North American weekly chemical railcar traffic rose by 17%

North American weekly chemical railcar traffic rose by 17%

MOSCOW (MRC) -- North American weekly chemical railcar traffic rose, following three straight declines, with loadings for the week ended 13 May up 1.7% year on year to 45,655, according to the latest freight rail data by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

For the first 19 weeks of 2023 ended 13 May, North American chemical rail traffic was down 2.9% year on year to 862,239, with US traffic down 5.3%, to 592,744 loadings.

In the US, chemical railcar loadings represent about 20% of chemical transportation by tonnage, with trucks, barges and pipelines carrying the rest. In Canada, chemical producers rely on rail to ship more than 70% of their products, with some exclusively using rail.

We remind, North American chemical railcar traffic fell for a second week, with loadings for the week ended 29 April down 1.3% year on year to 47,654, led by a 1.9% decline in the US. For the first 17 weeks of 2023 ended 29 April, North American chemical rail traffic was down 3.2% year on year to 776,704, with US traffic down 6.0%, to 552,069 loadings.

Henkel opens adhesive technologies centre in Bridgewater, US

Henkel opens adhesive technologies centre in Bridgewater, US

MOSCOW (MRC) -- German adhesives, sealants and functional coatings producer Henkel this week opened a new adhesives technologies centre at Bridgewater, New Jersey, said the company.

The 70,000 square-foot centre will support customers from more than 800 industry segments.

It will focus on innovation and sustainable adhesives solutions in markets such as hygiene, packaging and labelling, tissue and towel, flexible packaging, paper lamination, pressure sensitive tapes, graphics, medical and labels, engineered wood, and furniture and construction markets.

“The central focus of Adhesive Technologies' innovation activities is developing sustainable solutions for our customers,” said Michael Harwell, vice president of Innovation, Consumer Goods Adhesives, at Henkel.

“With the help of digital technologies, many exhibits, and numerous labs, customers from across the US, Canada and Mexico can directly experience our innovative and technological power," Harwell said.

Henkel employs more than 200 people at Bridgewater. Financial details were not disclosed.

We remind, Henkel and Shell Chemical LP have agreed to a five-year collaboration to replace up to 200,000 tonnes of fossil feedstocks used in the manufacture of surfactants with feedstocks that are based on renewable raw materials. The renewable-based surfactants will be used in Henkel’s laundry product brands, including many varieties of Persil®, Purex® and all® brands. Surfactants are an ingredient in cleaning products that help lather and lift dirt.

U.S. refiners build new oil processing as travel rises

U.S. refiners build new oil processing as travel rises

MOSCOW (MRC) -- U.S. oil refiners aim to run at up to 94% of a total 17.9 million bpd processing capacity this quarter, according to company forecasts and analysts, driven in part by expectations of seasonal travel demand, said Reuters.

Strong prices and demand since late 2021 have encouraged refiners to run above 90% of their processing capacity and in a sign that they expect fuel demand to remain high, two refiners have added units or enhanced their output, reviving a once routine practice that disappeared amid COVID-19 closures.

This quarter is traditionally one of the year's hottest for demand as companies build gasoline and jet fuel output for the summer vacation season. Motorist group AAA on Monday predicted the May 27-29 Memorial Day holiday weekend will be the third busiest for auto travel since 2000 and most active at U.S. airports since 2005.

This quarter's pace compares to 91.3% utilization in the year-ago quarter and the 71.5% and 87.8% run-rates in 2020 and 2021 as the industry struggled with COVID-19 lockdowns that reduced fuel consumption and crushed industry profits.

Behind the higher run-rate is the fact that motor fuel stocks are beneath their 5-year averages. Gasoline and distillates inventories are 7% and 16% below, investment firm Tudor Pickering Holt & Co estimated.

"Demand trends are strong in gasoline and jet (fuel)," said Matthew Blair, a managing director at Tudor Pickering. He estimates refiners overall will run at 94% utilization rate this quarter, matching the 2017-19 average for the period. Among larger refiners, Marathon Petroleum plans to run at 91% of capacity, Valero Energy at between 90% and 93%, and Phillips 66 (PSX.N) in the mid-90s, officials said.

"I would expect utilization to go up a couple of points (this quarter)," from the early May run rate of 91%, said David Hackett, chairman of fuel consultancy Stillwater Associates. High prices will keep U.S. refinery utilization rates at levels near last year's about 91.7% this year and next, the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecast in January.

Refiners will add the capacity to process an additional 328,000 bpd in this quarter, increasing gasoline and diesel supplies this summer. ExxonMobil added 250,000 bpd at its Beaumont, Texas, refinery; Citgo Petroleum Inc 38,000 bpd at its Lake Charles, Louisiana, plant; and Marathon Petroleum Corp 40,000 bpd at its Galveston Bay Refinery in Texas City, Texas.

Two others whose refineries were offline last quarter - Suncor's in Commerce City, Colorado and Cenovus' in Superior, Wisconsin, are resuming operations. "Margins are not going to be as robust as they have been in the past year and a half," said John Auers, managing director of Refined Fuels Analytics.

We remind, ConocoPhillips posted significantly lower earnings in 1Q 2023 than in 1Q 2022 because because of declining oil prices, but still surpassed analysts' projections. The US firm announced a net profit of USD2.9 bn, a decline from USD5.8 bn in 1Q 2022. Earnings stood at USD2.38/share, an increase from USD4.39/share in 1Q 2022.

OQ Chemicals starts up new pilot plant for esters in Germany

OQ Chemicals starts up new pilot plant for esters in Germany

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Global chemical company, OQ Chemicals, successfully starts up its new pilot plant for esters in Oberhausen, Germany, said the company.

