Chemical industry weekly news roundup, 14 June
1:33 PM MDT | June 14, 2013 | By LINDSAY FROST
This Week in CW:
A large propylene explosion and fire at Williams’ Geismar, LA olefins plant Thursday morning has left 73 people injured and one dead, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said during a press conference Thursday afternoon. Initial reports incorrectly identified the source of the explosion as ethylene, according to a state official. The explosion occurred at 8:37 a.m. Central Daylight Time. The resulting fire was extinguished by 11 a.m. Eight burn victims were airlifted to hospitals, according to Jindal, and more than 300 persons were evacuated from the facility. Williams' cracker at Geismar has ethylene capacity of 646,000 m.t./year and coproduct propylene capacity of 43,000 m.t./year, according to IHS Chemical.
Six companies have expressed interest in buying the West Bengal government’s stake in troubled Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd. (HPL; Kolkata), the only major producer of petrochemicals on India’s east coast. The expressions of interest were submitted on Monday, the last day of the deadline given to prospective buyers. HPL chairman and West Bengal industries minister Partha Chatterjee says the expressions of interest were submitted by Reliance Industries; Jindal Petroleum; Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (New Delhi); Indian Oil Corp. (IOC); Gas Authority of India; and Cairn India (Gurgaon), an oil and gas exploration group.
Sinopec Engineering, China’s largest engineering and construction firm, has signed a $1.85-billion engineering, procurement, and construction contract with Kazakhstan Petrochemical Industries (KPI; Astana) to build a previously announced propane dehydrogenation (PDH) and polypropylene (PP) complex at Karabatan, in the state of Atyrau, Kazakhstan. The project is being financed through a $1.38-billion loan from the Export-Import Bank of China agreed on in 2011. Kuwaiti oil minister Hani Hussein resigned on Sunday over the $2.2 billion penalty payment to Dow Chemical earlier this month. He stepped down to avoid being questioned in parliament over the payment and other issues. Kuwait’s cabinet accepted his resignation and appointed finance minister Mustafa Al Shimali as acting oil minister, state-run Kuna news agency reported. Hussein's resignation was accepted Monday.
The key theme for Borealis, Borouge, and Nova Chemicals at the K 2013 plastics and rubber trade fair at Düsseldorf later this year will be Open your mind, Borealis said at a pre–K 2013 press conference held at Linz, Austria, last week. The press conference immediately followed the inauguration of Borealis's Sirius catalyst plant, at Linz. The company said it is planning further investments in Europe, such as expansion of the raffinate-1 and raffinate-2 streams at its Stenungsund, Sweden, steam cracker site.
Around the Web:
Several news outlets, including the Washington Post on Thursday announced that the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that human genes cannot be patented—a decision experts say is likely to shape the future of medical and biotech research. Those who challenged the notion that something that occurs naturally in the human body can be “owned” by a company said the decision could open a new era of expanded research and lower costs for genetic testing, the Post reports. At the same time, the ruling held out hope for industry that certain research methods and the creation of synthetic DNA can be protected and thus worth the investment.
In response to a New York Times opinion editorial earlier this month, acting administrator of the EPA Bob Perciasepe said today that “more must be done” to focus EPA actions on chemical plant safety inspection and enforcement efforts on facilities in light of recent events in West, TX and Geismar,LA. Perciasepe says they “will continue working with stakeholders to explore how our legal authorities and policies are being used to address these concerns and to consider potential adjustments to increase risk reduction.” This includes renewed focus on supporting local responders and further efforts by the federal government, Perciasepe says.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped over 100 points on Friday as investors booked profits a day after the S&P 500 recorded its second-best session of the year and data showed consumer sentiment cooled off in June, Reuters reports. On Thursday, the S&P 500 scored its biggest gain since 2 January, ending a three-day decline, as stronger-than-expected economic data helped reassure investors who had been anxious about an expected slowdown in the Federal Reserve's economic stimulus. In Friday's session, the Fed and other central banks were back in focus as investors worried about how soon the stimulus programs will be trimmed.