IHS Chemical Week


Chemical industry weekly news roundup, 17 January

12:17 PM MST | January 17, 2014 | By LINDSAY FROST

This Week in CW:

Several companies reported earnings this week. In the US, PPG reported fourth-quarter net income from continuing operations up 33% year-on-year (YOY), to $254 million, or $1.78/share, on sales up 14%, to $3.7 billion. H.B. Fuller reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings down 12% year-on-year (YOY) to $22 million, or 43 cts/share, on revenues up 4%, to $533.5 million. Elsewhere, Uralkali (Berezniki, Russia), a leading global producer of potash, announced its production results for fourth-quarter and full-year 2013. Uralkali produced 2.8 million m.t. of potassium chloride (KCI) in the quarter, a 61% increase compared with the corresponding period of the previous year. Reliance Industries says net profits for its fiscal third quarter, ended 31 December 2013, increased 0.2% compared with the same period of the previous year, to about 55.11 billion Indian rupees ($897 million). Third-quarter sales increased 10.5%, to Rs1.06 trillion.

A chemical spill at Elk River, WV on 9 January cut off clean drinking water to over 300,000 people in nine West Virginia counties. State officials imposed water-use restrictions on 9 January after discovering that an estimated 7,500 gals of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) had leaked out of a storage tank about a mile upriver of Freedom Industries (Charleston, WV), a specialty chemical company, according to recent reports. MCHM is used to clean coal. West Virginia governor Earl Ray Tomblin said in a press conference on 13 January that they are still investigating areas where residents could once again use tap water. In the meantime, local and federal government officials have been distributing bottled water to residents. The ‘do not use’ order has been lifted for most of the effective counties as of 17 January.

Saudi Aramco will spend $2 billion to acquire Hanjin Energy’s stake in S-Oil (Seoul), Korea’s third largest oil refiner and a major producer of para-xylene (p-xylene), according to Saudi Gazette. Last week, Maeil Business reported that Aramco will buy Hanjin’s entire stake, citing S-Oil CEO Nasser Al Mahasher. Aramco already owns 35% in S-Oil and the acquisition of Hanjin’s stake will raise its shareholding to 63.4%.

Formosa Plastics is planning to invest in a new ethylene plant in Louisiana using shale gas feedstock, according to local reports citing Formosa Plastics’ chairman Lee Chin-tsuen. Formosa Plastics is already developing a 1.2-million m.t./year ethylene plant at Point Comfort, TX. Formosa’s Texas facility is expected to cost $3 billion. The facility will include units producing 1.2 million m.t./year of ethylene; 600,000 m.t./year of propylene; and 400,000 m.t./year of high-density polyethylene and will come onstream in the first quarter of 2017.

Around the Web:

Texas is set to become one of the leading oil producers on the planet, thanks to the shale gas boom, writes USA Today. Advanced drilling technology, such as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," and horizontal drilling are unlocking huge reservoirs of oil previously deemed impossible to reach, doubling the state's crude oil production the past two years. This year, Texas is projected to produce more than 3 million barrels a day — moving it ahead of Kuwait, Mexico and Iraq to become the eighth-largest oil producer in the world. Energy companies are likely to invest more than $100 billion in Texas in the next few years to extract oil from the shale. In 2011 alone, the boom created more than 38,000 jobs in South Texas and poured more than $500 million into local and state coffers, according to a report by the University of Texas-San Antonio.

A mild chemical treatment that completely dissolves wood, dried grasses and other indigestible plant matter could greatly improve the efficiency of converting waste biomass to fuel, according to Nature.com. Ethanol and other biofuels, including certain petrol and diesel substitutes, can be produced from simple sugars, usually by fermentation. Most of the sugars come from foodstuffs, including sugar cane and maize. But most of the biomass produced in agriculture and forestry lies unused in more-complex chains of sugars, for example lignin and cellulose. By adding a dash of dilute sulphuric acid to a colourless, herbal-smelling liquid called γ-valerolactone (GVL), chemists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have now invented a process that they say easily extracts sugars from lignin and cellulose fibres.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced a new public-private manufacturing hub in North Carolina during his visit to the state, seeking to bolster an industry that he considers essential to raising middle class incomes, Reuters reports. The manufacturing hub in Raleigh is a consortium of 18 businesses and six universities that will be led by North Carolina State University and will lead an institute to develop high-power electronic chips. Obama had called for three such hubs in his State of the Union speech a year ago. The other two have yet to be selected. The hub is backed by $70 million in funding.

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