Nouryon investing in thermoplastics plant in Wisconsin

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Nouryon has begun the engineering phase at its Expancel expandable microspheres plant in Wisconsin, US, moving one step closer to better serving its specialty additives customers in North America, said the company.

Construction on the plant is expected to begin at the end of the year. The expansion project, announced in 2019, strengthens Nouryon’s position in expandable microspheres. The Green Bay, Wisconsin, location was selected to complement the company’s existing production sites in Sweden, Brazil and China in order to support the growth of the industry. Expandable microspheres are used to make customers’ end products lighter and reduce cost and environmental impact by requiring less raw material.

"Nouryon is seeing a significant increase in demand for expandable microspheres, particularly in the packaging, construction and transportation industries in North America, which is being driven by global sustainability trends,” said Sylvia Winkel Pettersson, Vice President, Engineered Polymers at Nouryon. “This next phase in the development of our manufacturing facility is an important step to enable Nouryon to meet that fast-growing demand."

The material is used in products including concrete, packaging materials and elastomeric cool roof coatings in the construction industry, as well as for the prevention of cracks and water absorption in construction sealants to prolong the life of weather-exposed building materials. The solutions also help electric vehicles meet regulations for improved fuel efficiency. As less raw material is required it reduces the cost of production and is more environmentally friendly.

As per MRC, Nobian (formerly Nouryon), the world's largest manufacturer of paints and varnishes and specialty chemicals, announced force majeure on January 20 for the supply of caustic soda from its plant in Rotterdam (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) due to equipment breakdown. The resumption of Nobian's chlorine and caustic soda production in Rotterdam was delayed due to unforeseen production problems, resulting in a caustic soda force majeure announcement on April 28 amid critically low stocks.

Earlier it was reported that the March production of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) amounted to 118 thousand tons (100% of the main substance) against 98.4 thousand tons a month earlier. In the first three months of the year, the total production of caustic soda amounted to 329.4 thousand tons, which is 0.7% less than the same indicator of the previous year.

Nouryon was officially formed in October 2018 after separating from AkzoNobel. The company manufactures everyday products, such as paper, plastics, building materials, food, pharmaceuticals, and personal care items. The company operates in over 80 countries around the world and its portfolio of industry-leading brands includes Eka, Dissolvine, Trigonox and Berol.

PPG invests USD13 million into its paint and coatings facility and R&D center in China

MOSCOW (MRC) -- PPG has announced the completion of a USD13 million investment (approximately RMB 84 million) in its Jiading, China paint and coatings facility, including eight new powder coating production lines and an expanded Powder Coatings Technology Center that will further enhance PPG’s research and development capabilities, according to Wallstret:online.

The new production lines will produce premium quality general industrial powder coatings, wheel hub coatings, heavy-duty machinery coatings and other high-performance coatings.

The expansion will increase the plant’s capacity by more than 8,000 metric tons per year.

“We are developing coatings that not only meet but exceed the sustainability goals of both PPG and our customers,” said Vincent Robin, PPG president, Asia Pacific and vice president, automotive coatings, Asia Pacific. “In addition to increasing our powder coatings capacity through this recent investment, we are also enhancing our powder coatings R&D in China in an effort to meet the growing demand for innovative and sustainable products.”

The Powder Coatings Technology Center spans more than 2,000 square meters (21,500 square feet) and features a laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment that will support the development and testing of various coatings formulas and provide technical support for customers across the Asia Pacific region. The facility’s scientists and researchers develop a broad range of coatings for various applications, including automotive, building materials, construction machinery, industrial applications, 5G and consumer electronics.

As MRC informed earlier, in February 2020, PPG completed its acquisition of Industria Chimica Reggiana (ICR, Reggio Emilia, Italy), a maker of automotive refinish products. Financial terms of the deal, including purchase price, were not disclosed. The deal was announced on 8 January. ICR was founded in 1961 and employs about 180 people. ICR manufactures automotive refinish products, including putties, primers, basecoats and clear coats. It also makes a range of coatings, enamels and primers for light commercial vehicles and other light industrial coatings applications. ICR employs about 180 people and sells its products in more than 70 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the US and Latin America.

We remind that Russia's output of chemical products rose in February 2021 by 5.3% year on year. Thus, production of basic chemicals increased year on year by 7.5% in the first two months of 2021, according to Rosstat's data. Last month's production of polymers in primary form in Russia was 861,000 tonnes versus 196,000 tonnes in January. Overall output of polymers in primary form totalled 1,770,000 tonnes over the stated period, up by 8.4% year on year.

Tikkurila was established in 1862, and is headquartered in Vantaa, Finland. Tikkurila operates in eleven countries and its 2,700 dedicated professionals share the joy of building a vivid future through surfaces that make a difference. The company is a leading producer and distributor of decorative paint and coatings with more than 80% of its revenue coming from Finland, Sweden, Russia, Poland, and the Baltic states. Its premium brands include Tikkurila, ALCRO, and Beckers. In addition, Tikkurila’s industrial paint business participates in the wood and protective coatings end-use segments, among others. The company employs approximately 2,700 people globally and reported sales of approximately EUR 582 million in 2020.

U.S. government and fuel pipeline operator worked to secure the network that transports to halt cyberattack

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The U.S. government and the top U.S. fuel pipeline operator worked to secure the network that transports nearly half of the East Coast's supplies as a shutdown to halt a ransomware cyberattack entered a fourth day, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The attack on Colonial Pipeline last week, one of the most disruptive digital ransom schemes ever reported, has sent shockwaves across the industry. The resulting shutdown has disrupted fuel supply across the eastern United States, triggered isolated sales restrictions at retail pumps and pushed benchmark gasoline prices to a three-year high.

