Ports of Antwerp, Zeebrugge to merge

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge in Belgium have agreed to merge, in a move aimed at strengthening their combined position within the global supply chain, reported Chemweek.

The unification process is expected to be finalized before the end of 2021, subject to regulatory and competition approvals, they say. Talks on the merger have been underway since 2018.

The ports will operate under the name Port of Antwerp-Bruges, and say their combination will enable them to be more resilient to future challenges and “take a lead in the transition towards a low-carbon economy.” The combined ports will have a total maritime freight throughput of 278 million metric tons/year, account for the transit of more than 15% of Europe’s liquid natural gas (LNG), and remain “Europe’s most important chemical hub,” they say.

Port of Antwerp-Bruges would have a combined liquid bulk freight total of 81.6 million metric tons, consisting mostly of oil, gas, and chemicals, with Port of Antwerp making up 69 million metric tons of the total. Container volumes at Port of Antwerp, Europe’s largest integrated chemical cluster, rose 6.8% in 2019 to just under 11.9 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), while Zeebrugge handled 1.8 million TEUs. Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Europe’s largest container port, handled 14.8 million TEU in 2019.

Each port is owned by their respective city municipal authorities. The combined venture would see City of Antwerp own 80.2%, with City of Bruges holding 19.8%.

The larger Port of Antwerp has to date specialized mainly in the handling and storage of containers, break bulk, and chemical products, while Zeebrugge is a major port for container handling, automotive, and LNG shipments. “Working more closely together will make it possible to consolidate sustainable growth, not only of each port’s individual market share, but also of the joint market share of both ports together,” they say.

The combined ports, located around 100km from each other, aim to maximize opportunities to develop and optimize interconnectivity between their sites. Transportation of goods by rail between them will be bundled, estuary traffic by inland North Sea vessels will be optimized, and pipeline connections will also be on their initial list of priorities, they say.

Port of Antwerp-Bruges aims to position itself as an import hub for green hydrogen “and will play an active and pioneering role in the hydrogen economy,” they state. It will also continue ongoing efforts to reduce their carbon footprints, and examine methods of applying carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) to contribute to their transition towards becoming a low-carbon port, they add.

As MRC informed earlier, demand and supply growth for naphtha in European markets is likely to be moderate until at least the second quarter of 2021 as inventories are run down and deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine starts to make some headway in reviving oil products demand, according to IHS Markit analysts. Refinery margins in Europe are forecast to remain under pressure from stocks that have built up during the pandemic amid volumes flowing into the region from abroad. Despite low refinery run rates, European naphtha supplies will not be tight because of the imbalance in different refinery yields, says IHS Markit principal analyst Eleanor Budds.

We remind that 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). 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.

We also remind that 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.

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

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 241,030 tonnes in January 2021 versus 217,890 tonnes a year earlier. Only shipments of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) increased. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market reached 141,870 tonnes in January 2021 versus 123,520 tonnes a year earlier. Supply of homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers increased.

Ukrainian PVC imports down by 43% in January-February, exports down by 2%

MOSCOW (MRC) - Imports of suspension polyvinyl chloride (SPVC) into Ukraine decreased by 43% in the first two months of this year, compared to the same period in 2020 and reached about 4,700 tonnes. Sales of Ukrainian PVC to foreign markets dropped by 2% year on year, according to a MRC's DataScope report.

Last month's SPVC imports into the Ukrainian market decreased to 2,100 tonnes from 2,600 tonnes in January, as European producers decreased their exports. Overall SPVC imports reached 4,700 tonnes in January-February 2021, compared to 8,300 tonnes a year earlier.
The orientation to domestic PVC and limited export quotas from European producers were the main reason for such a serious drop in imports.
European producers with the share of about 96% of the total imports over the stated period were the key suppliers of PVC to the Ukrainian market.

Last month, Karpatneftekhim increased sales in the foreign markets significantly on the back of record high global prices, export sales of Ukrainian PVC were 22,000 tonnes versus 19,700 tonnes in January. Overall, about 41,700 tonnes were shipped for export in the first two months of 2020, compared to 42,300 tonnes a year earlier.

Albemarle falls short of estimates on weaker results in lithium, catalysts

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Albemarle has reported fourth-quarter net income down 6.4% year-on-year (YOY), to USD84.6 million, while net sales declined 11.4%, to USD879.1 million, according to Chemweek.

Adjusted earnings were down 32.4% YOY, to USD1.17/share, short of analysts’ consensus estimate of USD1.30/share, as reported by Refinitiv (New York, New York). Lower YOY results in catalysts and lithium drove the declines, partly offset by improved results in bromine. Adjusted EBITDA was down 25.0% YOY, to USD221.1 million.

Results have improved sequentially, however, and the company’s fourth-quarter adjusted EBITDA exceeded expectations, says Albemarle CEO Kent Masters. “As we continue to rebound from last year's pandemic-related lows, we are accelerating high-return growth in our Lithium and Bromine businesses and maintaining our focus on operational discipline to drive cost and efficiency improvements,” Masters says.

Lithium segment sales fell 12.8% YOY, to USD358.6 million, while segment adjusted EBITDA was down 12.8%, to USD122.1 million. Lower YOY prices were partly offset by higher volumes. Restarts in North America and operating efficiencies are expected improve full-year volumes for 2021.

