France drops plan to decrease farmers' diesel discount as tractors surround Paris

France drops plan to decrease farmers' diesel discount as tractors surround Paris

The French government dropped plans to gradually reduce state subsidies on agricultural diesel as angry farmers surrounded Paris and threatened to converge on the capital in their tractors, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

After two weeks of protests that have spread across France, with irate farmers on Friday blocking a major highway out of Paris, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced a series of measures to ease financial and administrative pressure on farmers.

Speaking in a mountain village farm near the Spanish border, with his notes on a bale of hay, Attal said: "We will put agriculture above everything else." He said a plan to phase out state support on diesel would be scrapped, red tape simplified and an appeal lodged with the European Union for a waiver on bloc-wide rules on fallow land.

"We will stop this Kafka-esque system," said Attal, 34, France's new prime minister, in response to the first big crisis of his premiership. "We will stop this planned trajectory of increasing tax on non-road diesel fuel."

Attal also announced a raft of other steps designed to quell the unrest that has seen farmers spray manure over a public building and supermarket, dump hay bales in highways and empty the contents of trucks carrying fresh produce from neighbouring countries.

France would remain opposed to signing the Mercosur free-trade deal, which farmers say will flood the country with cheaper Latin American meat and produce, he said. France will also push to ease European Union rules forcing farmers to leave some of their land fallow.

Ahead of Attal's announcements, farmers had threatened to take their protest into central Paris. "We will go right into Paris to highlight our rage, our grievances," said farmer Matteo Legrand. Attal's pledges received mixed reactions, with some farmers calling them an encouraging start and others saying they were inadequate.

The muscular farming union FNSEA is expected to respond later on Friday. Earlier on Friday, the finance and farm ministers held emergency talks with food industry officials about fair prices for produce - a "number one priority" for farmers who say they are on the sharp end of the government's drive to lower consumer prices.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the government would "double down" on enforcing a law aimed at guaranteeing fair farm-gate prices and vowed to be "pitiless" towards the supermarkets. Le Maire has previously spent months pressuring food retail giants such as Carrefour and Danone to lower their prices after a phase of high inflation, thereby earning the ire of farmers.

France is the European Union's biggest agricultural producer. France's protests follow similar action in other European countries, including Germany and Poland, six months ahead of European elections in which the far right - for whom farmers represent a growing constituency - are seen making gains.

We remind, more than a dozen tankers loaded with 10 million barrels of Russia's Sokol grade crude oil have been stranded off the coast of South Korea for weeks, so far unsold due to U.S. sanctions and payment issues, according to two traders and shipping data. The volumes, equating to 1.3 million metric tons, represent more than a month's production of the Sakhalin-1 project, once a flagship venture of U.S. major Exxon Mobil, which exited Russia after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Russia struggles to sell Pacific oil, 14 tankers stuck

Russia struggles to sell Pacific oil, 14 tankers stuck

MRC -- More than a dozen tankers loaded with 10 million barrels of Russia's Sokol grade crude oil have been stranded off the coast of South Korea for weeks, so far unsold due to U.S. sanctions and payment issues, according to two traders and shipping data, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

The volumes, equating to 1.3 million metric tons, represent more than a month's production of the Sakhalin-1 project, once a flagship venture of U.S. major Exxon Mobil, which exited Russia after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Sakhalin-1 was one of the first post-Soviet deals in Russia made under a production sharing agreement. When Exxon Mobil left in 2022, output fell to nearly zero and hasn't fully recovered since.

Difficulties in selling Sokol grade pose one of the most significant challenges Moscow has faced since the West imposed sanctions and one of the most serious disruptions to Russian oil exports in two years.

Washington has said it wants sanctions to reduce revenues for President Vladimir Putin and his war machine in Ukraine but not to disrupt the flows of Russian energy to global markets. Last year, the United States imposed sanctions on several vessels and companies involved in transporting Sokol.

