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.

Saudi Arabia to slash domestic oil consumtion by 1 million b/d

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Saudi Arabia intends to reduce domestic consumption of liquid hydrocarbons by 1 million b/d for use "in a better way", reported S&P Global with reference to the kingdom's Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman's statement on March 16.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the kingdom - the Gulf's largest economy - was consuming around 491,000 b/d of oil for industrial use and power generation during the height of its summer demand in 2019, according to previous S&P Global Platts Analytics estimates. The US Energy Information Administration had estimated the figure to be closer to 1 million b/d in 2015 at the peak of summer during a record year for demand.

"If we are to maintain our position as a long-term carbon producer, we have to be innovative enough and collaborative enough to ensure these hydrocarbon resources will be monetized and used in a better way," said the Saudi minister during the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, broadcast online March 16. "We are launching a sustainability program to try to find ways to use hydrocarbons in different ways, especially in terms of materials, which will not be impacting or affecting the environment in any way."

Reducing domestic demand could also help Saudi Aramco increase its long-term spare capacity from levels of around 1.5 million b/d to 2 million b/d historically. The kingdom has more crude available from its 12 million b/d production capacity, due to its self-enforced cuts agreed with OPEC+, which have limited production to 8.13 million b/d in February, according to the latest S&P Global Platts survey, with exports below 6 million b/d.

A research paper published in 2018 by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre forecast that increases in domestic gasoline and electricity prices in the kingdom could effectively boost export capacity by over 75,000 b/d, while cutting carbon emissions by 97 million tons annually.

"The liquid displacement program that we will be introducing this year will take care of reducing our petroleum and petroleum product consumption from all utilities," said Prince Abdulaziz.

As MRC informed earlier, in October 2019, McDermott International announced that it had been awarded a contract by Saudi Aramco and Total Raffinage Chimie (Total) for their joint venture (JV) Amiral steam cracker project at Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Amiral is a JV in which Aramco holds 62.5% and Total the rest. The plant, designed to produce 1.5 million metric tons/year (MMt/y) of ethylene, will be one of the world's largest mixed-feed crackers.

Aramco and Total launched their USD5-billion Amiral JV project in October 2018. The steam cracker will be fed with a mixture of 50% ethane and refinery off-gases. It will supply ethylene to a downstream 1 MMt/y polyethylene manufacturing complex and other petrochemical products. The project aims to fully exploit operational synergies with the adjacent refinery, owned by Satorp, another JV between Aramco and Total. Third-party investors, including Daelim and Ineos, will locate plants at the value park adjacent to Amiral with a combined investment of USD4 billion. A final investment decision is expected in 2021.

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.

Saudi Aramco, officially the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, is a Saudi Arabian national oil and natural gas company based in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco"s value has been estimated at up to USD10 trillion in the Financial Times, making it the world"s most valuable company. Saudi Aramco has both the largest proven crude oil reserves, at more than 260 billion barrels, and largest daily oil production.

Braskem Idesa increases PE sales by 4% in 2020

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Braskem Idesa’s polyethylene (PE) sales totalled 845,000 metric tons in 2020, up by 4% from 813,000 metric tons in 2019, according to Chemweek with reference to Braskem's annual management report.

Sales to Mexico represented 53% of the total, down from 59% a year earlier, while sales to the US and Latin America increased to 13% and 19%, respectively. Sales to Europe also increased, from 8% to 12%, and sales to Asia fell from 11% to 4% of the total.

Braskem Idesa’s operating results for 2020 include a USD119 million accounting provision related to the write-off of the amount receivable from Braskem Idesa as a payment for damages for the supply of ethane in volumes below that established in the ethane supply agreement with Pemex.

Bag and film applications accounted for a larger percentage of PE sales in 2020 at 39%, up from 34% in 2019, while construction/infrastructure-related sales fell from 14% to 9%.

Braskem Idesa expects to invest USD34 million in 2021 for operating efficiency gains, such as the ethane import project and maintenance.

Braskem Idesa’s PE plant at Nanchital, Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, operated at 74% of its nameplate capacity in 2020, down by 2% year on year, after the site’s operations were shut in early December.

The site’s fourth-quarter 2020 utilization rate fell to 48%, down from 84% in the prior quarter, after a disagreement over an ethane supply contract led to the supply of natural gas to the Etileno XXI ethylene-PE complex being cut off by the Mexican government. Braskem Idesa has since signed a memorandum of understanding with Mexico’s state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) to discuss potential amendments to the ethane supply contract, with gas supply restored on 1 March.

Customers in Mexico have indicated they expect to be back to normal supply levels by April.

Braskem Idesa has also taken steps to increase its supply of imported ethane after years of being unable to run its facility at full rates due to feedstock constraints. In the fourth quarter, the company imported 35,000 metric tons of ethane from the US, representing 9% of the facility’s feedstock utilization capacity, according to the Braskem report.

In December, Braskem Idesa completed an expansion of its ethane import operation, bringing the current expected capacity to 20,000 barrels/day, or about 30% of the site’s total ethane requirement.

The Etileno XXI complex, which comprises a 1.05-million metric tons/year ethylene plant and three PE units, had a utilization rate of 84% in the third quarter of 2020.

As MRC informed earlier, in June 2020, Braskem announced the selection of Charleston, South Carolina for its new global export hub facility to serve international customers. The hub will provide packaging, warehousing and export shipping services to support Braskem's polypropylene (PP) production facilities in the United States. With the design and development phase well underway, the new global export hub was expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2020 and will have a capacity to support export shipments of up to 204,000 metric tons/year of PP and specialty polymers.

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.

Braskem S.A. produces petrochemicals and generates electricity. The Company produces ethylene, propylene, benzene, toluene, xylenes, butadiene, butene, isoprene, dicyclopentediene, MTBE, caprolactam, ammonium sulfate, cyclohexene, polyethylene theraphtalat, polyethylene, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

COVID-19 - News digest as of 18.03.2021

1. Weaker demand for crude oil takes toll on tankers, US refiners

MOSCOW (MRC) -- US refiners are scaling back on hiring ships for longer periods to save on costs in another sign of uncertainty over when global oil demand will return to pre-COVID levels, reported Reuters with reference to shipping and trade sources. The global rollout of coronavirus vaccines and the expectation that government-offered stimulus packages will boost the world economy has raised expectations of a recovery in oil consumption. But fuel demand remains sluggish, keeping oil refiners under pressure and looking for ways to limit further losses. The International Energy Agency, for example, does not expect oil demand to catch up with supply until about the third quarter.