Kuraray outline status of sites impacted by US deep freeze

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Kuraray says that its certain production sites at Texas have been suspended since mid-February because of the big freeze in the United States. The company says that its affected sites at La Porte, Bayport, and Pasadena are in preparation for the resumption of operations and are presently undergoing inspection, according to Chemweek.

Kuraray has temporarily stopped the production of vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) and poval resin at La Porte; poval resin at Bayport; and ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer (EVOH) and thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) at Pasadena.

The company says that it is evaluating the financial impact of the closure of the sites. Kuraray will announce the findings if the financial impact is found to have been significant, it adds.

According to the data by IHS Markit, Kuraray at La Porte produces VAM with a production capacity of 330,000 metric tons/year; EVOH, Pasadena 58,000 metric tons/year; and TPE, Pasadena 25,000 metric tons/year.

The company in February increased the price of its Eval brand EVOH resin.

As MRC reported earlier, in October 2019, Kuraray took off-stream its VAM production in Okayama, Japan) for a scheduled maintenance. This production with a capacity of 160,000 mt/year was shut for about one month.

VAM is the main feedstock for the production of ethylene-vynil-acetate (EVA).

According to MRC's DataScope report, January EVA imports to Russia rose only by 0,07% year on year to 3,084 tonnes from 3,087 tonnes a year earlier, and overall imports of this grade of ethylene copolymer into the Russian Federation dropped in January-December 2020 by 3,41% year on year to 38,170 tonnes (39,520 tonnes in 2019).

Formosa to shut PVC plant in Taiwan for maintenance

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Formosa Plastics Corp (part of Formosa Petrochemical) is planning to carry out maintenance works at its plant in Jenwu, Taiwan in March 2021, reported CommoPlast with reference to market sources.

Affected units including a 546,000 tons/year polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plant, 480,000 tons/year vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plant and the 400,000 tons/year ethylene dichloride (EDC) line.

It is unclear on the exact shutdown date at the time of this report, however, all of the units would remain offline for three weeks.

As MRC informed before, in March 2020, Formosa Plastics emerged from a turnaround at its 798,000 mt/year PVC plant and upstream 753,000 mt/year VCM unit at its Point Comfort, Texas, complex.

According to MRC's DataScope report, imports of suspension polyvinyl chloride (SPVC) into Russia slightly exceeded 500 tonnes in January, down by 68% year on year. At the same time, exports decreased by 15%. January SPVC imports to Russia fell to 500 tonnes from 1,600 tonnes and 6,000 tonnes in January and December 2020, respectively. High PVC prices in the foreign markets and long New Year holidays put serious pressure on import purchases of PVC from Russian companies.

Formosa Petrochemical is involved primarily in the business of refining crude oil, selling refined petroleum products and producing and selling olefins (including ethylene, propylene, butadiene and BTX) from its naphtha cracking operations. Formosa Petrochemical is also the largest olefins producer in Taiwan and its olefins products are mostly sold to companies within the Formosa Group. Among the company's chemical products are paraxylene (PX), phenyl ethylene, acetone and pure terephthalic acid (PTA). The company"s plastic products include acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) resins, polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP) and panlite (PC).

Record high pump prices hit Indian gasoline, gasoil sales in Feb

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Indian state refiners' gasoline sales in the first two weeks of February fell below pre-pandemic levels, the first decline in about six months, preliminary industry data showed, as record high retail prices hit consumption, reported Reuters.

Diesel sales, which are related closely to economic growth and account for about 40% of overall refined fuel sales in India, fell by 8.6% in the first half of February, the largest decline since August last year, the data showed.

Gasoline and gasoil prices in India have risen to a record high, mirroring global markets. Taxes account for about 61% of retail gasoline prices and about 56% of diesel prices.

State fuel retailers sold 1.03 million tonnes of gasoline and 2.84 million tonnes of diesel from Feb. 1-15, the data provided by an industry source showed.

