IHS Chemical Week


Chemical industry weekly news roundup, 3 January

7:48 AM MST | January 3, 2014 | By LINDSAY FROST

This week in CW:

Harold Simmons, chairman of the board of directors at NL Holdings—which comprises several titanium dioxide manufacturers, including NL Industries (Dallas) and Kronos (Dallas)—passed away on 28 December at the age of 82. According to Bloomberg reports, Simmons was hospitalized two weeks ago at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, though the cause of death is not disclosed. Simmons was most recently reported as holding an 81.2% stake in Kronos—of which 80.4% was held by NL Industries and Valhi (Dallas), according to Oppenheimer analysts. The company has yet to release a statement.

Sinopec Engineering and Zhong Tian He Chuang Energy, on 27 December, entered into an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract for the development of a new coal-to-chemicals project in Uxin Banner at Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China, Sinopec says. Zhong Tian He Chuang Energy is a joint venture between Sinopec and China Coal (Beijing). The contract covers the EPC of the main units, such as a coal gasification unit; a purification unit; a 3.6-million m.t./year synthetic methanol unit; two 1.8-million m.t./year methanol-to-olefins) units; a 200,000-m.t./year olefin catalytic cracking unit;, two 350,000-m.t./year polypropylene units; a 120,000-m.t./year low-density polyethylene (LDPE) unit; a 250,000-m.t./year LDPE unit; a 300,000-m.t./year linear LDPE unit; a 10,000-m.t./year methyl tert-butyl ether unit; a 30,000-m.t./year 1-butylene combined unit; and utilities and facilities, such as the air separation and air compression units, olefin intermediate tankage units. The total value of the contract is about 18.7 billion renminbi ($3.08 billion), Sinopec says.

LyondellBasell Industries says it has completed the previously announced restart of the company's methanol plant at Channelview, TX. The plant was placed back into service in the fourth quarter of 2013 to take advantage of low-cost natural gas feedstock from shale formations, the company says. The unit had been out of service since 2004 due to the rising cost of natural gas at that time. LyondellBasell's methanol production capacity at Channelview is 780,000 m.t./year, according to IHS Chemical data.

W.R. Grace has reached a deal to settle the final appeal pending in its 12-year old Chapter 11 proceedings, clearing the way for the company to emerge from bankruptcy protection in early 2014. The settlement with holders of the company’s pre-petition bank debt, disclosed in regulatory filings on 23 December, calls for Grace to pay the lenders $129 million plus interest from 31 December 2013 in addition to the $971 million in distributions already provided in Grace’s bankruptcy reorganization plan.

Around the Web:

According to the Globe and Mail out of Canada, The world’s central banks are stashing away Canadian dollars at a faster rate than any other major currency, a vote of confidence at a time when the loonie has lost some of its shine in foreign-exchange markets. Official holdings of Canadian dollars surged 23.6 per cent to US$112.5-billion in the third quarter of this year from their level in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to International Monetary Fund data published Monday. None of the other five currencies that receive explicit mention by the IMF gained anywhere near that much, suggesting that demand from central banks may help to put a floor under the Canadian dollar’s recent slide.

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest Laboratory at Richland, WA have developed a method of hydrothermal liquefaction for lipid-extracted algae for conversion to liquid fuels that takes only an hour and costs between $2-7 per equivalent gallon of gas, according to ResearchGate.

Home prices in most US cities are increasing more slowly than earlier in the year, and consumer confidence is rising, in dual signs that expectations of a stronger economy in 2014 are taking root, according to USA Today. The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index rose 6.1 points in December, to 78.1, recouping almost all of the drop it sustained during the October government shutdown, the board reported on Tuesday.

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