ahead

MOSCOW (MRC) - Woodside Petroleum expects strong buyer interest in the sale of a share of a new production unit at its Pluto LNG plant, top executives said on Thursday, a precondition for a planned USD11 B expansion at its Scarborough gas and Pluto project, said Reuters. The renewed push by Australia's biggest independent gas producer on the 8-MMtpy expansion project comes after last year's COVID-19 induced collapse in oil and gas prices drove its underlying annual profit down 58% to USD447 MM. The result was well short of analysts' forecasts, which sent its shares down as much as 3.7% after the result was released on Thursday. Woodside is looking to sell a 50% stake in the new production unit, or train, at the Pluto LNG plant in Western Australia, which will be fed with gas from the Scarborough project. Selling a stake would be key to avoiding a capital raising or a credit downgrade.


Grace loss widens on weak refinery catalysts demand

MOSCOW (MRC) -- W.R. Grace reports a fourth-quarter loss of USD43.5 million, down from a net loss of USD28.3 million in the year-ago quarter, as weak demand for transportation fuels amid the COVID-19 pandemic continues to suppress demand for the company’s refinery catalysts, reported Chemweek.

Results include a a pre-tax non-cash pension mark-to-market adjustment of USD94.6 million. Adjusted earnings of USD0.88/share was down 32.8% YOY but beat the analysts’ consensus estimate by two cents, as reported by Refinitiv (New York). Net sales declined 6.8% YOY, to USD470.2 million

Catalyst Technologies operating income declined 33.6% YOY, to USD88.8 million, while segment sales dipped 10.6% YOY, to USD348.7 million. Operating income declined primarily due to lower gross profit, hurricane-related costs of approximately $8 million, and USD6.3 million lower income from our ART joint venture, partially offset by lower operating expense. The year-ago period also included USD8 million in business interruption insurance recoveries. Sales declined primarily due to lower volumes, as well as certain refiners switching to lower performance catalysts due to the pandemic. “Global demand for transportation fuels and refinery operating rates have shown steady improvement over the last two quarters but remain below pre-pandemic levels,” Grace says.

Materials Technologies operating income increased 23.3% YOY, to USD29.1 million, on sales up 6.0%, to USD121.5 million. “Continued strength in pharma/consumer end-markets (+21.2%) and stronger demand in coatings (+10.8%) were partially offset by lower demand in chemical process end-markets (-12.2%),” Grace says.

Looking ahead. Grace expects sales to grow 7-11% over 2020, with growth accelerating in the second half of 2021. “We exited 2020 with sales, gross margins, and cash flow nearing pre-pandemic levels, and we are planning for a strong recovery in 2021, especially in the second half of the year,” says Hudson La Force, president and CEO. “We are encouraged by the vaccine rollout, though we are closely watching the level of COVID-19 cases and related economic indicators. We are well positioned to continue to capture growth as the recovery progresses.”

As MRC informed previously, in April 2018, W. R. Grace & Co. completed the USD416 million acquisition of the Polyolefin Catalysts business of Albemarle Corporation.

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). Supply of exclusively PP random copolymer increased.

A leader in polyolefin catalysts and licensing, W.R. Grace has the world’s broadest portfolio of polypropylene and polyethylene catalyst technologies used to produce thermoplastic resins for a variety of applications. A leading innovator and strategic partner to its customers, Grace supplies catalyst solutions for all polyolefin processes, as well as polypropylene process technology and process controls. Grace employs approximately 3,700 people in over 30 countries.

Crude oil futures gain on US inventory draw, shale supply disruption

MOSCOW (MRC) --The rally in crude oil futures prices gained momentum during midmorning trade in Asia Feb. 18, drawing strength from a large estimated draw in US crude inventory reported by the American Petroleum Institute for the week ended Feb. 12, and ongoing supply disruptions in US shale production due to freezing temperatures, reported S&P Global.

At 11:04 am Singapore time (0304 GMT), the ICE April Brent contract was up USD1.12/b (1.74%) from the Feb. 17 settle at USD65.46/b while the NYMEX March light sweet crude contract was up 88 cents/b (1.44%) at USD62.03/b.

API's weekly crude oil inventory report estimated a 5.8 million barrel draw in the week ended Feb. 12, higher than analysts' expectations, contributed to the bullish sentiment in the market.

Although the report also estimated a build in gasoline inventories of 3.9 million barrels over the same period, it was still considered positive overall for prices by market participants.

Production disruptions in the US are turning out to be more severe than initially expected by analysts, further fueling the upward movement in the market.

"Extreme weather has likely shed output by 3.5 million barrels a day, a significant amount that propelled a surge in oil prices," told Margaret Yang, DailyFX strategist, to S&P Global Platts on Feb. 18.