As of Friday, 14 vessels loaded with Sokol were stuck around South Korea's port of Yosu, including 11 Aframax vessels and three very large crude carriers (VLCCs), according to LSEG, Kpler data and traders. The volume stored in tankers represent 45 days of production from Sakhalin-1, which averages output of 220,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Supertankers (VLCCs) La Balena, Nireta and Nellis with some 3.2 million barrels onboard (430,000 metric tons), currently near South Korea's Yosu, are acting as a floating storage for the Russian oil grade, Reuters sources said and Kpler and LSEG shipping data show.

The VLCCs previously accepted oil from several Aframax vessels via ship-to-ship, the data showed. Supplying oil volumes from smaller ships to bigger ones can save on freight.

The rest of the Sokol oil loaded from November to January is stored on smaller Aframax vessels (able to carry 500,000-800,000 barrels) - Krymsk, NS Commander, Sakhalin Island, Liteyny Prospect, NS Century, NS Lion, NS Antarctic, Jaguar, Vostochny Prospect, Pavel Chernysh and Viktor Titov.

Shipments of Sokol to the Indian Oil Corp have been delayed by payment problems, forcing India's biggest refiner to draw from its inventories and buy more oil from the Middle East. A source close to IOC said the company did not expect to receive any Sokol shipments soon due to a disagreement over which currency would be used to pay for it.

IOC is the only state refiner that has an annual deal to buy a variety of Russian grades, including Sokol, from Russian oil major Rosneft. IOC and Rosneft did not reply to Reuters requests for comment.

We remind, a fire at a Rosneft-owned export-oriented oil refinery in the southern Russian town of Tuapse overnight has been extinguished. The refinery is one of many energy infrastructure facilities hit by fire or drone attacks across Russia in the past week. "The vacuum unit was on fire. According to preliminary information, there were neither casualties nor injured," Sergei Boiko, the head of Tuapse district, said on the Telegram messaging app.

Shell to shut down German oil refinery

Shell to shut down German oil refinery

Shell will shut down its oil refinery in Wesseling, Germany by 2025 and convert the site to produce lubricant feedstock as part of its drive to reduce its carbon emissions, the company said on Friday, as per Hydrocarbonprocessing.

Shell said it will convert the site's hydrocracker unit into a production unit for Group III base oils, used mostly in engines, with capacity of about 300,000 metric tons a year, equivalent to about 9% of current EU demand and 40% of Germany’s demand for base oils.

The move is expected to reduce Shell's operational carbon emissions, known as Scope 1 and 2 emissions, by about 620,000 tons a year. Shell, which aims to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions - including those from fuels burnt by customers - to net zero by 2050, is also planning to sell its refining and petrochemicals site in Singapore.

Crude oil processing at the Wesseling site, which is part of Shell's Energy and Chemicals Park Rheinland near Cologne, will end in 2025 but will continue at its Godorf refinery, the company said. The new production facility in Wesseling is expected to start operations in the second half of this decade.

The Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Rheinland, which includes both the Wesseling and Godorf sites, currently has a capacity of more than 17 million tons of crude oil per year, of which Wesseling produces 7.5 million tons. Shell previously invested in a 10 megawatt electrolyzer used to produce zero-carbon hydrogen and a biomethane liquefaction plant at the Rheinland facility. Since 2020, Shell has divested five refineries, closed one and converted one into a terminal.

We remind, Shell Chemicals and Braskem will collaborate to increase the amount of circular content used in Braskem’s production of polypropylene as part of a wider value chain enhancement, said the company. The circular polypropylene will be produced using a ISCC PLUS-certified feedstock, based on a mass alance approach and will be used by Braskem’s customers in a variety of applications such as in the packaging and automotive sectors.

PPG reports 4Q 2023 and full-year 2023 financial results

PPG reports 4Q 2023 and full-year 2023 financial results

PPG team delivered solid year-over-year sales growth, strong adjusted earnings growth and record operating cash flow, said the company.

