Ube temporarily suspends production at Ube-Fujimagari ammonia facility

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Ube Industries has temporarily suspended ammonia production at its Ube-Fujimagari factory in Yamaguchi, Japan, following the discovery of equipment problems, according to Apic-online.

The shutdown, which began on 25 Jan. 2021, is also expected to affect the production of downstream products that utilize ammonia as a raw material.

"We extend our sincere apologies for any inconvenience or concern this situation may cause our customers and business partners, and offer our assurance that we continue to work to ensure the quick and reliable restoration of production operations," the company noted.

As MRC reported previously, in September 2015, Ube Industries Ltd. launched Lotte Ube Synthetic Rubber Sdn. Bhd.- a joint venture of Lotte Chemical Corp. (40%), Lotte Chemical Titan Holding Sdn. Bhd. (10%), Ube Industries, Ltd. (40%), and Mitsubishi Corporation (10%) - for the manufacturing of butadiene rubber (BR) based in the Tanjung Langsat industrial park in Johor, Malaysia.

Lotte Ube Synthetic Rubber has a BR production capacity of 50,000 tonnes per year, becoming the fourth BR production facility of the UBE Group. With facilities in Japan (126,000 tonnes), Thailand (72,000 tonnes), China (72,000 tonnes) and now Mayasia, the Ube Industries Group has a combined annual BR production capacity of 320,000 tonnes.

Butadiene is one of the main feedstocks for the production of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS).

According to ICIS-MRC Price report, ABS imports into Russia totalled 2,700 tonnes in January 2021, compared to 2,600 tonnes a month earlier and 2,300 tonnes in January 2020.

Lanxess to acquire US consumer specialties firm Emerald Kalama for more than USD1 billion

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Lanxess says it has signed a binding agreement to acquire specialty chemicals manufacturer Emerald Kalama Chemical (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio) for an enterprise value of USD1.08 billion; USD1.04 billion, after deducting debt-like items, reported Chemweek.

The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2021, subject to approval by the relevant authorities, and it will be financed from Lanxess’s existing liquidity, the company says. The deal forms part of Lanxess’s targeted portfolio expansion in the consumer protection segment, the company says.

Affiliates of the private equity firm American Securities own a majority of Emerald Kalama, a company specialized in the production of specialties for the consumer segment, Lanxess says.

Emerald Kalama achieved 2020 sales of about USD425 million and EBITDA pre exceptionals of approximately USD90 million. Within three years following completion of the transaction, Lanxess expects an additional annualized EBITDA contribution of about USD30 million from synergy effects. The acquisition will be earnings-per-share accretive in the first fiscal year after completion, the company says.

“The businesses of Emerald Kalama Chemical are an ideal fit for us. We will further strengthen our consumer-protection segment and open up new application areas with strong margins, for example in the food industry and animal health sector. In addition, we will also enlarge our presence in our growth region of North America. All this will make us even more profitable and stable,” says Matthias Zachert, chairman of Lanxess.

Emerald Kalama generates about 45% of its revenue in North America. About 75% of its sales are from preservatives for food, household, and cosmetic applications; flavors and fragrances; as well as products for animal nutrition. The remaining 25% are from the company's specialty chemicals business for industrial applications, including the plastics and adhesives industries, Lanxess says.

Emerald Kalama has about 500 employees worldwide and runs production sites at Kalama, Washington; Rotterdam, Netherlands; and Widnes, UK. “Emerald Kalama Chemical has a very efficient set-up, bundling all its production activities at only three sites. That is why we expect to integrate the new business very quickly,” says Zachert.

As MRC informed before, in January, 2021, Lanxess completed the sale of its membrane business to French resource management firm SUEZ. The deal was previously announced in July, 2020, as Lanxess realigned its water treatment technologies segment, resulting in the sale of its reverse osmosis membrane business.

We 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.

Lanxess is a leading specialty chemicals company with about 19,200 employees in 25 countries. The company is currently represented at 74 production sites worldwide. The core business of Lanxess is the development, manufacturing and marketing of chemical intermediates, additives, specialty chemicals and plastics. Through Arlanxeo, the joint venture with Saudi Aramco, Lanxess is also a leading supplier of synthetic rubber.

COVID-19 - News digest as of 01.03.2021

1. Chinese refiners cool on crude purchases as oil futures rally

MOSCOW (MRC) -- China's crude oil imports are set to slow in the second quarter after Brent prices hit a 13-month high, cooling demand and capping refiners' margins as they prepare to shut for planned maintenance, industry sources and analysts said, as per Hydrocarbonprocessing. Expectations of a recovery in global fuel demand and tighter oil supplies from Saudi Arabia and the United States pushed front-month Brent futures to their highest since January 2020 this week, up around 30% from January. Chinese independent refiners, who account for a fifth of the country's import demand, have become reluctant to buy cargoes as they enter a low-demand season, while domestic margins have yet to catch up with strong gains in international prices, the sources said.


