Umicore breaks ground on fuel cell catalyst plant in China

Umicore breaks ground on fuel cell catalyst plant in China

MRC -- On December 1st, Umicore held the groundbreaking ceremony in Changshu, Suzhou for its large-scale fuel cell catalyst plant, said the company.

With the increasing popularity of green hydrogen, the demand for fuel cell catalyst products is growing rapidly. Over the past 30 years, Umicore has been committed to the research and development of fuel cell catalysts, providing platinum and iridium catalysts for different Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells, covering a wide range of industries such as automotive, marine industry, aerospace, energy storage, and water electrolysis for hydrogen production.

Leveraging its durable and high-performance fuel cells catalysts and working closely with customers across the value chain, Umicore has become a global leader in PEM fuel cell catalysts for the mobility segment. Its new greenfield plant in China – expected to become the world’s largest PEM catalyst production facility to date - will enable Umicore to cater for the rapidly growing customer demand, serving demand through to 2030.

"China has now become an important engine for the global fuel cell vehicle technology and market. Through cutting-edge fuel cell catalyst technology, Umicore is reshaping transportation and mobility in China and around the world," Joakim Thogersen, Senior Vice President Fuel Cells and Stationary Catalysts of Umicore said.

The greenfield facility, that will expand Umicore’s existing footprint of fuel cell catalyst production and R&D centers in Europe and Asia[1], is planned to be carbon neutral from the start and will contribute to reducing scope 3 emissions in the value chain. The plant is expected to become operational in early 2026.

As per MRC. Umicore will invest in building a large-scale fuel cell catalyst plant in Changshu in China to capture the fast emerging growth in fuel cell technology. The plant will enable the accelerated transformation to hydrogen-based clean mobility, serving demand through to 2030. The greenfield facility is planned and prepared to be carbon neutral from the start and will contribute to reducing scope 3 emissions in the value chain.

Chlorine output slips in Europe

Chlorine output slips in Europe

MRC -- Europe’s chlorine production was 582,599 metric tons in October 2023, up 0.9% from the corresponding period of last year, according to the industry association Euro Chlor (Brussels), said EuroChlor.

At 18,794 metric tons, the October 2023 average daily production was 4.5% lower than in the previous month, which was 19,673 metric tons, but 0.9% higher than the 18,618 metric tons produced in October 2022.

At 214,321 metric tons, Europe’s October 2023 caustic soda stocks were 17.9% lower than the previous month’s 261,195 metric tons and 27,830 metric tons above the level of 186,491 metric tons in October 2022, Euro Chlor said.

Average capacity utilization at chlor-alkali plants in Europe was 58.2% in October 2023, up from 58.1% a year earlier but down from 61.0% in the previous month, Euro Chlor said. Euro Chlor has not provided an analysis of the figures.

We remind, in August, the European chlorine production stood at 625,537 tonnes. With 20,179 tonnes, the August 2023 average daily production was 5.1% lower than in the previous month (July 2023: 21,257 tonnes) and 4.9% lower than in August 2022 (21,208 tonnes).

Two new petrochemical plants are coming online in India

Two new petrochemical plants are coming online in India

MRC -- Two multi-billion-dollar petrochemical plants are coming online in India in coming months at a time of weaker-than-expected demand, setting the stage for fierce price competition domestically and internationally, industry officials and analysts say, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

Several regions, including India, China and the Middle East have been developing petrochemical production to provide a tailwind to decades of oil refining as the world looks to switch to cleaner energy sources. While producers remain bullish longer term, largely off the back of economic growth in India and China, the splurge in new capacity is weighing on markets near term.

Both China and India are grappling with excess supplies of ethylene and propylene, a key feedstock to produce petrochemicals including polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) – the basis for making plastic -- given a slowdown in global economic growth.

So fresh production capacity in India is set to add to the pressure on prices. Russia-backed Indian refiner Nayara Energy is commissioning a 450,000 ton per year (tpy) polypropylene plant in western India in the first quarter of 2024, said a company source, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The company's communication office did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

HPCL plans to start a 9 million tpy refinery and petrochemical project in the northwestern state of Rajasthan by January.

Earlier this year, HPCL-Mittal Energy Ltd (HMEL), a joint venture between state-run Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd and Mittal Energy Investment, started a 1.2 million tpy petrochemical cracker in Punjab, northern India.

An industry official at a newly commissioned petrochemical cracker said the new production capacity was coming online when stocks were already building.

