February’s top stories: BASF and Toda Kogyo JV, FMC sells soda ash unit

BASF and Toda Kogyo formed a cathode active materials joint venture in Japan, Egyptian and Kuwaiti companies partnered on $6.8bn of petrochemical and phosphate fertiliser projects, and FMC agreed to sell its Alkali Chemicals division to Tronox. Chemicals-technology.com wraps-up the key headlines from February 2015.


BASF and Toda Kogyo form JV in Japan

cathode material

BASF and cathode materials manufacturer Toda Kogyo formed a cathode active materials joint venture (JV) in Japan.

The companies announced the JV agreement in October last year.

The new business is called BASF Toda Battery Materials. It will be engaged in research and development (R&D), production, marketing and sales of cathode materials, including nickel cobalt aluminium oxide (NCA), lithium manganese oxide (LMO) and nickel cobalt manganese (NCM), which is used in lithium-ion batteries.

BASF Toda Battery Materials operates production facilities in Sanyo-Onoda, the Yamaguchi prefecture and the Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka prefecture. It produces 18,000t of cathode active materials and their precursors.

Platform Specialty Products acquires Arysta LifeScience for $3.5bn

Platform Specialty Products completed the acquisition of Arysta LifeScience from private equity firm Permira Advisers for approximately $3.5bn.

The deal is the company's third within the crop protection segment after its acquisitions of Agriphar and Chemtura AgroSolutions.

Arysta's product portfolio includes agrochemical and bio-solutions such as insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, bio-stimulants and value-added nutrients. In 2013, the company recorded revenues of $1.5bn.

Sibur starts construction on $9.5bn ZapSibNeftekhim project


Russia-based gas processing and petrochemicals company Sibur has started construction on its $9.5bn hydrocarbon to polyolefin processing facility in the Tyumen region, Moscow.

Project ZapSibNeftekhim is designed to operate a steam cracker with a capacity of 1.5mtpa of ethylene provided by Linde and 500ktpa of propylene, as well as 100ktpa of butane-butylene fraction.

It will also include facilities with a total capacity to produce 1.5mtpa of various grades of polyethylene supplied by the UK's Ineos, and a polypropylene unit of 500ktpa supplied by Dutch firm LyondellBasell.

The company said that ZapSibNeftekhim aims to develop its processing operations and is focused on significant volumes of oil and gas exploration by-products in West Siberia, including associated petroleum gas and import substitution of those polymers in demand on the Russian market.

Egypt and Kuwait partner on $6.8bn petrochemical and fertiliser projects

Egyptian and Kuwaiti companies have signed preliminary deals to set-up petrochemical and phosphate fertiliser projects worth around $6.8bn.

Under the memorandums of understanding (MoU) between the two countries, the companies will work together to build a propylene complex, petrochemical and refinery plant, formaldehyde plant and phosphate and compound fertiliser complex.

Work on the proposed projects is expected to commence in three to five years.

Caltech's new silicon-containing organic chemicals production method


California Institute of Technology (Caltech) chemists have discovered a new way to create silicon-containing organic chemicals using a catalyst, to produce medicines and advanced materials.

Said to be a 'green' chemistry technique, the process uses potassium tert-butoxide, a substance commonly found in laboratories, eliminating the use of precious metal catalysts.

Researchers stated that potassium salt is more effective than precious metal complexes in chemical reactions.

Caltech graduate student Anton Toutov said: "We have shown for the first time that you can efficiently make carbon-silicon bonds with a safe and inexpensive catalyst based on potassium, rather than ultra-rare precious metals like platinum, palladium and iridium.

"This is a technology that the chemical industry could readily adopt."

Mitsui Chemicals to restructure operations


Mitsui Chemicals prepared to restructure operations of its functional chemicals business unit, to accelerate new product development and business strategy.

Restructuring is part of the company's 2014 mid-term business plan, which was designed to simplify the domain of each business sector.

The decision was said to strengthen business support functions and accelerate decision-making, while improving operational efficiency and reducing interdepartmental coordination, Mitsui Chemicals said.

As part of the restructuring, Mitsui functional chemicals business sector's fine and performance chemicals division and licensing division will be moved to its basic chemicals business segment and petrochemicals business sector, respectively.

FMC to sell soda ash Alkali Chemicals to Tronox for $1.64bn

US-based FMC signed a definitive agreement to sell its Alkali Chemicals division to Tronox for $1.64bn.

FMC announced plans to divest its Alkali Chemicals division in September 2014 when it agreed to buy Cheminova for $1.8bn, in order to reduce debt associated with the Cheminova acquisition.

The Alkali Chemicals unit produces natural soda ash, serving the glass manufacturing, water treatment, pulp and paper, textiles, food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.

The business operates mining and processing facilities in Green River, Wyoming, US.

BASF increases bismuth vanadate pigments production in Germany

BASF bismuth

BASF planned to increase its production capacities of bismuth vanadate pigments in Besigheim near Stuttgart, Germany.

Increased capacity to meet the demand for alternatives to lead chromate pigments and is expected to be available by 2017.

BASF is also planning to introduce two new bismuth vanadate pigments this year.

Bismuth vanadates are yellow pigments with a special greenish colour tone, used for the formulation of paints, coatings and plastic coatings. They are marketed by the company under the Sicopal and Paliotan brand names.

They are a high-performance inorganic alternative to pigments containing lead chromate.

Lanxess in talks to sell synthetic-rubber unit stake


German chemical company Lanxess held talks with potential buyers, including Russia's Nizhnekamskneftekhim and state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco), for the sale of a minority stake in its synthetic-rubber unit.

The decision to sell its synthetic-rubber unit came as Lanxess battled production overcapacity and weak prices.

Previously, Lanxess said it had been searching for a strategic partner for a production or marketing alliance to tackle these problems.

RIKEN's new way to develop and dismantle supramolecular polymers

Scientists from the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science discovered a new method of artificially creating and dismantling supramolecular polymers, which would enable them to make polymers with a wide range of properties, for use in new applications.

Supramolecular complexes are chain-like structures featuring small units associated with weak non-covalent bonds. These complexes are said to be assembled and disassembled in a controlled manner.

RIKEN's new process makes use of traditional polymer chemistry methods and self-organising capability of monomer elements. It involves addition of a mixture of monomers and initiator to the solvent.