Eight injured in fiery blast at idled Canadian oil refinery

Eight injured in fiery blast at idled Canadian oil refinery

MOSCOW (MRC) -- A fire and explosion at an idled oil refinery in Canada's Newfoundland and Labrador province injured eight people before the blaze was contained, Canadian police said, as per Reuters.

All eight people went to hospital, some with serious injuries, said Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesperson Corporal Jolene Garland. All other employees have been accounted for.

The Braya Renewable Fuels refinery, previously known as Come by Chance, has been idled for more than a year. Private equity firm Cresta Fund Management, which owns a controlling stake, is converting the refinery to produce sustainable aviation fuel and renewable diesel, but it was not yet producing fuel at the time of the explosion.

The investigation into the cause of the blast was continuing.

Braya Renewable Fuels said the incident occurred in the afternoon and that emergency personnel were on scene, but did not provide further details.

We remind, an explosion occurred at SK Geocentric in Ulsan on the 31st, resulting in multiple injuries. In April, two workers died on the job site, and they were classified as subject to the Serious Accident Punishment Act and were being investigated.

Surge in U.S. oil flows to China may curtail Middle East shipments

Surge in U.S. oil flows to China may curtail Middle East shipments

MOSCOW (MRC) -- China's imports of U.S. oil are expected to rise to a 20-month high in September and may increase more in November as refiners take advantage of lower prices amid a surge in U.S. exports from rising output and stockpile releases, said Reuters.

The United States is gaining market share in the world's biggest oil importer in another sign of how crude trade flows are shifting in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which spurred the stockpile release and higher output. The increasing U.S. flows may eat into demand for other similar light crude grades from the Middle East, such as Murban from Abu Dhabi.

At least 14 tankers carrying a total of 1.51 MMt, or 11 MM barrels, of U.S. crude are forecast to discharge at Chinese ports in September and 8.82 million barrels to arrive in October, estimates from Refinitiv showed. That would be the highest since January 2021 when 1.98 MMt arrived.

"The Chinese increased U.S. crude purchases as the arbitrage window finally opened," said a Singapore-based trader associated with a Chinese firm.

Rising U.S. supplies caused the discount between U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude and Middle East benchmark Dubai to widen to USD10.72 a barrel in late August, Refinitiv data showed, the most since March 9, not long after the Ukraine war started on Feb. 24. China's state-owned refiners, such as Sinopec, are leading the purchases of U.S. crude, said three Singapore-based traders.

Sinopec did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Some of the cargoes moving to China are from releases out of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to counter rising prices after the start of the war which also prompted output increases.

The surging U.S. shipments pushed freight rates for Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC) on the U.S. Gulf to China route to USD9 million per charter at the end of August, the highest since May 2020, according to data from shipbrokers Simpson Spence Young.

U.S. imports slumped to a 27-month-low in July at 128,527 tons, or 938,247 barrels, according to Chinese customs data, after the Ukraine crisis and post-pandemic recovery boosted demand in the west and made arbitrage supplies uneconomical for Chinese refiners.

However, with the arbitrage now open more U.S. crude should flow impacting the shipments of more traditional supplies from the Middle East. "There will also be more U.S. crude coming in November, because of the record amount of SPR release and poor Europe demand. All those surplus cargoes are pushed to Asia and pressured regional crude Murban in the recent trading cycle," said a Singapore-based trader.

Spot premiums for Murban averaged $6.10 a barrel against Dubai quotes in August, plunging from USD11.30 a barrel in July, according to Reuters calculations. Despite the increase of U.S. shipments, China's total crude imports may further dip in September, analysts said, as Beijing's persistent zero-COVID policy dampens fuel consumption.

An ongoing tax probe on independent refiners in Shandong, whose combined refining capacity accounts for a fifth of China's total, may also cap their crude purchases. Operating rates at these refineries have dropped to 60% in late August from about 70% in mid-July, according to energy consultancy Zhuochuang.

"Refining rates could further drop in the coming months as the tax probe continues and the Communist Party Congress takes place in mid-October," said a China-based trader.

We remind, Beijing has been stepping up efforts to tighten supervision and standardize operations of its refining sector. It launched a series of investigations on refineries beginning April 2021. The latest round of inspections this month will focus mainly on tax issues, as small-scale private refiners often fail to fulfill their tax obligations in an attempt to stay competitive.

Fire breaks out at SK geo centric plant in Ulsan, injuring 7

Fire breaks out at SK geo centric plant in Ulsan, injuring 7

MOSCOW (MRC) -- An explosion occurred at SK Geocentric in Ulsan on the 31st, resulting in multiple injuries, said Korea.postsen.

In April, two workers died on the job site, and they were classified as subject to the Serious Accident Punishment Act and were being investigated.

An explosion occurred at the SK Geocentric synthetic resin manufacturing plant (polymer plant) in Sanggae-dong, Nam-gu, Ulsan, around 3:42 pm that day. As black smoke rose from inside the factory with a strong explosion, local residents called 911. Witnesses said, “The shock was so severe that the surrounding buildings shook."

The fire department said that 7 people, including 4 regular employees of SK Geocentric and 3 employees of partner companies, were burned in the accident. They are now conscious and breathing normally, but are in critical condition with major surgical wounds and burns, fire officials said. It is believed that the explosion occurred due to excessive pressure during the maintenance of the polymer regeneration process valve in the plant.

The Ulsan Southern Fire Department has issued an emergency suspension of use for the SK Geocentric Polymer Plant. As a result, all hazardous materials general handling centers at the SK Geocentric Polymer Plant will be shut down. The company can resume operation only after implementing safety measures, inspecting facilities, and obtaining permission from the fire department.

At SK Geocentric Ulsan Plant, on April 20, while cleaning the toluene storage tank, an internal fire broke out, killing two workers. At that time, a fire broke out while cleaning the inside of a 10,000-barrel tank that was storing toluene, a petrochemical product, and two people suffered full-body burns. They were taken to a burn hospital, but all died during treatment.

We remind, under a MOU signed between Sabic SK Nexlene Company, a joint venture company between Sabic and SK Geo Centric, and the Ulsan Metropolitan City in South Korea, the firm will construct and expand its production plants for high-performance polyolefin elastomers.

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.