Bromine specialties segment sales grew 8.2% YOY, to USD263.4 million, while segment adjusted EBITDA increased 10.2%, to USD87.9 million. A rebound in demand following COVID-19 lows drove results higher. Results are expected to improve further this year due to a continued demand rebound and “positive long-term trends in electronics and automotive end markets,” Albemarle says.

Catalyst segment sales declined 30.7% YOY, to USD195.7 million, while segment adjusted EBITDA declined 71.3%, to USD22.1 million. Volumes fell YOY for fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) and hydroprocessing catalysts, although FCC catalyst volumes rose sequentially. Catalysts results are expected to flat for full-year 2021, due to changes in customer order patterns in North America.

As MRC reported earlier, in April 2018, W. R. Grace & Co. completed the USD416 million acquisition of the Polyolefin Catalysts business of Albemarle Corporation. The acquired business primarily develops and manufactures proprietary and custom-manufactured single-site catalysts as well as metallocenes and activators used in the production of plastic resins. The transaction also includes a comprehensive series of highly optimized Ziegler-Natta catalysts for polyethylene production. The acquisition includes production plants in Baton Rouge, LA and Yeosu, South Korea; R&D and pilot plant capabilities; and an extensive portfolio of intellectual property.

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

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 241,030 tonnes in January 2021 versus 217,890 tonnes a year earlier. Only shipments of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) increased. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market reached 141,870 tonnes in January 2021 versus 123,520 tonnes a year earlier. Supply of homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers increased.

Partnership empowers industrial customers to build solid data foundation for digital transformation

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Rockwell Automation announced an extension of its 15-year partnership with OSIsoft to ensure continued value for industrial manufacturing customers by enabling informed, data-driven decisions, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

OSIsoft’s PI System is the market-leading operations data management platform for industrial organizations meeting next-generation demands for efficiency, reliability, security, sustainability, and resilience. The agreement reinforces the companies’ joint commitment to drive outcome-based digital transformation solutions for customers across essential industries, including energy, mining, oil and gas, utilities, pharmaceuticals, transportation, and more.

Customers will benefit from this partnership in several ways. They can take advantage of Rockwell’s FactoryTalk Historian—which is powered by PI System and offered as part of the FactoryTalk OperationsSuite. This software provides premier integration with FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, making it an essential data management component to execute on the customer’s overall digital transformation strategy. As an example, one of Rockwell Automation’s large automotive customers experienced a nearly 80 percent- time savings by populating data into PTC ThingWorx using the FactoryTalk Historian ThingWorx connector. Additionally, customers can optimize their operational investments with subscription-based business models.

"We are thrilled to expand our agreement with OSIsoft.This partnership helps us continue to provide industry-leading digital transformation solutions to the process, discrete, and hybrid manufacturing industries. In turn, this enables us to bring the connected enterprise to life for our customers. It’s a win-win," says Jason Wright, Director of Digital Design & Visualization Applications at Rockwell Automation.

Bry Dillon, Vice President of Global Business Development for OSIsoft, added, “OSIsoft’s ongoing and very productive relationship with Rockwell Automation ensures our joint customers will continue to benefit from tighter integration of FactoryTalk Historian with Rockwell-centric controls and solutions. This enables a seamless integration of Rockwell’s solutions with OSIsoft’s edge-to-cloud portfolio."

With this extended partnership, Rockwell Automation and OSIsoft are continuing to work together and provide greater value to their customer base.

As MRC informed earlier, Rockwell Automation, Inc. (Milwaukee, Wisc.) announced that it has acquired Oylo, a privately-held industrial cybersecurity services provider based in Barcelona, Spain. Oylo is dedicated to providing a broad range of industrial control system (ICS) cybersecurity services and solutions including assessments, turnkey implementations, managed services and incident response.

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.

PPG gains European approval for acquisition of Tikkurila shares

MOSCOW (MRC) -- PPG Industries says it has received European Commission approval for its acquisition of Tikkurila’s shares, reported Chemweek.

The approval is “an important milestone” in the process of cementing the deal, PPG says. The tender offer for Tikkurila’s shares will expire on 15 March.

On 4 February, as MRC wrote before, Pittsburgh-based PPG announced a deal to acquire Tikkurila for USD1.82 billion after a brief bidding war with AkzoNobel. Thus, PPG raised its all-shares offer for the company to EUR34.00 per share, topping a rival bid from Akzo Nobel.

The deal is expected to close late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter of this year.

We remind that in February 2020, PPG completed its acquisition of Industria Chimica Reggiana (ICR, Reggio Emilia, Italy), a maker of automotive refinish products. Financial terms of the deal, including purchase price, were not disclosed. The deal was announced on 8 January. ICR was founded in 1961 and employs about 180 people. ICR manufactures automotive refinish products, including putties, primers, basecoats and clear coats. It also makes a range of coatings, enamels and primers for light commercial vehicles and other light industrial coatings applications. ICR employs about 180 people and sells its products in more than 70 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the US and Latin America.

We also remind that Russia's output of chemical products rose in November 2020 by 9.5% year on year. At the same time, production of basic chemicals increased in the first eleven months of 2020 by 6.6% year on year, 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-November 2020 output. November production of polymers in primary form rose to 896,000 tonnes from 852,000 tonnes in October. Overall output of polymers in primary form totalled 9,240,000 tonnes over the stated period, up by 17.1% year on year.