"Definitely sales of petrol and diesel have declined in the last few days. People are feeling the pinch of high oil prices," said Ajay Bansal, president of the All India Petroleum Dealers Association.

State companies - Indian Oil Corp, Hindustan Petroleum Corp and Bharat Petroleum - own about 90% of India's retail fuel outlets.

"First area where the customers vent their anger or show their grievance is the petrol pump to our staff and we have been seeing it," Bansal said.

Rising diesel and petrol prices could push up inflation, making it harder for the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to continue its accommodative monetary policy.

"Pump prices of petrol and diesel have reached historical highs. An unwinding of taxes on petroleum products by both the centre and the states could ease the cost push pressures," the RBI said in its policy document earlier this month.

State retailers sold 1.2 million tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas in the first half of this month, 5.4% higher than last year, while jet fuel sales declined by 41.3% as curbs on air travel remained in place, the data showed.

As MRC informed before, Indian Oil has just announced plans to expand the capacity of its refinery at Panipat, India, from 15 million metric tons/year (MMt/y), to 25 MMt/y. The company will also build a polypropylene (PP) unit and a catalytic dewaxing unit at the site. The cost of the project is 329.46 billion Indian rupees (USD4.45 billion). The plan is the latest in a series of projects approved by Indian Oil to improve integration with petrochemicals at the company's refinery sites. The capacity of the planned PP facility has not been disclosed.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, 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.

Chemours earnings up on gains in TiO2 and fluorochemicals

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Chemours (Wilmington, Delaware) reports fourth-quarter net income of USD19 million, up from a loss of USD317 million in the year-ago quarter, on sales of USD1.337 billion, down 1% year-over-year (YOY), according to Chemweek.

Adjusted net income totaled USD103 million, up 12% YOY from USD92 million owing to higher volume, lower cost, and favorable currency impact, partially offset by lower average pricing, says the company. Adjusted earnings per share came to USD0.61, well above the average analyst estimate of USD0.36 as compiled by Zacks Investment Research.

“We ended 2020 with solid momentum as the global recovery boosted demand in our key end-markets,” says president and CEO Mark Vergnano. “Our outlook strikes a balance between the recovery and the natural uncertainty in the progression of the global COVID-19 pandemic."

Chemours expects full-year 2021 adjusted EBITDA of USD1-1.15 billion, up from USD879 million in 2020, and adjusted EPS of between USD2.40-3.12, up from USD1.98 in 2020.

The company also announced that it has split its fluoroproducts segment into two new reporting segments, thermal & specialized solutions (TSS), formerly fluorochemicals, and advanced performance materials (APM), formerly fluoropolymers. Chemours says the move “enables an enhanced customer-centered approach, management focus and decision-making, strong resource allocation, and increased transparency and accountability.”

Titanium technologies segment sales totaled USD691 million, up 13% YOY. Volume increased 17% YOY on demand recovery in the architectural coatings, laminates and plastics markets. Global average selling prices were down 6% YOY. Adjusted EBITDA increased 30% YOY to USD149 million.

Sales in the thermal & specialized solutions (TSS) segment totaled USD272 million, down 6% YOY. Volume was flat, while price declined 7%, primarily the result of contractual price adjustments for refrigerants as well as product and customer mix. Adjusted EBITDA increased 28% YOY to USD105 million, driven by improved cost performance from the ramp up of Opteon production at Corpus Christi, Texas, which more than offset the impact of reduced price, says Chemours.

APM segment sales dropped 14% YOY to USD279 million. Volume and price declined 10% and 6% YOY, respectively. The COVID-19 pandemic continued to weigh on demand, but the impact moderated global recovery gained momentum in key end markets. Adjusted EBITDA decreased 29% YOY to USD25 million, mainly on lower net sales, partially offset by improved operational performance and cost reduction actions.

Chemical solutions segment sales dropped 26% YOY to USD95 million, mainly on the divestiture of Chemours’s methylamines business in the fourth quarter of 2019. Prices and volume were both lower YOY. Adjusted EBITDA increased 12% YOY to USD28 million on higher licensing income.