This state-of-the-art test facility enables the company to manufacture small quantities of esters that are tailored to customer needs for test purposes. The new products can later be produced on a large scale at OQ Chemicals' industrial plants.

The pilot plant is part of OQ Chemicals' investment in research and development and strengthens the company's position as an innovation leader in the field of Oxo Performance Chemicals. Esters are indispensable additives in many applications, especially in the plastics and lubricants industries for the field of electromobility.

We remind, OQ Chemicals carried out a shutdown at its Ruhrchemie plant in Oberhausen, Germany from April 17 to May 12, 2023. This shutdown, also known as a turnaround, is a regular process that occurs every five years and includes routine inspections, maintenance work, and legally required inspections by TUV (a German technical inspection association) to ensure the safety of production facilities. During this time, OQ Chemicals will upgrade its facilities to the latest technical standards, and further optimize them.

PET Baltija to develop PET recycling factories in Latvia

PET Baltija to develop PET recycling factories in Latvia

MOSCOW (MRC) -- PET Baltija, one of the largest PolyEthylene Terephthalate (PET) recyclers in Northern Europe and part of Eco Baltia, the largest waste management and recycling group in the Baltics, announces the investment of over EUR10 million as part of the development of a new PET recycling plant in Olaine, Latvia, said the company.

This joint project is being delivered by Eco Baltia, which is backed by the INVL Baltic Sea Growth Fund, in collaboration with PICHE, a leading industrial park developer in Latvia. The total investment exceeds EUR35 million.

The plant will be one of the largest and most modern PET recycling factories in Europe and one of the largest industrial buildings in Latvia. Its total indoor area, including production facilities, well-equipped office space and various shared facilities, will reach a total of 30,000 square meters. The outdoor area will also cover ~40,000 square meters. As part of the project, PET Baltija’s existing Latvian factory in Jelgava will be relocated to the new production facility in Olaine over time.

Maris Simanovics, Chairman of the Board at Eco Baltia, commented: “In recent years, we have pursued a rapid development strategy for the Eco Baltia group in the Baltics and beyond. In addition to its organic growth, we have also acquired several companies to ensure the production of the best possible final product in PET recycling as well as expanding our offering for environmental management.”

Simanovics, continued: “This development of a new PET Baltija factory is one of the most ambitious business expansion projects by Eco Baltia in recent years. The main objective is to increase the food grade rPET pellets production capacity and provide the necessary conditions for the company's further development, as well as to strengthen our market share within the European market. This will undoubtedly create additional value for our customers and partners respectively, as well as provide better working conditions for our employees.”

With the factory currently under construction, the plant’s initial phase was celebrated in early May. This marked the installation of the first production equipment located within one of the completed production areas.

Salvis Lapins, Chairman of the Board at PET Baltija, added: “This year, the company celebrated its 20th anniversary, having demonstrated that Latvian companies can be significant players in the recycling industry on the European stage. More recently, we are progressing the development of a new factory that will ultimately allow us to more than triple our food grade rPET pellets production capability while also improving efficiency, productivity and set new standards in PET recycling technologies.”

The supplier of the recycling equipment is Starlinger, an Austrian manufacturer and one of the world’s leading developers and manufacturers of recycling technologies. In Europe, only two production plants currently have Starlinger equipment of this level already installed, while globally there are only ten examples. Therefore, the PET Baltija factory will also technologically be one of the most modern PET recycling factories in Europe and in the world more broadly.

Deimante Korsakaite, Executive Partner at INVL Baltic Sea Growth Fund and Chairman of the Supervisory Board at PET Baltija, commented: “As part of our strategy, we aim for significant expansion and development of our portfolio companies to become bigger, more efficient and better developed in all aspects, including a better workplace for employees. This step is significant and will move an already international company to its next stage of development. It will progress PET Baltija further forward on the map, as not only a regional but also a European level, for the most modern and efficient recyclers contributing to world’s sustainability drive.”

The new PET Baltija’s recycling factory and industrial park is developed by the leading industrial building developer in Latvia, PICHE. According to PICHE CEO Peteris Senkans, the PET recycling plant is one of the company’s largest and most complex projects of the year.

Senkans commented: “Like other industrial parks developed by PICHE, this project also adheres to the highest of energy efficiency standards. We are pleased that our extensive experience and competence were chosen for the implementation of this project, allowing the construction of a modern industrial building that meets the current requirements for the construction industry.”

Following the sustainability strategies of Eco Baltia and PET Baltija, which aim to reduce resource consumption and promote a circular economy, the building will comply with the BREEM sustainable construction standard and will be fully powered by renewable energy.

The factory will also have unique wastewater treatment equipment which will also significantly reduce the consumption of chemical substances in the wastewater treatment process. In addition, the factory will have a highest of standards air recuperation system which will reuse excess heat energy generated during the PET melting for heating of the building. In accordance with the ESG strategy, significant attention is being paid to employee well-being and working conditions, in order to provide the highest of work safety standards, ergonomic and comfortable workspaces, as well as shared and recreational spaces.

PET Baltija’s relocation is planned in several stages, gradually shifting all PET Baltija production from Jelgava to the new factory in Olaine by the end of Q1’2024. The total number of jobs at the new factory will then exceed 250.

We remind, PET Baltija will acquire Tesil Fibres sro, a Silon sro spin-off and a major fibre producer in Czech Republic. PET Baltija is a subsidiary of Latvia-based Eco Baltija and is among Norther Europe's biggest polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recyclers. The acquisition will boost PET Baltija's revenues by over 50% and transform it into a global company. The transaction will also allow Silon to completely focus on development and production of polyolefin-based performance compounds. Tesil Fibres has 33,000 tonnes of staple fibre manufacturing capacity and employs around 150 people. In 2021, it reported EUR 27 M of sales.