IHS Chemical Week


Chemical industry weekly news roundup, 28 February

2:04 PM MST | February 28, 2014 | By LINDSAY FROST

This week in CW:

Asahi Kasei says it will close permanently several petrochemical production plants in Japan and, with Mitsubishi Chemical, is also moving ahead with the previously announced plan to unify their respective naphtha crackers at Mizushima, Japan. Asahi says it will close a 150,000-m.t./year acrylonitrile plant at the company’s manufacturing site at Kawasaki by August 2014; a 320,000-m.t./year styrene plant at Mizushima will be closed by March 2016; a 65,000-m.t./year acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plant at Mizushima will be closed by December 2015; a 24,000-m.t./year styrene butadiene (SB) latex plant at Mizushima will be closed by the end of 2015; and a 37,000-m.t./year epoxy resin plant at Mizushima will be closed by May 2015. The 250 employees affected by these closures will be reassigned to jobs at other plants of the company, Asahi says.

Williams Partners (Tulsa, OK) has acquired Williams’s currently in-service operations in Alberta, Canada, for $1.2 billion. The assets include an oil sands offgas processing plant near Fort McMurray, approximately 260 miles of natural gas liquid (NGL) and olefins pipelines, and an NGL/olefins fractionation facility and butylene/butane splitter facility at Redwater. Williams owns approximately 64% of Williams Partners, including the general-partner interest.

BASF has announced higher fourth-quarter and full-year 2013 earnings and says it is cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. Fourth-quarter net income rose 16.3%, to €1.14 billion ($1.57 billion), on flat sales, €18.2 billion. Full-year net income was €4.84 billion compared with €4.82 billion in 2012 on sales up about 3%, to €74.0 billion. Ebit before special items in the fourth quarter was 18.1% higher, at €1.45 billion, and up 8.2%, at €7.19 billion, in 2013. In 2013 BASF earned a €1.9-billion premium on the cost of capital, just short of the annual target of €2.0 billion.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (Socma) on 27 February testified before Congress urging the passage of legislation to extend the Chemical Facilitiy Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. Clyde Miller, director of corporate security for BASF represented ACC before the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies. Kate Donahue, president of Hampford Research, represented Socma. Miller said that significant progress has been made with the updated CFATS legislation and related programs, including ACC’s Alternate Security Plan template. Given this progress, Miller says that CFATS should move from an appropriations process to an authorization process..

Around the Web:

An opinion piece in the LA Times covers “The truth about the great American science shortfall,” discussing the shortage of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students in the US and Obama’s push for more of these programs. The author says that while the great STEM shortage isn't wholly myth, it certainly has been mightily overhyped. If there were a big, general shortage of these workers, you would expect to see their wages rising. That hasn’t happened. There would be relatively low and declining unemployment rates compared with people of similar educational levels—hasn’t happened. There should be faster-than-average employment growth, which is occurring in some occupations but not others.

Closing the books on a fiscal year in which the federal budget deficit fell more sharply than in any year since the end of World War II, the Treasury Department reported on Thursday that the deficit for 2013 dropped to $680 billion, from about $1.1 trillion the previous year, the New York Times says. In nominal terms, that is the smallest deficit since 2008, and signals the end of a five-year stretch beginning with the onset of the recession when the country’s fiscal gap came in at more than $1 trillion each year. As a share of the nation’s economy, the budget deficit fell to about 4.1 percent, from a high of more than 10 percent during the depths of the Great Recession.

A team of UConn chemists has discovered a new way of making a class of porous materials that allows for greater manufacturing controls and has significantly broader applications than the longtime industry standard, writes the UConn Today blog. The process, more than three years in the making and outlined in the December 2013 edition of Nature Communications, has resulted in the creation of more than 60 new families of materials so far, with the potential for many more. The key catalyst in the process is recyclable, making it a ‘green’ technology. The research involves the creation of uniform, or monomodal, mesoporous metal oxides using transition metals such as manganese, cobalt, and iron.

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