Global chemicals output rose 1.4% in January

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Global chemicals production rose 1.4% in January, a slightly slower pace than December and continuing the global recovery that began in June, according to data collected and tabulated by the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

During January, chemical production grew across all regions. Headline global production was up 9.5% year-over-year (Y/Y) on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis. Global output stood at 129.0% of its average 2012 levels. Output was down a year ago due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During January, global capacity rose 0.1% and was up 2.0% Y/Y. With improving production, capacity utilization in the global chemical industry rose 1.1 points, to 87.5%. This is well above last January and above the long-term (1987-2019) average of 86.3%. Among chemical industry segments, January results were positive, with gains across all segments. Considering year-earlier comparisons, production gains occurred in all segments.

As per MRC, the U.S. Chemical Production Regional Index (U.S. CPRI) rose 0.8% in January following a 1.4% gain in December and a 1.1% gain in November. During January, chemical output expanded in nearly all regions. The Gulf Coast region showed the largest gain, with smaller gains seen in the Midwest, Southeast, Ohio Valley, and Northeast regions. Output was flat in the Mid-Atlantic region and edged lower in the West Coast. The U.S. CPRI is measured on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis.

As MRC informed earlier, sales of high density polyethylene (LDPE) in the United States and Canada rose 3.8% in January 2021 compared to the same month a year earlier. While the production of LDPE grew by 5.2% over the same period of time. Total sales increased by 2.3%, despite a 0.7% decline in export sales.

At the same time, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) sales in the United States and Canada were up 5% in January 2021 from the same month in the prior year. HDPE production increased by 1% over the same period. Domestic demand for HDPE has strengthened in recent months as demand for consumer durables has been strong since the second half of 2020 amid continued growth in manufacturing activity in the United States.

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.

Clariant opens campus in Shanghai aimed to be home to its Greater China Operational Headquarters and the Innovation Center China

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Clariant, a focused, sustainable and innovative specialty chemical company, has announced the official opening of its One Clariant Campus in Shanghai, China, as per the company's press release.

Across a total floor space of approximately 24,000 m2, the Campus will be home to Clariant’s Greater China Operational Headquarters as well as the Innovation Center China.

“The One Clariant Campus is an important milestone for our dedicated China strategy. By locating our teams in the China organization under one roof and providing them with state of the art equipment in the Clariant Innovation Center China, we increase their ability to innovate and to exchange insights on market trends and customer needs. As a result, the One Clariant Campus will be a strong driver to further strengthen our market position in China and beyond”, said Conrad Keijzer, CEO of Clariant.

The Chinese market represented 10% of Clariant’s sales in 2020, totaling CHF 402 million. In order to increase its share of the Chinese market, the world’s largest chemicals market overall as well as for specialty chemicals, the company pursues a dedicated strategy of becoming a true “China Insider” by fostering five key local elements: insight, competitiveness, empowerment, innovation and partnering. To achieve this, Clariant invests significantly in China. In addition to the CHF 45 million invested in the Campus, Clariant recently announced the construction of a new CATOFIN catalysts production facility in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, and its joint venture facility with Tiangang Auxiliary in Cangzhou, Hebei province, is opening soon.

“As an integral part of the One Clariant Campus, the new innovation center will foster Clariant’s research and development capabilities in China. While the new facilities will greatly enhance the abilities of our own teams, we will also step up our cooperation with local key customers and key suppliers by inviting them to co-locate in our center for the joint development of next generation products. Supported by additional cooperation with academic partners and other industrial partners, the center will be the beating heart of our innovation efforts in China”, commented Martin Vollmer, Clariant’s Chief Technology Officer.

As MRC reported 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 141,870 tonnes in January 2021 versus 123,520 tonnes a year earlier. Supply of homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers increased.

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.

Tronox appoints new CEO

MOSCOW (MRC) --Tronox appointed John Romano and Jean-Francois Turgeon as co-CEOs and as members of the board, effective immediately, said the company.

The Company also announced the retirement of former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeffry N. Quinn, effective immediately, following his previously announced leave of absence from the Company. Mr. Kaufthal, Mr. Romano and Mr. Turgeon have been serving in their respective roles on an interim basis since December 27, 2020.

Romano and Turgeon took over as interim co-CEOs in December last year when former CEO and chairman Jeffry Quinn took leave of absence after he was mentioned in an insider-trading lawsuit involving Ferro, where he used to be on the board.

