U.S. Gulf Coast fuel oil imports hit five-year low as domestic supplies jump

U.S. Gulf Coast fuel oil imports hit five-year low as domestic supplies jump

Imports of fuel oil bound for the U.S. Gulf Coast fell to a five-year low last month as refiners ran more cheap, heavy Canadian crude and geopolitical tensions in the Middle East pressured fuel oil flows, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

Fuel oil deliveries to the Gulf Coast dwindled in February to just 318,000 barrels per day (bpd), a 20% drop from the prior month and marking their lowest level since February 2019, data from tanker tracking firm, Kpler showed.

Heavy fuel oil feedstocks like high sulfur fuel oil and other heavy residues are used to make higher value products like gasoline and diesel.

Refiners can offset their need to import them by doubling the amount of fuel oil they produce themselves with a heavier crude slate rather than processing lighter blends, according to refining data provider Refinery Calculator.

U.S. refineries have been running more heavy Canadian crude because of its ample supply, with Gulf Coast refiners ramping up their intake by around 10% on the year, according to data from Refinery Calculator.

Western Canadian Select crude (WCS)traded at the Houston hub has carried a wide discount to the global Brent benchmark, hitting $11.92 per barrel in the fourth quarter of last year from $9.78 per barrel in the third quarter, according to a note from TPH&CO.

WCSbecame more readily available this month after BP's BP.L 435,000 bpd Whiting refinery, the largest plant in the Midwest and a key buyer of the Canadian grade, went offline after an unplanned outage on Feb. 1.

As a result, domestic residual fuel oil production climbed to a more than four-year high in the week to Feb. 16, at 462,000 bpd, up from 350,000 bpd from the previous week, according to weekly data from the Energy Information Agency (EIA).

U.S. Gulf Coast fuel oil imports have also been curtailed following attacks by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, which have disrupted trade flows and driven up shipping costs by diverting vessels away from the Suez Canal.

This has weighed particularly on imports from the Middle East, including Iraqi and Fujairah high sulfur fuel oil loadings, Energy Aspects analyst Royston Huan said. And a European fuel oil supply squeeze has pushed more barrels to Europe, where prices are higher, according to Energy Aspects.

"It looks like all roads lead to Europe", said Steve Sinos, a managing partner at Blue Lacy Advisors. The arbitrage is closed for European and Asian high sulfur fuel oil deliveries to the Gulf Coast said Sinos, adding that moving this grade from Europe to the Gulf Coast could result in a $40 per ton loss due to current freight rates.

We remind, SIBUR began construction of a research and technology scaling center in Kazan, which will provide for a full cycle of creating new synthetic materials for key sectors of the Russian economy, the company's press service said in a statement. The key areas of operation for SIBUR's R&D center will be the development and scaling of new polyolefin and heterogeneous catalysts, synthesis and piloting of new products for the development of the company's existing chains and creation of fundamentally new materials, process modeling and engineering, development of new technologies, implementation of projects aimed at decarbonization, a closed cycle economy and digital initiatives.


Russia boosts fuel exports to Senegal on shipping sector demand

Russia boosts fuel exports to Senegal on shipping sector demand

Russia has significantly increased its fuel exports to Senegal this year on rising bunker demand, as more companies are diverting cargoes around Africa instead of using Red Sea routes, traders said and LSEG data showed, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

Russian fuel oil supplies to Senegal in the first two months of 2024 reached 550,000 metric tons compared with 1.08 million tons in the whole of 2023 and 0.37 million tons in 2022, replacing oil product supplies from Rotterdam, the data showed.

"Senegal has strong growth in bunkering," one trader said. "The bunker fuel suppliers are benefitting from the situation in Suez."

Since December last year, many shipping companies have instructed their vessels to sail around southern Africa instead of using the Red Sea due to attacks by Houthi militants, leading to bunker fuel demand growth.

Fuel oil is widely used for fueling ships, or bunkering. Senegal may also use it for power generation, market sources said. Senegalese oil minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome did not respond to requests for comment when contacted by Reuters.