As MRC informed before, in December 2019, Chemours announced plans to sell its methylamines and methylamides unit to Belle Chemical, an affiliate of Cornerstone Chemical. The sales price was not disclosed. Thus, Chemours had signed a letter of commitment with Belle Chemical Co. to sell Chemours' methylamines and methylamides business and production facilities at the Belle location. Earlier in 2019, Chemours announced it would stop making methylamines and methylamides at the plant. In 2020, it planned to start dismantling the methylamines operations. Once Belle takes possession of the plant, most of the employees at Belle and others assigned in supporting roles at other locations will become part of Belle, Chemours said. Cornerstone makes acrylonitrile (ACN) and melamine at Fortier, Louisiana.

Acrylonitrile is one of the main feedstock for the production of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS).

According to ICIS-MRC Price report, last year's ABS imports to Russia grew by 4% year on year to 35,000 tonnes from 33,700 tonnes. The share of South Korean supplies amounted to 62% (21,600 tonnes) versus 58% (19,700 tonnes) in January-December 2019.

Global oil inventories to become tight by mid-2021

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Global refineries will increase crude processing sharply over the next six months to stabilise stocks of fuels such as gasoline and diesel – even if substantial coronavirus controls remain on travel and service sector businesses, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The prospective rise in processing and consequent draw down in crude inventories in the second and especially third quarters is what has been boosting futures prices and causing calendar spreads to tighten. The oil market’s rapid evolution from a massive production surplus last year to deficit has been most evident in the United States, where reliable data on stocks is published weekly by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

U.S. inventories of crude and products outside the strategic petroleum reserve amounted to 1,283 million barrels on March 5, which was just 12 million barrels or 1% above the previous five-year average. Crude stocks were 29 million barrels or 6% above the five-year average, mostly as result of the disruption to refineries caused by cold weather and power failures in Texas last month.

But inventories of finished fuels and intermediate refinery products had already fallen to 15 million barrels or 2% below the average for 2016-2020. The gasoline shortfall has become particularly severe, with inventories 15 million barrels or 6% below the five-year average.

Total stocks of crude and products have fallen by 168 million barrels since July, largely reversing the 198 million build between March and June associated with the epidemic and volume war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. In the next few months, U.S. refineries will have to accelerate crude processing and fuel production to prevent stocks from depleting further.

If coronavirus controls on travel, services and international passenger aviation are relaxed, that would provide an even bigger boost to consumption. But it is important to stress that crude processing will have to accelerate even if controls are maintained to prevent fuel stocks from eroding to undesirably low levels.

The depletion of petroleum inventories is most obvious in the United States because of its high-frequency real-time data, but the phenomenon is worldwide.

Commercial petroleum inventories in the OECD countries have fallen by around 284 million barrels since July, reversing most of the 335 million barrel build between last February and June, according to the EIA. In March, OECD inventories are likely to fall slightly below the average for the previous five years, for the first time since the epidemic started to spread outside China in February last year.

As MRC informed before, slumping fuel consumption during the pandemic is accelerating the long-term shift of refining capacity from North America and Europe to Asia, and from older, smaller refineries to modern, higher-capacity mega-refineries. The result is a wave of closures, often centering on refineries that only narrowly survived the previous closure wave in the years after the recession in 2008/09.

We remind that PetroChina has nearly doubled the amount of Russian crude being processed at its refinery in Dalian, the company's biggest, since January 2018, as a new supply agreement had come into effect. The Dalian Petrochemical Corp, located in the northeast port city of Dalian, was expected to process 13 million tonnes, or 260,000 bpd of Russian pipeline crude in 2018, up by about 85 to 90 percent from the previous year's level. Dalian has the capacity to process about 410,000 bpd of crude. The increase follows an agreement worked out between the Russian and Chinese governments under which Russia's top oil producer Rosneft was to supply 30 million tonnes of ESPO Blend crude to PetroChina in 2018, or about 600,000 bpd. That would have represented an increase of 50 percent over 2017 volumes.

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.