IHS Chemical Week


Chemical industry weekly news roundup—11 Jan.

10:32 AM MST | January 11, 2013 | By LINDSAY FROST

This Week in CW:

Dow Corning says it will cut about 4% of its workforce—equaling 500 jobs from its professional ranks—through an “involuntary separation program.” The company says it is facing significant challenges including oversupplies markets, high raw material costs, and slowed growth in many regions.   

A few companies began to report earnings this week—including Monsanto and RPM. Monsanto raised its 2013 earnings outlook after it reported a large rise in net income, to $339 million from $126 million year-over-year. RPM had an 11.1% rise in sales, to $1.02 billion, but net income dropped 16.5%, to $41.7 million.

Showa Denko and Mitsubishi Corp. say they have entered into a partnership for the fullerene business. Showa Denko acquired a 50% stake in Frontier Carbon Cor. (FCC; Tokyo), a producer of fullerene products, from Mitsubishi. This deal makes FCC a 50-50 jv between Mitsubishi and Showa Denko. 

In Louisiana this week, Dow restarted its Olefins 2 plant at its St. Charles operations and that has been producing on-spec ethylene since 25 December. The plant’s new operations will increase Ebitda by $150 million this year, the company estimates. Westlake Chemical began its previously announced Petro 2 ethylene expansion at its Lake Charles site. The work is expected to last 60 days and add 230–250 million lbs/year of ethylene at the site.

Around the Web:

A recent review from the Department of Homeland Security, in an article in The New York Times, counted 198 attack incidents on critical computer infrastructures in 2012—with about 40% of the cases targeting the energy sector. Events range from the use of malware to sabotage systems to phishing attacks to retrieve sensitive information. Pipeline vulnerability is a particular concern because of the ubiquity of supervisory control and data acquisition, or Scada software systems—used to monitor variables such as pressure and flow rates, the article says.

An article in Business Insider discusses uranium-based nuclear energy versus thorium-based energy—arguing that thorium could potentially provide more power. The major difference lies within the by-products, saying uranium byproducts are more dangerous because of their potential nuclear-bomb uses. The article says that thorium is thought to be 3–4 times more abundant than uranium as well as cleaner, safer, and more powerful—and medical isotopes produced from liquid fluoride thorium reactors will actually be more valuable than the electricity generated.

MIT Technology Review, in a business report discussing the “next wave of manufacturing,” says the plummeting price of natural gas is luring key industries to the United States. The impact of the resurgence is being felt most strongly in the $148-billion ethylene market—with the costs to make ethylene dropping to $300/ton, down from $1,000 a few years ago.  

The Economist published a piece on the value of patents—discussing how China has overtaken the United States again, filing more applications than any other countries in 2011. However, in the United States and Europe, about half of the patent applications are filed by foreigners. In the past few years in China, filings by locals have surged to three-fourths of the total, and those are probably less valuable than those in the United States and Europe, the article explains.

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