The bulk of Russian fuel oil supplies to Senegal are shipped from the Russian Baltic port of Vysotsk, and also from the ports of Ust-Luga and St. Petersburg. Russia has also exported about 0.2 million metric tons of diesel to Senegal since the start of this year, versus 0.8 million tons in 2023.

Most of those volumes are of high-sulphur gasoil loaded at the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, according to LSEG data. "You could also take bunker fuel to Nigeria, but there is more piracy risk, so it's better to take it north," the trader continued, adding that he would expect further bunker demand growth in African countries because of the Red Sea situation.

The European Union's full embargo on Russian oil products came into effect in February 2023, and the bulk of Russia's fuel oil and VGO was redirected to other regions, mostly Asia and African countries.

We remind, Russia ordered a six-month ban on gasoline exports from March 1 to keep prices stable amid rising demand from consumers and farmers and to allow for maintenance of refineries in the world's second largest oil exporter. The ban, first reported by Russia's RBC, was confirmed by a spokeswoman for Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, President Vladimir Putin's point man for Russia's vast energy sector.


Covestro says improving scope 3 emissions will require ‘transformation'

Covestro says improving scope 3 emissions will require ‘transformation'

Covestro has published its climate neutrality targets for scope 3 emissions, completing its climate strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, said the company.

As a short-term goal, the company plans to reduce greenhouse gases by 10 million metric tons by 2035. This corresponds to a drop in emissions of 30 percent compared to the base year 2021, with some growth-related emissions through 2035 included in the calculation. In the long-term, Covestro plans to be climate-neutral in terms of scope 3 emissions by 2050.

Covestro previously published ambitious targets for scope 1 and scope 2 emissions in 2022, which included achieving operational climate neutrality by 2035. Scope 1 emissions come from Covestro's own production processes, while scope 2 emissions result from purchased energy sources. Scope 3 emissions include all other greenhouse gases produced in the upstream and downstream supply chains. These make up around 80 percent of the company's total greenhouse gas emissions. Raw materials purchased by Covestro are responsible for the greatest share of scope 3 emissions.

We remind, Covestro and Siemens have concluded a strategic supplier agreement for the next five years, said the company. This framework agreement is the basis for all future business relationships that exist between the two companies in many different areas. The agreement is worth a high double-digit million euro amount and enables much faster and easier collaboration. Until now, Covestro and Siemens have always concluded individual supply agreements for different material groups and services.


ACC reports “major concerns” with finalized amendments to EPA’s Risk Management Program

ACC reports “major concerns” with finalized amendments to EPA’s Risk Management Program

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced finalized amendments to a program designed to reduce the frequency and severity of accidents at 11,740 chemical plants across the United States, although industry groups have called the updates problematic, unworkable, and counter-productive.

EPA said in a press statement today that the Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention Rule—an update to the Risk Management Program (RMP) created by 1990’s Clean Air Act—requires stronger chemical facility measures for prevention, preparedness, and public transparency. “The final rule includes new safeguards such as identifying safer technologies and chemical alternatives, requiring implementation of safeguard measures in certain cases, more thorough incident investigations, and third-party auditing,” EPA said. EPA estimates that approximately 131 million people live within three miles of RMP facilities.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC), however, said the rule is the latest in a “surge in misguided regulations” from EPA that undermine the ability of chemical manufacturers to create essential products in the US and to support the broader economy.

“We are very concerned EPA has decided to abandon a collaborative and data-driven process which has helped decrease chemical related incidents by nearly 80% since RMP was adopted,” Dr. Kimberly Wise White, vice president of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs, said in a press statement “Instead, the Agency has decided to remove important regulatory safeguards and impose unworkable mandates that could jeopardize the safety of facilities that provide vital contributions to critical sectors, including food production, water purification and energy production.”

Specifically, ACC said the finalized rule ignores risks to national security, is not evidence-based, will significantly increase costs for chemical makers, and is considerably altered from the proposed rule announced in 2022.

