Asia MTBE prices to rise after the Lunar New Year holidays

(ICIS) -- Asia methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) prices are likely to rise after the Lunar New Year holidays, on expectations of higher regional demand and lower supply because of plant turnarounds, traders said on Tuesday.

Spot values of the octane booster in gasoline were steady at $940-950/tonne (┬696-703/tonne) FOB (free on board) Singapore, supported by healthy demand within Asia despite the absence of the key Chinese market.

China is on a week-long holiday for Lunar New Year between 2-8 February.

Import requirements from China were expected to surge after the holidays, as driving demand in the world's top energy user as well as the number-one global auto market would peak in the next few months, traders said.

Car sales in China rose an annualised 33.2% in 2010 to 13.8m units, according to a Reuters report quoting China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM).

Meanwhile, Indonesia would use even more gasoline after southeast Asia's biggest economy posted a 6.1% growth for last year, with its fourth-quarter GDP up at 6.9% - the strongest ever in six years.

Spot MTBE premiums in Singapore have been hovering near $30/tonne to market quotes on a delivered basis for the past couple of weeks, they said.


North Africa caustic soda supplies normalising

(ICIS) -- Caustic soda supply in northern Africa is returning to normal despite ongoing protests in Egypt, which is the predominant producer for the region, sources said on Tuesday. There are two major producers of caustic soda in Egypt, TCI Sanmar and Egyptian Petrochemical Company (EPC).

TCI Sanmar's 200,000 tonne/year caustic soda plant at South Port Said was in the restart process, and would be back to normal operations by the weekend of 12-13 February, a company source said. The company had shut the plant on 29 January after riots in the local area made it impossible to operate.

EPC has resumed deliveries of caustic soda following a relaxation of delivery restrictions, a company source said. Material is being booked for the next few days, the source added.

The Egyptian army had blocked transport links, preventing shipments of material from 2 February. Deliveries were now being allowed from 06:00 to 20:00 local time, which the source said was a return to normal operations.

The effective closure of the caustic soda market during the protests had caused a short-term spike in northern African caustic soda prices, as players looked to cover short-term volumes during the uncertainty.

However, prices had now returned to $380-440/tonne FOB (free on board) northern Africa, in line with prices prior to the supply disruption.


Fire at the Bandar Imam Petrochemical Complex

(Press.TV) -- One person has been killed and 11 injured in a fire that broke out at the Bandar Imam Petrochemical Complex, which is located in the southern Iranian province of Khuzestan. The fire started Friday morning at the NGL fractionation unit of the complex, which is under construction, the Mehr news agency reported.

The Iranian Oil Ministry has not yet explained the cause of the fire. Eight of the injured people are receiving treatment at the Mahshahr Petrochemical Industries Hospital, and the three others were transferred to Tehran for treatment due to the seriousness of their injuries.

Five months ago, a similar incident took place at the same unit, but no casualties were reported.

Since the beginning of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21, 2010), a number of accidents have occurred at various oil and petrochemical facilities of the country, with 50 casualties. A fire at Well 24 of the Naftshahr oilfield, an explosion and fire at the Kharg Petrochemical Complex, and a fire at the Pardis Petrochemical Complex were some of the worst accidents.


Scientist convicted of selling Dow secrets to China

(mySA) -- A former research scientist was convicted Monday of charges he stole trade secrets from Dow Chemical Company and sold them to companies in China. After a three-week trial, a federal jury in Baton Rouge convicted Wen Chyu Liu, 74, also known as David Liou, of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft and perjury.

Liu worked at Dow's Plaquemine facility before he retired in 1992. Prosecutors said he conspired with at least four other Dow employees in Louisiana and Germany to sell confidential information about the company's production of a polymer called chlorinated polyethylene, which is used in automotive hoses, vinyl siding and other products.

Liu bribed one employee at the Plaquemine facility with $50,000 in cash in exchange for Dow's process manual and other information, according to prosecutors. "Such actions undermine the economic viability of our community and our nation, and will not be tolerated," U.S. Attorney Don Cazayoux said in a statement.

Prosecutors said Liu, who was sued by Dow, lied under oath during a deposition for the civil case when he denied making arrangements for a coconspirator to travel to China to meet with a company's representative.

The Houston resident faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. His sentencing date wasn't immediately set.

Liu's attorney, Frank Holthaus, said his client was stunned by the verdict because he "thought that American justice would see through what Dow had paid its lawyers to do," Holthaus said.


Initial US February propylene contracts settle flat

(ICIS) -- US propylene contracts began to settle at a rollover, market sources said on Monday, indicating a recent drop in spot prices outweighed proposed increases sought by US producers.

According to sources, one US producer agreed to a flat settlement that would keep polymer grade propylene (PGP) at 77.50 cents/lb ($1,709/tonne, ┬1,265/tonne).

The producer and a rival supplier had nominated increases of 3.00 cents/lb for PGP in February, but those initiatives lost some momentum after spot prices began to soften.

Spot PGP for February delivery traded at 75.00 cents/lb in the last week of January, down from 75.50 cents/lb two weeks earlier.

Market sources said the same producer settled chemical-grade propylene (CGP) at 74.00 cents/lb, also unchanged from January.

The supplier had initially nominated an increase of 5.00 cents/lb for CGP, which in January settled at 70.00 and 74.00 cents/lb after a drawn-out and unusual split settlement.

The initial flat settlement for US propylene follows a massive increase in January, when PGP contracts rose by 17.00 cents/lb and CGP by 11.00 and 15.00 cents/lb.

The sharp increase in January stemmed from tight supply and higher spot prices, including a 42% surge in refinery grade propylene (RGP) spot prices in December.