Chemical industry weekly news roundup—22 March
2:33 PM MDT | March 22, 2013 | By LINDSAY FROST
This week in CW:
CW was at the IHS World Petrochemical Conference this week discussing the positive outlook of the North American petrochemical industry. Although shale gas has cut into North American benzene supply and raised prices, it has simultaneously advantaged the production of benzene derivatives, according to IHS Chemical. Weaker demand growth coupled with stronger rates of capacity expansion has dampened the profit outlook for ethylene, particularly high-cost producers that use heavier feedstocks, and new opportunities based on developments in the energy market—including the surge in unconventional oil and gas production in the United States—have divided the global petrochemical industry into haves and have-nots, IHS Chemical says.
On Monday, Dow Chemical announced plans to build four downstream polymer and elastomer units that will be fed from its planned Freeport, TX, cracker. The investments include a metallocene-based ethylene propylene diene monomer unit, a high-melt-index elastomers hot-melt adhesives unit, enhanced polyethylene (PE) for high-performance flexible packaging, and specialty low-density PE.
Mosaic has entered into an agreement with the Saudi Arabian Mining Co. (Ma’aden) and Sabic to establish a joint venture to develop integrated phosphate production facilities in Saudi Arabia. The $7-billion investment will be split with Ma’aden holding 60%, Mosaic 25%, and Sabic 15%. The complex is expected to have a total production capacity of approximately 16 million m.t./year and is expected to begin operations in late 2016.
Indorama Ventures’ (Bangkok) polymers subsidiary AlphaPet has confirmed the construction of a previously announced polyethylene terephthalate (PET) production unit in the US with BP as its partner in the project. The 500,000-m.t./year PET plant will be built adjacent to BP’s purified terephthalic acid (PTA) unit at BP's Decatur, AL, site and AlphaPet is investing $190 million to build the PET unit.
Around the Web:
Russian state-owned Rosneft has taken over TNK-BP in a $55 billion-deal that will make Rosneft the world’s largest listed oil producer, The Guardian reported on Thursday. BP will collect $16.7 billion in cash and a 12.5% stake in Rosneft in return for its 50% stake in the TNK-BP venture as a part of the deal. The deal takes BP's stake in Rosneft to 19.75%, and BP will get two seats on the Russian company's board.
Signs of recovery in the US economy have been underlined with news that home sales are running at a three-year high and that a confidence index rose, according to a recent article in the BBC. Sales of existing homes in February were at their highest annual rate since November 2009, according to the National Association of Realtors. Meanwhile, the Conference Board index of economic indicators rose 0.5% and, on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve said the economy had improved "moderately", but warned about high unemployment.
Ars Technica, a technology news publication, says a flash memory chip has been built out of single-atom-thick components; graphene—a single-atom thick sheet of carbon—and molybdenum disulfide layers make up most of the working parts. Electrons move through the material as if they have no mass, and its discovery is one of a number of single-atom thick materials—some having different properties such as semiconductors or insulators. The discoveries raise the prospect of building more complex electronic devices out of a series of these materials.