“The final rule requires companies to broadly share detailed information about specific chemical hazards at their facilities, removing important safeguards put in place after the 9/11 attacks,” ACC said. It added that “EPA did not follow its own data generated under RMP showing that a small percentage of regulated facilities reported incidents. If it had done so, changes to the program would have focused on improving safety performance rather than creating sweeping new requirements for the facilities that have not had an incident.”

ACC also said the final rule more than triples the anticipated costs for implementation. This is due in large part to the new requirements related to the safer technology and alternatives analysis (STAA), which makes up more than 80% of the cost of the final rule. “Such a significant increase deserves careful review and consideration by the public to better understand the Agency’s rationale for including the requirements, along with the cost and time burden estimates that were used to generate these figures,” ACC said.

Finally, ACC said the EPA has “vastly expanded the scope of the rule,” since the 2022 proposal by adding a “requirement not only to conduct a STAA analysis, but also [to] conduct a separate practicability assessment in some cases and implement at least one passive measure.”

American Petroleum Institute (API) was also critical of the final RMP amendments. Vice President of Downstream Policy Will Hupman said in a statement that EPA has failed to demonstrate a need for such a rigid approach, “which could have adverse impacts to workers and consumers alike by undermining ongoing safety improvements, impacting energy production and diminishing the ability of U.S. refineries to compete in global markets.” Hupman singled out a requirement intended to discourage the use of HF alkylation technology which some refiners use to make gasoline and other high octane fuels. “Restricting the use of this proven technology could have significantly impact refiners’ ability to produce the fuels that American consumers’ rely on every day,” he added.

We remind, the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) said it sees the European Commission’s Strategy on Advanced Materials for Industrial Leadership as a pivotal step toward addressing the challenges posed by the green and digital transition, adding that the chemical industry has an important role to play as the primary source of advanced materials’ value chains.


BASF battery project delayed because of environmental concerns

BASF battery project delayed because of environmental concerns

AFinnish court has ordered BASF to delay the opening of a battery materials plant in Harjavalta, Finland, after environmental groups argued that the company’s plan for dealing with sulfate waste isn’t sufficient, said C&An.

Analysts warn that similar environmental issues could slow other firms as they race to build battery supply chains in Europe and North America.

BASF’s Finnish plant is a key piece of a battery supply chain the company is trying to establish in Europe. It will be able to produce 30,000 metric tons (t) per year of precursors for battery cathodes. BASF will convert the precursors into cathode powders at a facility it commissioned last year in Schwarzheide, Germany.

Many of the materials used to make cathode precursors are sulfates of metals such as nickel and cobalt. Robert Baylis, principal at the battery supply chain consulting firm Carding Mill, says a caustic like sodium hydroxide is generally used to remove the sulfur component, a process that yields metal hydroxides and sodium sulfate waste.

Baylis says Finland has relatively permissive regulations regarding sulfate emissions because of the country’s paper and pulp industry, which also generates sodium sulfate. Several companies, including Umicore and CNGR Advanced Material, also plan to make cathode precursors there.

Finnish environmental groups have raised concerns about the environmental impact of these projects. Mari Granstorm, a former BASF chemist who helped the group Puhtaan Meren Puolesta contest the firm’s environmental permit, says BASF’s initial plan to discharge treated wastewater containing sodium sulfate into a river would have harmed aquatic life. “This river is very unique when you look at the biodiversity,” she says.

Puhtaan Meren Puolesta wants BASF to build a facility to crystallize sodium sulfate to sell into detergent or fertilizer markets, as some other firms plan to do. In 2021, Northvolt agreed to supply 200,000 t of sodium sulfate from its battery facility in Sweden to Cinis Fertilizer. “There are a lot of sodium sulfate crystallization units around the world,” Granstorm says. “It’s purely, ‘Are you willing to invest in this unit?’?”

We remind, BASF is utilizing its extensive global expertise in chemical recycling, employing pyrolysis technology known as ChemCycling, to introduce International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) Plus certified "Ccycled" materials sourced from the BASF TotalEnergies Petrochemicals facility located in Port Arthur, Texas, said the company. This facility operates as a joint venture between BASF and TotalEnergies, with a ownership split of 60/40 respectively, with TotalEnergies headquartered in France.