Analysts at ANZ said in a Feb. 18 note that there are growing fears the extreme weather will last longer than the few days originally thought, with another storm forecast to hit eastern and central US later in the week started Feb. 14.

The disruptions in oil production have been met with lower demand for crude oil, balancing the supply-demand equation to some extent.

"It is estimated that around 3.6 million b/d of refining capacity has been idled, and for now at least, crude oil production losses appear to exceed the fall in refinery operating rates," said analysts at ING Economics in a Feb. 18 note.

Nevertheless, analysts are keeping in mind the temporary nature of the weather disruption, and focusing on other fundamental factors of support such as the global recovery of energy demand, as well as production outlook by OPEC+, to frame their overall view on the market.

Ahead of the OPEC+ meeting on March 4 to discuss production quotas for the alliance, Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister warned against complacency in the response against the coronavirus, and said the level of uncertainty is quite high and warrants extreme caution, which may have also rallied market sentiment.

"A warning against complacency by Saudi's energy minister may serve to boost oil prices further as the oil cartel may remain vigilant against future uncertainties and may hold back tapering should economic recovery derails from the projected path," said Yang.

The risk of production cuts being rolled back remains amid strong oil prices, as some producers will likely push for a more aggressive easing in cuts, said analysts at ING Economics. Given the recent comments from the Saudi Arabian Energy Minister, it seems like they would support a more gradual increase in production, the analysts added.

Market participants will look to the weekly inventory reports by the US Energy Information Administration, due later Feb. 18, for fresh pricing cues.

As MRC informed previously, oil producers face an unprecedented challenge to balance supply and demand as factors including the pace and response to COVID-19 vaccines cloud the outlook, according to an official with International Energy Agency's (IEA) statement.

We remind that 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 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.

We also remind that 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 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). Supply of exclusively PP random copolymer increased.

Celanese declares force majeure due to impact of US deep freeze

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Celanese has declared force majeure on its products in the Americas and EMEA region due to the severe winter weather that has heavily curtailed US petrochemicals and refinery production and operations on the US Gulf Coast, reported Chemweek.

As a result of the extreme weather’s impact on Celanese’s operations and “the unplanned shutdowns and force majeure declarations of many of its suppliers and service providers in the Texas Gulf Coast,” the company says it has declared force majeure on the following products: acetic acid, vinyl acetate monomer, ethyl acetate, acetic anhydride, methyl acetate, vinyl and acrylic emulsions, redispersible powders, ethylene vinyl acetate, dimethylamine, trimethylamine, methyl isobutyl carbinol, methyl isobutyl ketone, and paraformaldehyde.

Sustained temperatures below freezing at Celanese’s operating sites and those of its suppliers and logistics partners “have resulted in the inability of Celanese sites to receive natural gas, electricity, industrial gas, potable and firefighting water, and other raw materials necessary to safely and reliably operate the plants,” it says. “Without access to such utilities, Celanese has been forced to shut down its impacted production facilities until they can be operated safely and consistently.” Due to the shutdowns, Celanese says it is “forced to curtail its western hemisphere production” of the listed products and declare force majeure under its sales contracts.

The company says it will continue to assess the regional and global impact of the force majeure, but that “given that this is a rapidly developing situation, Celanese cannot provide any specific details or timing of the full impact to all customers.” Account managers will communicate with customers to discuss allocation volumes as soon as possible, it says, with Celanese to provide notice of when production will resume “as we continue to assess the effect of the weather on our production facilities and infrastructure, as well as those of our suppliers and logistics providers.”

About 70% or more of US light olefins capacity had been shut down or was running at reduced rates due to the impact of Winter Storm Uri, mainly on facilities in Texas and Louisiana. Aromatics have also been hit hard, with over 70% of US benzene capacity, 76% of toluene capacity, and 83% of mixed xylenes capacity shut down or cut back.

As MRC informed previously, in October, 2020, Celanese (Dallas, Texas) announced plans to add a 15,000-metric tons/year line for the production of GUR ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) at its facility in Bishop, Texas. Startup is expected by the beginning of 2022.

According to MRC's DataScope report, November EVA imports to Russia rose by 6,67% year on year to 3,650 tonnes from 3,420 tonnes a year earlier, and overall imports of this grade of ethylene copolymer into the Russian Federation dropped in January-November 2020 by 3,44% year on year to 34,680 tonnes (35,920 tonnes a year earlier).

Celanese Corporation is a global technology leader in the production of differentiated chemistry solutions and specialty materials used in most major industries and consumer applications. Based in Dallas, Celanese employs approximately 7,700 employees worldwide and had 2019 net sales of USD6.3 billion.