Kureha to increase PVDF capacity in Japan

Kureha to increase PVDF capacity in Japan

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Kureha Corporation announced its plan to increase production capacity for polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) at its Iwaki Factory in Fukushima, Japan, said the company.

PVDF is used as a binder material for lithium-ion batteries (LiBs) and as an engineering plastic in various industrial applications. In recent years, as electric vehicles rapidly expand on the back of heightened environmental awareness, demand for LiB binder is robust and growing in the automotive market.

The Kureha Group currently manufactures PVDF at the Iwaki Factory in Japan (6,000 tons/year) and its wholly-owned subsidiary in China (5,000 tons/year). To address growing customer demand and further expand the PVDF business, which is the most promising business at the Group, Kureha will undertake a capacity expansion project as outlined below. This project involves technologies to reduce the impact of manufacturing operations on the environment and is carried out with the Group's largest-ever investment.

New PVDF manufacturing facility: Location: Kureha Iwaki Factory (16 Ochiai, Nishiki-cho, Iwaki-shi, Fukushima, Japan) Assets to be acquired: Building and equipment. Completion of facility construction: March, 2026. Production capacity: 8,000 tons /year.

Paid-in capital: Approx. JPY 70 billion. Under the new mid- and long-term management plan 'Toward Creating a New Future,' Kureha has an expansion strategy, focusing on the Advanced Materials, in particular, PVDF, which is positioned as a key growth driver.

In addition to building the above new manufacturing facility, which will become operational a few years later, Kureha will until then implement measures to improve earnings in the business, such as debottlenecking and improving capacity at its existing facilities, developing new polymer grades, and strengthening and optimizing its global supply system. Kureha has been qualified to receive government grands for the above expansion project.

We remind, Solvay, a global market leader in high-performance polymer and composite materials, has signed a multi-million euro agreement with long-term partner Agru, a leader in engineered polymer applications, for the supply of high-purity Solef polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF). With this multi-year contract, Agru secures the reliable supply of Solef PVDF for the manufacture of ultra-pure water piping systems used in the growing semiconductor industry.


Iranian oil cargo seized by US begins unloading after long delay

Iranian oil cargo seized by US begins unloading after long delay

MOSCOW (MRC) -- A cargo of Iranian crude oil that was seized by the United States was unloading on Sunday after waiting two-and-a-half months off the coast of Texas to discharge, ship tracking data showed, said Reuters.

Suez Rajan, a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker, has been anchored off Galveston, Texas, about 50 miles (80 km) outside of Houston, since May 30, unable to unload because commercial agents fear any vessel that takes it will be shunned by customers.

But on Sunday, the Liberia-flagged tanker MR Euphrates was lined up next to Suez Rajan to perform a ship-to-ship transfer and remove the crude oil, according to ship tracking data on Refinitiv Eikon. The U.S. Department of Justice, Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Suez Rajan, a Suezmax vessel, requires a shipping company to transfer the crude to smaller ships, as its size and weight restrict it from directly entering the port. Iran has meanwhile threatened retaliation against any company unloading Iranian oil from the seized tanker.

U.S. lawmakers have urged President Joe Biden and members of his administration to resolve the delay in the transfer of the cargo. They estimated the oil on the 800,000-bbl tanker is worth USD56 MM.

"Finally, after months of delay, the Biden administration has listened to my bipartisan call for action and signaled to Iran that the United States will not be complacent in the face of Iranian threats," said U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa, in a emailed statement to Reuters on Sunday.

U.S. seizures of Iranian oil contribute money to the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which compensates victims of attacks. A fund official has determined there are insufficient assets for a round of payments next year to the nearly 16,000 Americans.

We remind, Spot discounts for Russian crude for September loading have started to deepen as India, a key customer of Moscow, reduces purchases due to high prices and maintenance outages at some refineries, four traders and Indian refinery officials said. India is the top buyer for Russian Urals crude this year and slowing demand from the world's third-largest importer could push more supply to China instead.


PTTGC suffers ratings cut on high debt, weak demand - Moody's

PTTGC suffers ratings cut on high debt, weak demand - Moody's

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Credit watchdog Moody's Investors Service has cut the ratings of Thailand's PTT Global Chemical Public Company (PTTGC) because of the company's relatively high debt and weak global demand for petrochemicals, said the agency.

PTTGC’s leverage has been driven by weak earnings over the past 12 months, combined with the primarily debt-funded acquisition of resin producer Allnex Holding GmbH, Moody’s said. PTTGC completed the €4bn acquisition of Germany-based Allnex in December 2021.

PTTGC's ability to reduce borrowings through internal cash flows over the next 12-18 months will likely continue to be hampered by “challenging industry conditions” that will pressure petrochemical margins, the agency said. Demand for petrochemicals will likely remain soft as global economic growth slows this year and remains subdued in 2024.