Crude slides on stronger dollar; market eyes OPEC+ supply boost

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Crude oil futures finished the week sharply lower as a stronger dollar and expectations of rising global supply continued to pull prices off 13-month highs seen earlier last week, reported S&P Global.

NYMEX April WTI settled USD2.03 lower at USD61.50/b and ICE April Brent declined 75 cents to USD66.13/b.

Notably the Feb. 26 session was the last day of trading for the April Brent contract, and its prompt expiry may explain why it showed a relatively modest 1% decline compared with front-month WTI, which slid more than 3% in the session. The second-month Brent contract settled down around 2.6% on the day.

Oil price declines accelerated late in the session as the US dollar tested three-week highs. The ICE US dollar index was around 0.8% higher in afternoon trading at around 90.905, the highest since Feb. 17 and testing levels last seen in early February.

NYMEX March RBOB settled down 1.53 cents at USD1.8770/gal and March ULSD finished 5.01 cents lower at USD1.8565/gal.

Rising US bond yields as investors priced in expected higher inflation as a result of government stimulus and a quick economic recovery were driving the dollar higher. A stronger dollar makes oil more expensive for buyers using other currencies.

A University of Michigan report released Feb. 26 showed February consumer sentiment exceeded market expectations but was still down from January. The report showed inflation expectations of 3.3% for 2021, unchanged from the previous month's report and the highest since 2014.

Expectations of an announcement of supply increases from OPEC+ at its next meeting on March 4 and concerns over the scale of spare Saudi capacity were also dragging on oil prices.

"A return to the originally planned phase 3 would mean an increase in supply of 2.25 million b/d versus March levels," HSBC's Global Head of Oil and Gas Equity Research, Gordan Gray, said. "Market fundamentals could probably just about absorb such an amount in Q2 - if demand recovers enough - but an announcement of an immediate increase on this scale would risk spooking the market badly. The most likely outcome is a staged move to phase 3 supply levels - probably a 0.5 million b/d increase at most in April."

"A conservative agreement should support prices in the short term but there's still much more spare capacity in OPEC+ than there is likely demand growth," Gray said. "Global demand could conceivably be 5-6 million b/d higher in H2 2021 than in Q1, but this must be seen against around 8 million b/d of OPEC+ supply curbs still in place."

ICE New York Harbor RBOB crack versus Brent edged up to USD16.37/b in afternoon trading, just 5 cents under the one-year high seen last week.

The majority of the plants along Texas's refinery row are in the process of restarting, these plants are not likely to return to their pre-storm capacity until mid-March, according to company statements and filings made with state regulatory agencies detailing emissions events, which go along with plant restarts.

S&P Global Platts Analytics estimates that about 5.4 million b/d of US Gulf Coast crude capacity was down for the week ended Feb. 26, out of the region's 9.96 million b/d. Almost all of the outages were in Texas, which has 5.1 million b/d of crude processing capacity at its coastal refineries and 742,000 b/d of inland refining capacity, according to US Energy Information Administration data.

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.

Petronas mulls over maintenance shutdown at PE plant in Malaysia

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Malaysian state-owned energy giant Petroliam Nasional Berhad, or Petronas, is planning to shut its polyethylene (PE) plants in Kerteh, Malaysia in March 2021 for a brief turnaround, according to CommoPlast.

The tentative plan calls for two to three weeks offline of all PE units, however, the producer has yet to form a concrete decision on the timeline.

The Kerteh complex houses an linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE)/high denisty polyethylene (HDPE) swing line with an annual output of 250,000 tons/year and a standalone 50,000 tons/year LLDPE line.

As MRC wrote earlier, in June 2019, Petronas, and Saudi Aramco started operations at their new 1.2-million-tonnes-per-year naphtha cracker. The cracker is part of the USD2.7 billion joint-venture oil refinery and petrochemical project known as RAPID - or Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development - located in Pengerang in the state of Johor, at the southern tip of peninsular Malaysia.

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.

Petronas, short for Petroliam Nasional Berhad, is a Malaysian oil and gas company wholly owned by the Government of Malaysia. The Group is engaged in a wide spectrum of petroleum activities, including upstream exploration and production of oil and gas to downstream oil refining; marketing and distribution of petroleum products; trading; gas processing and liquefaction; gas transmission pipeline network operations; marketing of liquefied natural gas; petrochemical manufacturing and marketing; shipping; automotive engineering; and property investment.