COVID-19 - News digest as of 30.04.2021

1. Shell raises its dividend in Q1 as profits surge

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Royal Dutch Shell's (RDSa.L) profits leapt to USD3.23 billion in the first three months of the year and the energy company raised its dividend as planned but warned that the outlook remained uncertain due to the coronavirus pandemic, said the company. Shell's adjusted earnings were above an average analyst forecast of USD3.125 billion and also ahead of earnings of USD2.9 billion last year, boosted by assets sales as well as higher oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices. Sales of oil and gas assets in countries including Nigeria, Canada and Egypt added USD1.4 billion to first-quarter profits. Shell's London-listed shares were up 1.2% at 0736 GMT, outperforming a 1% gain for the broader European energy index (.SXEP).


Crude oil futures slip on weaker economic data from China and global pandemic concerns

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Crude oil futures ticked lower during mid-morning trade in Asia April 30, as prices pulled back from a six-week high due to weaker economic data from China, and persistent concerns over the progress of the pandemic in key economies around the world, reported S&P Global.

At 11:23 am Singapore time (0323 GMT), the ICE Brent June contract was down 32 cents/b (0.47%) from the April 29 settle at USD68.24/b, while the June NYMEX light sweet crude contract was down 36 cents/b (0.55%) at USD64.65/b.

The downturn in the market comes after oil prices had hit a six-week high on April 29, with front month ICE Brent and NYMEX light sweet crude contracts settling at USD68.56/b and USD65.01/b, respectively.

The rise in prices on April 29 was driven by signs of improving oil demand in China, Europe and the US. Optimism over the US economic recovery also provided some tailwind to the market, as the country had posted an annualized growth rate of 6.4% in Q1 2021, according to April 29 data from the Commerce Department.

This morning, however, prices came under pressure due to profit-taking activity, and weaker-than-expected Chinese Purchasing Managers' Index. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics released April 30 showed that the recovery in China's manufacturing and services sectors had slowed slightly, with manufacturing PMI at 51.1 in April from 51.9 in March, and non-manufacturing PMI at 54.9 in April from 56.3 in March.

"A weaker-than-expected Chinese manufacturing PMI weighed on sentiment," Margaret Yang, DailyFX strategist told S&P Global Platts April 30.

Yang also cited the resurgence of the pandemic in key economies, especially India, as a reason for the caution shown by investors this morning. The country reported a record 379,308 new cases and 3,645 deaths on April 28, latest data from John Hopkins University showed. "Viral resurgence in India appears to be a key concern among Asia-Pacific investors, dampening the prospect of energy demand from the world's third-largest oil importer," she said.

Concerns over the deterioration of the pandemic situation in other countries, such as Japan and Brazil, has also soured sentiment in the market, with ANZ analysts saying in a April 30 note that "demand in (these two countries) is also likely to be hit by a surge in infections and new restrictions."

As MRC informed earlier, 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 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 polyethylene (PE) consumption totalled 356,370 tonnes in the first two month of 2021, down by 9% year on year. Shipments of exclusively low density polyethylene (LDPE) increased. At the same time, polypropylene (PP) shipments to the Russian market was 246,870 tonnes in January-February 2021, up by 30% year on year. Supply of homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers increased.

INEOS Styrolution and Trinseo select Recycling Technologies as partner for first PS recycling plant in Europe

MOSCOW (MRC) -- INEOS Styrolution, Recycling Technologies and Trinseo have announced that they have reached a significant milestone in their plans to build commercial polystyrene (PS) recycling plants in Europe. Recycling Technologies has been selected as the technology partner, as per Trinseo's press release.

These three companies all share the same vision of making PS a circular material through depolymerisation. The unique properties of PS allow for full circularity where PS waste is returned to its chemical building blocks before being polymerised again. The recycled PS will have identical properties with virgin PS. Life cycle assessment calculations show significant decreases in greenhouse gas emissions when compared with PS production from naphtha.

