EU chemical industry still under pressure

EU chemical industry still under pressure

Europe’s chemical sector ended 2023 weighed down by the challenges it had faced throughout the year, according to the European Chemical Industry Council’s (Cefic) latest monthly trends report, based mainly on data gathered in November, said Cefic.

Weakened confidence levels in the EU economy helped cause chemical industry sales to shrink and production to fall 8.7% year over year during the first 11 months of 2023, the report said. “Stress factors such as higher energy costs and a lack in demand are heavily impacting competitiveness of the chemicals industry in Europe,” Cefic said.

Business confidence in the EU chemical industry weakened slightly at the end of 2023, according to the Cefic report. “In December 2023, chemicals production expectations went down for the first time after four months of consecutive improvements. However, it continues to remain in positive digits for the fourth consecutive month,” it said.

Assessments of stocks of finished products decreased slightly toward the end of 2023, and chemical company managers see no improvement in the current level of overall order books. “The chemicals confidence indicator is still at a low level and no sign of strong recovery is observed yet,” Cefic said.

Capacity utilization in the EU chemical industry is still “significantly below” a year ago, the report said. Lower operating rates partly reflect the industry’s loss of competitiveness on global chemical markets due to high regional energy and feedstock costs, Cefic said.

Basic chemicals remain under particular pressure in Europe. EU output of petrochemicals was 11.7% lower in the first 11 months of 2023 than in the same period of the previous year, with polymer production dropping 11.4%. Basic inorganics production was down 6.2% year over year, and specialty chemicals output fell 6.8%. Consumer chemicals — principally soaps, detergents and cosmetics — are a bright spot with 3.5% year-over-year output growth in the EU during the first 11 months of last year.

Sales generated by the EU chemical industry dropped 15.5% year over year in the first 10 months of 2023, to €553 billion. Industry sales also showed a sequential monthly decline of 1% in October 2023 compared with September. October EU chemical industry revenue was 14.3% below the year-earlier level, Cefic said.

We remind, the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) carefully projects a possible 1.0% growth in EU27 chemical output for 2024. This flat to small growth comes after a challenging period marked by a decline of production by 7.6 % in 2023 and 6.3% decrease in 2022.

Toray creates ultra-high tensile strength film

Toray creates ultra-high tensile strength film

Toray Industries, Inc., announced that it has created a plastic film almost as strong as stainless steel, with a maximum tensile strength of 1,200 megapascals,said Polymerupdate.

The material also offers the lightness, insulation, flexibility, and other benefits of polymers. Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) is an engineering plastic. Its molecular weight is 10 times greater than that of regular polyethylene. High-strength fibers incorporate this material for its outstanding strength. A shortcoming is low processability because molecular chains are long and highly entangled. This makes it difficult to produce high-strength films with biaxial stretching.

Toray overcame that challenge by creating a nanostructure with highly oriented molecular chains of UHMWPE across two dimensions by leveraging its proprietary extrusion and biaxial stretching technologies. The resulting film is nearly as strong as stainless steel, with more than twice the tensile strength of polyethylene terephthalate film that serves in common industrial applications. It is also as strong as the toughest plastic film, made of aramid. Toray’s film could serve in superconductivity, space, and other cryogenic applications. Its high strength saves weight and space.

Because of its nanostructure, the film offers a maximum in-plane thermal conductivity of 18 watts per meter-kelvin. This is more than 10 times higher than that of polyethylene terephthalate film. Toray’s film could function as a heat-dissipating material for flexible devices and other applications requiring miniaturization, lightness, insulation, and flexibility.

UHMWPE has attracted attention in recent years as an alternative to fluoropolymer, about which there are environmental and human health concerns. This film also delivers high chemical resistance, low moisture absorption, a low dielectric constant, and other properties comparable to fluoropolymers. It can offer high chemical resistance in semiconductor manufacturing processes.

Toray will exhibit the film at nano tech 2024, the world’s top international nanotechnology exhibition, at Tokyo Big Sight from January 31 to February 2.

Toray will keep leveraging its core technologies of synthetic organic and polymer chemistry, biotechnology, and nanotechnology to innovate materials in keeping with its commitment to delivering new value and contributing to social progress.

We remind, Toray Industries, Inc., announced it signed an agreement with Honda Motor Co., Ltd., to jointly develop a chemical recycling technology for glass-fiber reinforced nylon 6 parts recovered from end-of-life vehicles, said the company. The two have begun verifying this technology, which entails depolymerizing with subcritical water and regenerating the materials as caprolactam, a raw monomer.

Iveco Group chooses BASF as first recycling partner for electric vehicle batteries

Iveco Group chooses BASF as first recycling partner for electric vehicle batteries

BASF and Inditex make a breakthrough in textile-to-textile recycling with loopamid, said the company.

BASF and Inditex jointly announce a breakthrough in their efforts for boosting recyclability in the textile industry. With the launch of loopamid.

, a polyamide 6 (PA6, also known as nylon 6) made from 100 percent textile waste, BASF is providing the first circular solution for nylon apparel made entirely from textile waste. Zara has turned the material into a jacket made from 100 percent loopamid, available worldwide as of today. Following a “design for recycling” approach, all parts, including fabrics, buttons, filling, hook and loop and zipper are made from loopamid.