"Products are not clearing at a steady pace locally," he said. He declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

India's ethylene surplus is set to more than double to 11.2 million metric tons in the fiscal year to March 2024, a Reuters calculation based on data and forecasts from Chemicals & Petrochemicals Manufacturers' Association showed. A propylene surplus is expected to grow 63% to 18.67 million tons, according to the calculations.

The increasing supplies are weighing on both PE and PP prices. Refiners have been suffering losses since September with PE and PP margins at $150 per ton, below breakeven costs of about $300-$350 per ton for standalone plants, an official at a large petrochemical producer said, declining to be identified.

CEO of Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd, Navanit Narayan, told Reuters a slower-than-expected recovery in Chinese demand following the COVID pandemic, just as new supplies come into the market, had been a major factor weighing on prices.

"While demand remained subdued, several new plants were commissioned in Asia, mainly in China and India," he said. Industry officials said they expected prices to remain subdued in 2024 and there were few export options, given ample supply elsewhere. That may leave markets closer to home, such as Kazakhstan, as the best in a bad set of export options, they said.

"A price war is definitely on the anvil," said an official at an Indian petrochemical producer, who declined to be identified in the absence of authorization to speak to the media. Looking further ahead, research firm Wood Mackenzie sees little prospect of a more balanced global market in coming years.

It forecasts ethylene and propylene demand will rise 29% to 426.8 million tons by 2030 from 2023 levels, while production capacity is expected to increase 25% to 485.9 million tons, leaving a supply surplus of around 60 million tons.

We remind, Lummus Technology, a global provider of process technologies and value-driven energy solutions, and Citroniq Chemicals announced that the two companies have signed licensing and engineering agreements for green polypropylene plants in the U.S.

Fluor announces Q3 contracts from Dow for net-zero ethylene cracker and derivatives complex in Canada

Fluor announces Q3 contracts from Dow for net-zero ethylene cracker and derivatives complex in Canada

MRC -- As previously announced and recognized in the third quarter on a confidential basis, Fluor Corporation was awarded two contracts from Dow for the construction of the world’s first net-zero scope 1 and 2 emissions integrated ethylene cracker and derivatives complex in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The reimbursable services contracts represent a total value of more than $3 billion and consist of engineering, procurement and construction management for a new ethylene cracker unit and for the associated utilities, power and infrastructure facilities. The overall program also includes the expansion and retrofit of Dow’s existing manufacturing facilities.

Dow announced in November that its board of directors declared the Final Investment Decision for the project, which is part of Dow’s Path2Zero program, intended to lower the greenhouse gas emissions of its manufacturing facilities while growing capacity and delivering low-emissions products to customers.

“This program represents a major step towards Dow’s commitment to decarbonize its global footprint,” said Jim Breuer, group president of Fluor’s Energy Solutions business segment. “We have a long history of successful project execution with Dow, and we are grateful to be given the opportunity to support their objective to be a leader in sustainable chemicals production.”

Dow’s net-zero scope 1 and 2 emissions integrated ethylene cracker and derivatives complex is projected to decarbonize approximately 20% of the company’s global ethylene capacity while growing its polyethylene capacity by approximately two million metric tons per annum.

“Fluor has been a great partner over decades and this project builds on Dow’s very successful Texas-9 and associated projects, delivering more than 15% return on invested capital since its 2017 start-up,” said Ron Huijsmans, Dow’s Global MEGA Project Director. “We are excited to have Fluor on board again to deliver a similar or even better project outcome.”

In February, Fluor was awarded the front-end engineering and design contract for the project. Construction began in July on early works and the program is expected to come online in phases, with the first phase starting up in 2027 and the second phase starting up in 2029.

Repsol supplies green jet fuel for Inditex's air freight in Spain

Repsol supplies green jet fuel for Inditex's air freight in Spain

MRC -- Spanish oil company Repsol said it has started supplying SAF to U.S.-based airline Atlas Air, which ships freight for Zara-owner Inditex to and from Zaragoza airport in northern Spain, said the company.

Atlas Air has been using SAF for 5% of fuel on all its flights from Zaragoza since November and is the first cargo airline to use green jet fuel regularly in Spain, Repsol and the airline said in a joint statement. Regulators in Europe and the United States are pushing for the use of sustainable aviation fuel, made out of organic waste such as used cooking oil, as it is one of the only ways to decarbonize air travel. However, the supply and cost of SAF limit its use in commercial air transport.

In May, Repsol clinched an agreement with another low-cost airline, Ryanair, to supply up to 155,000 tons of SAF between 2025 and 2030.