U.S. expected to announce 3 years of biofuel blending mandates in Nov

U.S. expected to announce 3 years of biofuel blending mandates in Nov

MOSCOW (MRC) -- The Biden administration is expected to announce a rule this year that would detail annual biofuel blending mandates for the refining industry for a three-year period instead of just for one, three sources familiar with the discussions said, said Reuters.

The switch to a multi-year target would be aimed at providing longer-term certainty to the refining and biofuels industries, which have battled nearly constantly over the annual mandates since they began more than a decade ago under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

"They're trying to put together a proposal for 2023, 2024 and 2025 where once they put the proposals together, then they don't have to go back in and they don't have to change and modify the volumes," said one of the sources, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the discussions.

The EPA has been ordered to propose a rulemaking for 2023 mandates by Nov. 16, according to a legal document in July. The Environmental Protection Agency, which administers the RFS, declined to comment for this article.
Under the RFS, oil refiners must blend billions of gallons of biofuels into the nation's fuel mix, or buy tradable credits known as RINs from those that do. The policy aims to reduce energy imports, help farmers, and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

While Congress set out specific goals through 2022, the law expands the EPA's authority to change the way the RFS is administered. Starting next year, the agency will have leeway to set multi-year mandates and make other changes.

Previously, sources told Reuters the EPA is studying ways to use the RFS to support electric vehicles, sustainable aviation fuel and hydrogen. The EPA has not shared its plans.

The annual rulemaking process had created a nonstop lobbying battle over the mandates for the powerful oil and corn lobbies. The oil industry says the requirements are expensive and threaten blue-collar refinery jobs; the agriculture industry likes the mandates which boost demand for products such as corn-based ethanol.

Both sectors welcome a multi-year rulemaking to increase market certainty, but some worry the shift could unintentionally distort markets if long-term mandates over- or under-shoot actual demand.

An unexpected slump in energy demand in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, for example, led the EPA to trim biofuel blending mandates for that year. Biofuel advocates, meanwhile, say rising public subsidies for the industry could also grow production in unexpected ways.

The Inflation Reduction Act, a massive climate legislation deal, included extended credits for biodiesel and incentives for sustainable aviation fuel needed to reduce emissions from the airline industry. Both fuels already qualify for credits under the RFS.

As per MRC, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld a USD14.25 MM judgment against ExxonMobil Corp for pollution from its Baytown, Texas, refining and petrochemical complex. The judgment stems from a U.S. Clean Air Act lawsuit brought by two environmental groups, Environment Texas and the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter. This is Exxon’s second appeal of a Houston U.S. district court’s ruling that Exxon was responsible for repeated releases of pollution from the refinery and chemical plants in Baytown.

Evonik opens new Innovation Hub in Pennsylvania

Evonik opens new Innovation Hub in Pennsylvania

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Evonik, one of the world's leading specialty chemicals companies, has opened a new Innovation Hub at its Allentown, Pa., site, said the company.

The Hub consists of several state-of-the-art testing and processing labs as well as a pilot plant. It also features a newly designed collaboration space to support a hybrid and creative work environment. The expansion will create 50 highly paid jobs for scientists, engineers, and lab technicians in the Lehigh Valley region around Allentown.

The Innovation Hub is part of a broader globalization strategy for Research, Development & Innovation (RD&I) at the Germany-based company. "We are strengthening regional RD&I hubs in Asia and North America to benefit from innovative ideas outside of Europe and be closer to our customers in those regions," said Evonik Chief Financial Officer Ute Wolf at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the Allentown Innovation Hub. "The new Hub will transform the Allentown site into our premier center for research, business, and innovation in North America."

By 2030, Evonik aims to invest more than USD3 billion in Next Generation Solutions - products with superior sustainability benefits. Evonik will invest an additional USD700 million in Next Generation Technologies to optimize production processes and infrastructure and avoid CO2 emissions.

North America is an essential growth market for Evonik. The region contributed roughly a quarter (23%) to Evonik's annual sales in 2021, making it the second-largest revenue source after Europe (EMEA). Evonik has invested several billion dollars in North America since 2017, when the company acquired the specialty additives business of Allentown-based industrial gas producer Air Products.

Evonik currently employs 300 people at the Allentown site, which is close to Philadelphia, New York City, and many premier research institutions.

Evonik's new High Performance Polymers lab in Allentown allows the processing and testing of plastics for 3D printing, medical implants, or performance foams in airplanes or cars. Another lab enables the formulation and testing of additives for industrial coatings. Allentown's best-in-class polyurethane spray foam testing and emission chamber helps Evonik customers meet environmental and emission standards.

The Innovation Hub also features a flexible collaboration space to support and enhance a hybrid work environment. The uniquely designed space offers open areas for employees to work onsite without needing individual offices. Employees have access to cutting-edge technology like digital whiteboards or tools for video conferencing.

The continued expansion of the Allentown site underscores Evonik's commitment to the Lehigh Valley community, which goes beyond creating job opportunities. Evonik has recently donated $100,000 to support the Women in Science & Engineering (WISE) initiative of the Da Vinci Science Center, Allentown’s award-winning science museum. WISE was established as part of the Science Center's broader commitment to supporting women and girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). The donation highlights Evonik's ongoing support of education and diversity in STEM fields.