With loopamid, BASF has developed an innovative solution to improve circularity in the fashion industry and recycle polyamide 6 textile waste. Due to its capability to tolerate all fabric mixtures like PA6 and elastane, the cutting-edge technology behind loopamid allows textile-to-textile recycling of post-industrial and post-consumer textile waste. The fibers and materials can be recycled over multiple cycles. At the same time, the material characteristics are identical to those of conventional virgin polyamide.

“BASF has reached an important milestone towards circularity in the fashion industry and pioneered an approach to close the loop for nylon textiles,” said Dr. Ramkumar Dhruva, President of BASF’s Monomers division. “Our loopamid has the potential to revolutionize the PA6 market for the better. We are in the process of scaling up our technology to serve our customers with commercial quantities. The capsule jacket together with Inditex is the proof that circularity is possible, and we are eager to further drive the sustainable transformation of the textile industry.”

Inditex has partnered with other leading groups in the clothing manufacturing industry to seamlessly integrate loopamid into various garment components, including fabrics, zippers, buttons, fillings, hook and loop fasteners, and sewing threads. ModaRe, a take-back program operated by the charity organization Caritas, classified, sorted and provided discarded textiles as feedstock. The Italian company RadiciGroup has been working in the process of transforming loopamid polymer into various types of yarn with different characteristics. The multinational Japanese fastening products company YKK and multinational Velcro companies have also played crucial roles in utilizing loopamid polymer to create plastic components for zippers and snap buttons, and hook and loop fasteners. Uniter from Spain, Tessitura Vignetta from Italy and Freudenberg and Gutermann from Germany have also participated in this project to develop other garment components such as inner labels, filling materials and sewing threads using loopamid.

We remind, BASF and Inditex jointly announce a breakthrough in their efforts for boosting recyclability in the textile industry. With the launch of loopamid , a polyamide 6 (PA6, also known as nylon 6) made from 100 percent textile waste, BASF is providing the first circular solution for nylon apparel made entirely from textile waste.

Alpla acquires packaging specialist Fortiflex

Alpla acquires packaging specialist Fortiflex

Buckets, canisters, crates, barrels and closures: ALPLA has acquired the packaging specialist Fortiflex based in Puerto Rico, said the company.

The two companies have been jointly producing packaging for the markets in the Caribbean and Central America since 2017. With the acquisition of Fortiflex, ALPLA strengthens the ALPLAindustrial division established in 2023 for large-volume packaging solutions and expands its offerings as a complete provider.

The ALPLA Group is accelerating the production of large-volume plastic packaging. The internationally active packaging and recycling specialist has acquired all shares in the packaging company Fortiflex, Inc., based in Puerto Rico. The two companies have been partners since 2017, producing buckets, lids, crates, tubs and other products at locations in Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

Founded in 1975, the packaging specialist Fortiflex is one of the leading manufacturers in Central America and the Caribbean, with a range of more than 700 products.

‘Through the acquisition of Fortiflex, we strengthen our position, expand our portfolio, and set the stage for further growth in the region. We gain decades of experience, recognised quality and state-of-the-art production lines,’ emphasises Carlos Torres, ALPLA Managing Director Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. All 102 employees have been taken over by ALPLA.

Fortiflex’s facilities supply products to major regional and international customers in the construction, chemical and food industries. Production and export capacities are continually expanded, now encompassing not only Central America and the Caribbean but also South and North America. In 2023, ALPLA and Fortiflex installed a new production line for buckets in Costa Rica. Further investments are planned.

The integration of Fortiflex into the ALPLA Group, combined with the portfolio of the ALPLAindustrial brand established in 2023 and ALPLA’s recycling expertise, create added value for customers in the region. ‘The business with industrial containers has great potential, and as a complete provider, we deliver closures and decorations along with them’, adds Torres.

The acquisition was contractually agreed upon on 22 December 2023. The terms were kept confidential.

We remind, ALPLA Group announced that it has expanded its presence in North Africa by entering the Moroccan market. The company also announced that it has purchased a majority share in Atlantic Packaging and founded the joint venture (JV) ALPLA Morroco with previous owner Diana Holding.

Over 20,000-bpd Russian jet fuel exports in doubt after suspected drone attack

Over 20,000-bpd Russian jet fuel exports in doubt after suspected drone attack

MRC -- The volume of jet fuel exports at risk of disruption after a suspected drone attack on a Baltic Sea terminal could be more than 20,000 bpd, much of it destined for Turkey, according to data from terminal owner Novatek, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The company said on Sunday it had been forced to suspend some operations at the huge Baltic Sea fuel export terminal and "technological processes" at a nearby fuel-producing complex after a fire started by what Ukrainian media said was a drone attack.

According to the latest company data available, the complex processed more than 1 million metric tons, or more than 20,000 bpd of jet fuel, in 2022. Since then, a hydrocracker unit was installed at the complex, which has increased capacity.

Drawing on stockpiles, Novatek resumed fuel loadings on Wednesday at the Ust-Luga terminal, according to industry sources and LSEG data. But analysts have said it would take weeks, if not months, for the complex to restart large-scale operations.

The complex produces naphtha for Asian markets, including China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. It also produces jet fuel, most of which is delivered to Istanbul for Turkish Airlines, according to ship tracking data and industry sources.

Turkish Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

We remind, Russian energy company Novatek resumed fuel loadings at its Baltic Sea Ust-Luga terminal, damaged in a suspected drone attack, according to industry sources and LSEG data. The attack and ensuing fire have disrupted Russian fuel exports and added to uncertainty in energy markets already rocked by geopolitical jitters and tensions in the Red Sea region, one of the key gateways for global oil exports.