The breadth and diversity of our business portfolio was a key driver to our record fourth quarter performance, as we benefited from solid volume growth in China, demand stabilization in Europe and continued growth in several key end-use markets such as aerospace, automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and protective coatings.

We made strong progress on returning to our historic segment margin profile while delivering segment earnings growth of 30% and an aggregate segment margin improvement of 260 basis points, marking the fifth consecutive quarter of year-over-year margin improvement. Additionally, our earnings growth and working capital management resulted in strong cash generation in the quarter and record operating cash flow of over $2.4 billion for the year. We ended the year with a strong balance sheet that, coupled with our legacy of solid cash flow, provides us with shareholder value creation opportunities going forward.

Looking at the full year, in addition to our record financial performance, we successfully implemented various strategic initiatives to strengthen the company, including key actions to position PPG for higher organic growth. We also executed on our ongoing portfolio review leading to the divestitures of both our European and Australian Traffic Solutions businesses and the recently announced strategic alternatives review of the silicas products business. Finally, we have continued our heritage of rewarding our shareholders with our 124th consecutive year of dividend payments, including 52 consecutive years of dividend increases.

Looking ahead, while global industrial production remains at low absolute levels, we expect that demand for our businesses in China will continue to improve. In Europe, we believe that economic activity will stabilize in 2024 at current levels. In the U.S., we anticipate that economic conditions will remain subdued during the first half of 2024, and in Mexico, which is now our second largest country in terms of total net sales, we expect strong momentum to continue. From a PPG perspective, we plan to deliver volume growth in 2024 by executing on our key strategic growth initiatives and fully capitalizing on continued demand in several areas, including aerospace and Mexico, which will also benefit from cross-selling initiatives through our concessionaire network.

We remind, PPG announced that Hugh Grant, 65, PPG independent lead director, has informed the board of directors of his decision to end his tenure as independent lead director, effective Oct. 1, and retire from the board at the end of the year. Grant joined the board in 2005 and has served on the Nominating and Governance Committee and the Human Capital Management and Compensation Committee, serving the last nine years as independent lead director.

Olin Q4 earnings down on pricing, beat estimates

Olin Q4 earnings down on pricing, beat estimates

Olin Corp. (Clayton, Missouri) reported fourth-quarter 2023 net income of $53 million, down 77% year over year, on sales of $1.615 billion, down 18%, said the company.

Adjusted earnings per share came to 27 cents, down from $1.49 in the year-ago quarter, but ahead of the analysts' consensus of 18 cents, as compiled by S&P Capital IQ. The company attributed the results in part to lower product pricing for caustic soda, lower pricing in the epoxy segment, and to the shutdown of cumene and bisphenol A capacities.

"In fourth quarter 2023, we executed a 'value accelerator initiative' designed to halt the decline in our electrochemical unit [ECU] values and accelerate a favorable inflection point for our chlor-alkali products and vinyls business," said Scott Sutton, Olin's chairman, president and CEO. "We are seeing success with our 'value accelerator initiative' but expect to continue to limit our market participation through February 2024, as we remain disciplined in our approach to ECU values."

Sutton said he expects the initiative to drive sequential improvement in results. "Considering the ongoing difficult global economic environment and our 'value accelerator initiative,' we expect first quarter 2024 results from our chemical businesses to be slightly higher than fourth quarter 2023 levels." The Winchester ammunition business will remain strong, he added. "Overall, we expect Olin's first quarter 2024 adjusted EBITDA to improve by approximately 10% from fourth quarter 2023 levels."

We remind, Olin shares rose more than 3% in afterhours trading on Thursday after its Q4 adjusted earnings beat its earlier guidance. Olin reported $210.1 million in adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). Earlier, it expected Q4 adjusted EBITDA to be in the $200 million range. Olin expects Q1 adjusted EBITDA to rise 10% over Q4 levels, reaching $231 million.