U.S. lawmakers urged stronger protections for critical U.S. energy infrastructure, and the White House has made restarting the fuel network a top priority and organized a federal task force to assess the impact and avoid more severe disruptions.

The southeastern United States would likely be the first to see price increases at retail pumps, and demand has already picked up as drivers fill their tanks. The southeast is the most dependent on the line and has fewer alternatives than states further north, and has seen prices spike during previous shutdowns.

"My biggest concern, as far as the consumer goes, is that you end up with a run on the gasoline supplies at the gas station, further exacerbating what is happening at the terminals," said Andrew Lipow, president of consultants Lipow Oil Associates LLC.

While the U.S. government investigation into the attack is in its early stages, a former U.S. official and three industry sources said the hackers are suspected to be a cybercriminal group called DarkSide. Cybersecurity experts said the group appears to be composed of veteran cybercriminals focused on squeezing as much money as they can from their targets.

Colonial said on Sunday it restarted some smaller lines between fuel terminals and customer delivery points but its main lines remained shut. It did not provide a timeline for a full restart of the 5,500 mile (8,850 km) system. The pipeline system is the primary fuel artery from Gulf Coast refineries to Mid-Atlantic and southeast states. It moves over 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, supplying motorists and major airports.

The Department of Transportation announced emergency measures on Sunday to facilitate deliveries, lifting driver restrictions on fuel haulers in 17 states affected by the shutdown. It could take additional measures if the outage continues.

Traders provisionally booked at least six tankers to ship gasoline from Europe to U.S. destinations following the attack. Two European gasoline traders, however, said the market was taking a cautious approach to see how long the shutdown would last.

The line supplies jet fuel to major airports including the nation's busiest, Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta. The airport expects the outage to be resolved before any impact on flights, a spokesman said.

An alternative, smaller conduit that serves the same region has already filled. Kinder Morgan Inc's 720,000-bpd fuel pipeline had been working with customers to take on additional volumes since Friday and reached full capacity for May on Sunday, a spokeswoman for the company told Reuters.

If the disruption stretches on, fuel suppliers would need to use trucks and rail to transport fuel to compensate. "A Herculean effort would be needed from other sources to make up the shortfall (in the East Coast,) if the pipeline disruption is prolonged," RBC Capital Markets wrote in a note.

Gulf Coast refiner Valero Energy chartered a tanker to store fuel offshore that it is unable to pump through the pipeline, and other refiners were looking to do the same, market participants said.

Ethylene and propylene are the main feedstocks for the production of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), respectively.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 576,270 tonnes in the first three month of 2021, up by 4% year on year. Low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) shipments increased. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market totalled 410,890 tonnes in January-March 2021, up by 56% year on year. Supply of homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers increased.

COVID-19 - News digest as of 17.05.2021

.1 Asahi Kasei FY2020 net profit falls nearly by a quarter on weak materials business

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Asahi Kasei’s net profit for the fiscal year ending March 2021 slumped by 23.2%, weighed down by weakness in its materials business, and as the company booked a one-off loss for the period, as per the Japanese producer's statement. The materials segment was hit by global economic deterioration amid the coronavirus pandemic. Sales for the segment declined by 9.3% year on year to Y991.2bn, with operating profit falling by 28% to Y66.5bn. “Performance recovered from the second quarter with recovery of automotive-related markets and recovery of petrochemical market prices, but there was a significant impact from the pandemic especially in the first quarter,” Asahi Kasei said.


Crude oil futures in Asia slightly up but increase limited by coronavirus concerns in the region

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Crude oil futures were slightly higher during mid-morning Asian trade May 17, but any upside was limited by concerns over renewed coronavirus-related mobility restrictions in the region, reported S&P Global.

At 11:03 am Singapore time (0303 GMT), the ICE Brent July contract was up 34 cents/b (0.49%) from the May 14 settle at USD69.05/b, while the June NYMEX light sweet crude contract was up 31 cents/b (0.47%) at USD65.68/b.

The market continues to monitor the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic in Asia, where a growing list of countries have tightened mobility restrictions.

Singapore and Taiwan, two countries that have thus far been lauded for reigning in the virus, are among the countries grappling with the rising number of infections. Singapore, on May 14, had introduced new restrictions under what it termed as 'Phase 2 (Heightened Alert)' to stem the recent rise in infections, whereas Taiwan, on May 15, followed suit, raising its coronavirus alert level in the capital, Taipei, and the surrounding city, and imposing two weeks of restrictions.

Meanwhile, over in India, Delhi extended its lockdown until May 24, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on May 16. Other parts of India, including states such as Maharashtra and West Bengal, have also extended their mobility restrictions, resulting in large swathes of the country currently under some form of lockdown.

Out in the west, fears over the spread of the B.1.167 mutant strain has also dampened market sentiment, even as the UK prepares to take a major step out of its lockdown on May 17. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the variant is more transmissible and could soon become the dominant strain in the region, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson also expressing concern over the strain, saying it could thwart the UK's plan to fully unravel all restrictions by June 21.

Market analysts have cautioned that the prospect of a deterioration in the pandemic situation poses significant downside risk for oil prices, but have added that the market remains supported for now by the increase in demand from the US and Europe. They expect the front month Brent marker to trade noisily around the USD69/b level.

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 the main feedstocks for the production of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), respectively.

According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 576,270 tonnes in the first three month of 2021, up by 4% year on year. Low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) shipments increased. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market totalled 410,890 tonnes in January-March 2021, up by 56% year on year. Supply of homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers increased.