Following a detailed assessment of technology options, Recycling Technologies was selected to join INEOS Styrolution and Trinseo as the technology provider for commercial scale recycling of PS. Recycling Technologies’ solution provided the highest yields in the conversion of PS to styrene monomer and provided the most scalable solution due to the company’s fluidised bed reactor combined with expertise of a highly skilled technical team.

Prior to building the commercial scale recycling plants, a PS recycling pilot plant will be built in the UK in 2022, and the technology will be further developed jointly by the three parties. The pilot plant will provide information and data related to chemical recycling and operations to support future development of the commercial scale recycling plants.

INEOS Styrolution plans to build its full commercial scale recycling facility in Wingles, France. Trinseo announces its plan to build its own plant in Tessenderlo, Belgium, which is expected to be operational in 2023. Each plant would aim to convert 15kT/y of PS waste into recycled styrene.

As MRC reported earlier, in February 2021, Ineos Styrolution, the styrenics subsidiary of Ineos, said it was collaborating with Polystyvert (Montreal, Canada) to convert post-consumer PS into recycled PS resin using Polystyvert’s dissolution technology. The companies signed a joint development agreement for the dissolution process to convert waste PS into recycled resin. The process takes solid PS waste and dissolves it in a solvent, before processing and then separating the end-product from the solvent as a polymer for reuse, it says.

Besides, earlier this month, Trinseo, a global materials company and manufacturer of plastics, latex binders and synthetic rubber, and BASF, the world's largest petrochemical company, announced the intention to expand their businesses with the production of styrene monomer (SM) based on circular feedstock. The enhanced collaboration between Trinseo and BASF aims to increase efforts by both companies in the development and management of SM featuring an improved environmental profile.

Trinseo is a global materials company and manufacturer of plastics, latex and rubber. Trinseo's technology is used by customers in industries such as home appliances, automotive, building & construction, carpet, consumer electronics, consumer goods, electrical & lighting, medical, packaging, paper & paperboard, rubber goods and tires. Formerly known as Styron, Trinseo completed its renaming process in 1Q 2015. Trinseo had approximately USD3.0 billion in net sales in 2020, with 17 manufacturing sites around the world, and approximately 2,600 employees.

INEOS Styrolution is the leading global styrenics supplier, with a focus on styrene monomer, polystyrene, ABS Standard and styrenic specialties. With world-class production facilities and more than 90 years of experience, INEOS Styrolution helps its customers succeed by offering solutions, designed to give them a competitive edge in their markets. At the same time, these innovative and sustainable best-in-class solutions help make the circular economy for styrenics a reality. The company provides styrenic applications for many everyday products across a broad range of industries, including automotive, electronics, household, construction, healthcare, packaging and toys/sports/leisure. In 2020, sales were at 4 billion euros. INEOS Styrolution employs approximately 3,600 people and operates 20 production sites in ten countries.

BPCL dispathces first batch of acrylic acid from Kochi refinery

MOSCOW (MRC) -- India’s Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) has shipped the first consignment of acrylic acid from its Propylene Derivative Petrochemical (PDP) complex at Kochi Refinery, according to Kemicalinfo.

Acrylic Acid is one of the six niche petrochemical products produced in the new PDP Complex at Kochi Refinery.

Built at the cost of Rs 6,000 crore (~USD805 million), the complex utilises 250,000 metric tonnes per annum (mtpa) of Propylene and produce 180,000 mtpa Butyl Acrylate, 10,000 mtpa 2-Ethyl Hexyl Acrylate, 47,000 mtpa Acrylic Acid, 47,000 mtpa 2-Ethyl Hexanol and 38,000 mtpa nButanol.

“The first supplies of acrylic acid, which is used in hygienic medical products, detergents, and wastewater treatment chemicals, plastics, coatings, adhesives, elastomers, paints, and polishes, etc, were made to Rossari Biotech and Visen Industries,” the company said in a statement.