We remind, Evonik Coating Additives business expands production capacity in Taiwan. MOSCOW (MRC) -- Business line Coating Additives of Evonik Industries AG (Essen, Germany) is expanding production capacity of ACEMATT precipitated matting agents at its Taiwan manufacturing facility. The significant capacity increase will help meet growing demand for matting agents in Asia, with the capacity expansion expected to be completed by the second half of 2023.

Iraq oil exports unaffected by political turmoil

Iraq oil exports unaffected by political turmoil

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Iraq's oil exports are unaffected by the current political turmoil in the country, three sources told Reuters last week.

Baghdad is seeing its worst fighting for years as clashes between Shi'ite Muslim groups spill into a second day.

Supporters of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a former anti-U.S. insurgent leader, have surrounded the Majnoon oil field in Basra since Monday evening as well as the 210,000 bpd Basrah refinery, according to two sources.

But protesters are expected to leave these areas shortly after Sadr told supporters to withdraw from violent clashes, one of the sources said.

We remind, production at Iraq’s Karbala oil refinery south of Baghdad will begin by the end of the year, oil minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar said. The Karbala project has a production capacity of 140,000 barrels of oil per day, the minister added.

As per MRC, Technip was awarded by Oil Projects Company SCOP a significant contract for project management consultancy (PMC) services for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) phase of the Karbala refinery, Iraq. This award follows the front-end engineering design executed by Technip in 2010. The scope of work will cover two phases. Phase 1: issue of enquiries for the EPC contract, bids clarification, evaluation and contracts finalisation with the EPC contractors. Phase 2: overall management of the EPC contract execution.

North American weekly chem railcar traffic increased by 2.1%

North American weekly chem railcar traffic increased by 2.1%

MOSCOW (MRC) -- North American chemical railcar traffic rose for third consecutive week, according to the latest freight rail data by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 511,574 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.4 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending August 27 were 242,633 carloads, up 3.4 percent compared with the same week in 2021, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 268,941 containers and trailers, down 0.3 percent compared to 2021.

Four of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2021. They included coal, up 5,893 carloads, to 74,295; grain, up 2,224 carloads, to 19,458; and motor vehicles and parts, up 1,323 carloads, to 14,624. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2021 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 1,228 carloads, to 9,642; metallic ores and metals, down 660 carloads, to 23,112; and forest products, down 419 carloads, to 9,834.

For the first 34 weeks of 2022, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 7,849,281 carloads, up 0.1 percent from the same point last year; and 8,976,594 intermodal units, down 5.3 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 34 weeks of 2022 was 16,825,875 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 2.9 percent compared to last year.

North American rail volume for the week ending August 27, 2022, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 340,747 carloads, up 2.4 percent compared with the same week last year, and 359,832 intermodal units, up 0.7 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 700,579 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.5 percent. North American rail volume for the first 34 weeks of 2022 was 22,997,308 carloads and intermodal units, down 2.7 percent compared with 2021.

Canadian railroads reported 76,361 carloads for the week, up 1.8 percent, and 74,570 intermodal units, up 3.8 percent compared with the same week in 2021. For the first 34 weeks of 2022, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 4,897,939 carloads, containers and trailers, down 3 percent.

Mexican railroads reported 21,753 carloads for the week, down 6.3 percent compared with the same week last year, and 16,321 intermodal units, up 4.3 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 34 weeks of 2022 was 1,273,494 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 1 percent from the same point last year.

We remind, North American chemical railcar traffic rose by 2.3% year on year to 46,132 loadings for the week ended 20 August. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 501,548 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.1 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending August 20 were 237,404 carloads, up 2.9 percent compared with the same week in 2021, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 264,144 containers and trailers, down 2.4 percent compared to 2021.

ExxonMobil to sell its share of Aera Energy joint venture

ExxonMobil to sell its share of Aera Energy joint venture

MOSCOW (MRC) -- ExxonMobil affiliates have signed an agreement to sell all of ExxonMobil’s interests in the Aera oil-production operation in California to Green Gate Resources E, LLC, a subsidiary of IKAV, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The transaction involves a share sale of Mobil California Exploration & Producing Asset Company. In addition, ExxonMobil affiliates have entered into a separate agreement for the sale of an associated loading facility and pipeline system.

“This sale is part of our strategy to continually strengthen our industry-leading portfolio, focusing our investments in low-cost-of-supply oil and natural gas to meet consumer demand and create value for our shareholders,” said Liam Mallon, president of ExxonMobil Upstream Company.

Mobil California Exploration & Producing Company holds a 48.2% share of Aera Energy LLC and a 50% share of Aera Energy Services Company, a joint venture with Shell. It was formed in June 1997 and has operations in eight onshore fields. In 2021, Aera produced about 95,000 oil-equivalent barrels per day.

The sale does not affect ExxonMobil’s branded network of about 500 independently owned retail sites in California.

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2022, subject to regulatory approvals.

As per MRC, Exxon Mobil is in the process of transitioning its 30% stake in a Russian oil development "to another party," according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Exxon Mobil announced in March its withdrawal from the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project due to the situation around Ukraine. In the same month, the company announced the recall of its American employees employed in oil and gas projects in Russia.

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.