At the same time, petrochemical supply will grow significantly this year as new capacities come on stream, Moody’s said. According to Moody’s, PTTGC's leverage, as measured by debt/earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), was close to 21.0x during the 12 months ended June 2023.

Moody’s cut the issuer rating for PTTGC to Baa3, from Baa2, along with the ratings on unsecured notes issued by GC Treasury Center Company (GCTC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of PTTGC.

We remind, PTT Global Chemical swung into a net loss of baht (BT) 5.6bn (USD159m) in the second quarter of 2023 as product prices tracked the slump in upstream crude prices amid global recession and petrochemical overcapacity concerns. Crude prices in Q2 last year had spiked above USD100/bbl on supply concerns following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022.


Brazil government pushes Congress to approve 'green' bills before COP28

Brazil government pushes Congress to approve 'green' bills before COP28

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Brazil's government expects Congress to approve a series of energy transition-related bills in the next 100 days that it believes will boost the country's decarbonization credentials at the upcoming COP28 climate summit, said Reuters.

Rodrigo Rollemberg, a secretary at Brazil's development ministry, said in an interview that the package of bills are set to include projects aimed at increasing the use of renewable fuels and regulating related sectors, such as offshore wind farms.

That would allow the South American country to strengthen its "green" commitment as nations from all over the world prepare to gather in November and December in Dubai for yearly climate talks held by the United Nations. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who took office in January, has staked his international reputation on reversing environmental backsliding under his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, when Amazon deforestation soared.

Lula has pledged to halt illegal deforestation in the Amazon rainforest by 2030 and help drive an ecological transition led by renewable energy.

Rollemberg said the government-sponsored bills would be focused on four main topics: establishing a new carbon market, regulating offshore wind power, launching the “Fuel of the Future" project and regulating green hydrogen. "They are all separate bills, but when put together there is a convergence towards sustainability that gives them economic support they otherwise would not have," Rollemberg said.

The "Fuel of the Future" project, the secretary noted, would look to stimulate production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in Brazil, which Boeing recently touted as a potential top player in the sector. The government expects to encourage the use of degraded farmland to drive SAF output. Other proposals include raising the required ethanol blending into gasoline to 30% from the current 27%, Rollemberg said.

One of the most advanced proposals, he added, is the one that would create a regulated carbon market in the country. That bill might be submitted to Congress as early as next week, the secretary said. "We have 100 days until COP28. It's more than enough time for Congress to pass all the bills," Rollemberg said.

"Brazil has a unique opportunity in the second half to finish the year giving out very strong signals to domestic and international markets that it is the country that really intends to lead the transition to a green and low-carbon economy." The South American nation is set to host the U.N. climate talks in 2025 in the Amazonian town of Belem.

We remind, Marathon Petroleum’s former refinery in Martinez, California, has been repurposed to produce renewable diesel through the company’s joint venture with Neste. The Martinez Renewable Fuels Facility is currently operating with a capacity of 260 MMgal/yr. Additional production capacity is expected to be online by the end of 2023, bringing the total capacity to approximately 730 MMgal/yr of renewable fuels.


U.S. gasoline prices at year high, tight supply weighs on motorists

U.S. gasoline prices at year high, tight supply weighs on motorists

MOSCOW (MRC) -- U.S. motorists hoping to squeeze out one last trip before the Labor Day holiday and school begins are finding pump prices that have surged to their highest level this year on tighter gasoline supplies, said Reuters.

Consumers tend to get a break from steeper fuel costs as peak vacation travel ebbs. But strong demand and a series of refinery outages have pushed the national average retail price to USD3.86 per gallon on Tuesday, according to the American Automobile Association - 7% higher than a month ago. In California and Washington, prices have surged above USD5 a gallon.

National retail gasoline prices will average USD3.90 a gallon this month, predict analysts at Goldman Sachs. Martin Jones, a vacationer from Massachusetts, filled up his Toyota Corolla during a sightseeing trip to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Jones said he was relieved prices were not close to the USD5 a gallon level of last summer.

"Or I won't be able to make long drives like this as easily," Jones said. Retail prices in the U.S. Midwest jumped as much as 21 cents a gallon in Ohio and 16 cents in Michigan in the last week on earlier-than-expected maintenance at a BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana.

Irving Oil's 320,000-barrel-per-day oil refinery in New Brunswick, Canada, and Delta's 185,000-barrel-per-day refinery in Trainer, Pennsylvania, will be down for much of September and part of October, affecting about 9% of the product supplied in their regions.

We remind, peak hurricane season is still ahead with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week raising its outlook for storms due in part to record warm sea surface temperatures. Hurricanes can result in damage to or closures of U.S. oil refineries, particularly along the Gulf Coast.