As MRC reported earlier, Exxaro Resources (Pretoria, South Africa), a diversified resources firm, will sell off the bulk of its stake in Tronox in a public offering. The 17-million share secondary public offering will reduce Exxaro’s stake in Tronox to about 1.6% from about 14.6%. Exxaro began selling down its stake in Tronox, which had previously exceeded 40%, in 2017. The company took a stake in Tronox in 2012, in compensation for Tronox’s acquisition of Exxaro’s mineral sands operations. A 2019 deal also saw Tronox acquire Exxaro’s interest in its South African subsidiaries, which hold mining licenses for a variety of titanium dioxide raw materials. Tronox is also issuing to Exxaro about 7.2 million ordinary shares in the entire company in exchange for Exxaro’s 26% interest in Tronox’s South African subsidiaries, which hold mining licenses for a variety of titanium dioxide raw materials. Those shares are being included as part of the public offering.

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.

Tronox Holdings plc is one of the world’s leading producers of high-quality titanium products, including titanium dioxide pigment, specialty-grade titanium dioxide products and high-purity titanium chemicals; and zircon. We mine titanium-bearing mineral sands and operate upgrading facilities that produce high-grade titanium feedstock materials, pig iron and other minerals.

Ecopetrol extends investment in optimization software of its refineries

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Ecopetrol, the largest petroleum company in Colombia, has selected Aspen GDOT dynamic optimization software as part of its digitalization initiative to improve refining margins at its two refineries in Cartagena and Barrancabermeja, and upgrading to Aspen DMC3 advanced process control software in Barrancabermeja refinery, said the company.

"Optimizing production and increasing margins in today’s downstream business environment requires digital technology that enables refineries to see the entire process and make adjustments based on real-time data,” said Francisco Trespalacios Vergara, digital downstream champion at Ecopetrol. "This combination of AspenTech solutions gives us unparalleled visibility and control so that we can respond to changes in market conditions and align our planning, optimization and control strategies at our Cartagena and Barrancabermeja facilities with our global models. These solutions also fit in with our corporate digitalization initiative that we call ‘Best of the Best,’ which is an effort to deploy the ideal technology solutions to meet our needs across the organization."

Ecopetrol on December 25, 2020 resumed production of high-pressure polyethylene (LDPE) in the city of Barrancabermeja (Barrancabermeja, Colombia), previously closed due to a shortage of raw materials - ethylene. This production with a capacity of 23,000 tonnes of LDPE per year was closed for repair on 18 November.

It was previously reported that Ecopetrol intends to double sales by 2023. Ecopetrol sees opportunities to expand sales of aromatics, LDPE, solvents, base oils and asphalt in Colombia and other countries.

The company manages the production of PP with a capacity of 600,000 tonnes and LDPE with a capacity of 60,000 tonnes per year. Ecopetrol has about 90% of the aromatics market in Ecuador and 60% in Peru.

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.

ExxonMobil to conduct maintenance at aromatics plant in Rotterdam in March-April

MOSCOW (MRC) -- ExxonMobil is to shut its aromatics plant in Rotterdam-Botlek, Netherlands, for a six-week maintenance in March-April 2021, according to Chemweek with reference to market sources.

This turnaround is part of a larger repairs program at ExxonMobil's interconnected 191,000-b/d Botlek refinery and Rotterdam aromatics plant beginning in the first quarter.

The Rotterdam aromatics plant is one of the largest aromatics production facilities globally and produces pure aromatics such as benzene, orthoxylene, paraxylene (PX), and cyclohexane.

There are three benzene production units at the Botlek site. One has a capacity of 365,000 metric ton/year using reformate as feedstock. Another has a 300,000-metric tons/year capacity and uses pyrolysis gasoline as feedstock. The third is a 120,000-metric tons/year selective toluene disproportionation unit that produces benzene and PX via the use of toluene as a feedstock.

As MRC wrote before, ExxonMobil's recent operational shutdowns include polyethylene (PE) facilities amid power outages prompted by the deep freeze that has enveloped the US Gulf Coast. "This event has caused widespread power outages across Texas and Louisiana" Feb. 15," the letter, dated Feb. 16, said. "As a consequence, several ExxonMobil Chemical operations have experienced loss of power and other key utilities, impacting our ability to resume full operations." ExxonMobil operates three PE units in Mont Belvieu, Texas, with combined capacity of 880,000 mt/year, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

Exxon is among many petrochemical producers that shut Feb. 14 and subsequent days because of sustained extreme sub-freezing temperatures in the region. ExxonMobil previously confirmed Feb. 16 that the company had shut all refining and chemical operations at its Baytown and Beaumont, Texas, complexes. Ethylene produced at Baytown feeds the Mont Belvieu PE operations.

Benzene is a feedstock for the production of styrene monomer (SM), which, in its turn, is a feedstock for manufacturing polystyrene (PS).

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, January 2021 estimated consumption of PS and styrene plastics in Russia rose by 12% year on year, totalling 45,640 tonnes. The estimated consumption increased year on year for all PS grades.

ExxonMobil is the largest non-government owned company in the energy industry and produces about 3% of the world"s oil and about 2% of the world's energy.