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Chemical industry weekly news roundup, 17 May
2:02 PM MDT | May 17, 2013 | By LINDSAY FROST
This Week in CW:
A Kansas federal court on Wednesday ordered Dow Chemical to pay $1.2 billion in a previously announced urethanes price-fixing case, tripling, as expected, the fine announced in February this year. Dow was one of five companies named in a 2005 class action lawsuit for alleged conspiracy to fix urethane prices. The plaintiffs, consumers of isocyanates and polyols, accused Bayer, BASF, Huntsman, LyondellBasell Industries, and Dow for colluding in a price-fixing conspiracy from 1999 to 2003. Dow was the only defendant not to settle out of court.
Northern Plains Nitrogen (NPN; Valley City, ND) has announced plans to build a $1.5-billion nitrogen fertilizer complex northwest of Grand Forks, ND. NPN was conceived by growers in the northern plains based on research conducted by North Dakota State University. The facility, currently in the front-end-engineering design phase, will be designed to produce 2,200 m.t./day of ammonia, which will be used to produce more than 600,000 m.t./year of urea and liquid urea ammonium nitrate. Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2015 with completion planned 2 years later.
Celanese and Mitsui & Co. have agreed to form a 50-50 joint venture for a previously announced project to produce methanol at Celanese's integrated chemical plant at Clear Lake, TX. Celanese announced last June that it will build a methanol production facility at its Clear Lake complex. The total shared capital and expense investment in the facility is estimated to be about $800 million. The planned methanol facility will have a capacity of 1.3 million m.t./year and is expected to begin operations in mid-2015.
Around the Web:
In a piece in the Atlantic, Amory Lovins discusses Charles Mann’s “What If We Never Run Out of Oil,” stating that it doesn’t matter if we run out of oil, because we won’t want to burn it anymore. Like whale oil in the 1860s, Lovins says, oil today has become uncompetitive—even at low prices—and that will only become truer with time. Mainstream analysts see "peak oil" emerging not in supply but in demand, Lovins says—OECD oil use peaked in 2005, US gasoline use peaked in 2007, and some analysts think world oil use may peak in this decade because modern technologies to save or displace oil cost far less than oil. Lovins says ways to get more oil or gas we don't need, can't afford, and can't safely burn will hardly define the future of our energy mix.
A fundamental property of the rarest element on Earth, astatine, has been discovered for the first time, scientists say in an article in the Huffington Post. Astatine occurs naturally—however, scientists estimate much less than an ounce in total exists worldwide. Physicists at the CERN physics laboratory in Switzerland have now measured its ionization potential — the amount of energy needed to remove one electron from an atom of astatine, turning it into an ion or a charged particle. The measurement fills in a missing piece of the periodic table of elements, because astatine was the last naturally occurring element for which this property was unknown.
According to Bloomberg news, German investor confidence rose less than economists forecast in May, highlighting the risks to the economic outlook as the euro region remains mired in recession. The ZEW Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim said its index of investor and analyst expectations, which aims to predict economic developments six months in advance, edged up to 36.4 from 36.3 in April. While an unusually long winter delayed Germany’s recovery from a slump in the final quarter of 2012, recent data indicate Europe’s largest economy is returning to growth.