In the next few weeks, production of Oxo Alcohols and Acrylates is also expected to commence.

Acrylic acid unit is the largest single-train unit in the world with a capacity of 160,000 tonnes per annum. Technology for these products has been sourced from Air Liquide Global E & C solutions, Germany, Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, Japan & Johnson Matthey Davy Process Technologies, United Kingdom.

Commenting on this milestone, S Jena, ED (Industrial & Commercial), BPCL said products from the complex would replace almost 90 per cent of the country’s imports in this segment.

We remin that as MRC reported previously, Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited (BCPL), also known as the Assam gas cracker project, has unexpectedly shut down its high density polyethylene (HDPE)/linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) swing plant. Thus, this plant was taken off-stream on 12 April 2021 due to technical glitches. Based in Lepetkata, Assam, India, the plant has a production capacity of 220,000 mt/year. It resumed operations early last week.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated polyethylene (PE) consumption totalled 356,370 tonnes in the first two month of 2021, down by 9% year on year. Shipments of exclusively low density polyethylene (LDPE) increased.

Joint large investment projects of TAIF and SIBUR may receive state support

MOSCOW (MRC) - Large investment projects in the oil and gas chemical complex of Tatarstan can receive state support through the mechanism for concluding investment protection agreements (SPIC), Realnoe Vremya reports, citing the words of Tatneftekhiminvest Holding CEO Rafinat Yarullin.

He believes that it is necessary to actively participate in federal initiatives. "TAIF, in synergy with SIBUR, plans to implement more than 30 projects, their cost will be determined, also somewhere around 1 trillion," he said.

The volume of investments of the Tatneft group under the strategy program until 2030 will amount to 1.2 trillion rubles. Ammonia will invest heavily in diversifying its production to ensure carbon neutrality and environmental sustainability. "You can get support for these projects through the conclusion of contracts in the SPIC," Yarullin said.

Earlier it was reported that TAIF together with SIBUR will spend more than 1 trillion rubles. for the implementation of joint projects. In total, the companies plan to implement over 30 projects.

The companies previously signed a legally binding asset pooling agreement. The deal involves the exchange of a minimum controlling stake in TAIF for a 15% stake in SIBUR. To complete the transaction, SIBUR will conduct an additional share issue. The merged enterprise will have an option to buy out the remaining stake in TAIF, and TAIF shareholders will also have the right to activate this option.

After the completion of all investment projects underway - the Amur Mining and Chemical Combine and the construction of a new pyrolysis facility at Nizhnekamskneftekhim, the combined company will enter the TOP-5 global leaders in the production of polyolefins and rubbers, whose combined capacity will amount to 8 million tons of polyolefins and 1.2 million tonnes of rubbers.

Earlier it was reported that SIBUR increased its sales of polypropylene and polyethylene last year amid growing utilization of the ZapSibNeftekhim complex. This led to an increase in the company's revenue in the olefins and polyolefins segment by 77.1% to Rb187.3 bn. This growth was mainly due to an increase in sales of polypropylene and polyethylene as a result of increased utilization of the ZapSibNeftekhim complex and was partially offset by a decrease in prices for these types of products.

SIBUR is the largest vertically integrated gas processing and petrochemical company in Russia, uniting a number of production sites in various regions of the Russian Federation. The company sells products to consumers in the fuel and energy complex, automotive, construction, consumer goods, chemical and other industries in more than 80 countries around the world.

PSC "TAIF" was established in 1995, is the parent company of the group of the same name, which includes enterprises structured in four business areas: oil and gas processing, chemistry and petrochemistry (energy); investment and financial services; building; telecommunications and complex services, including trade. TAIF Group of Companies is a large Russian holding that controls 96% of the chemical, petrochemical and oil and gas processing industries in Tatarstan. The most important of its directions is the "Chemistry, Petrochemistry and Oil and Gas Processing" division, which includes the leading Russian polymer producers Nizhnekamskneftekhim and Kazanorgsintez.