January's top stories: Phillips 66 to sell flow improver business, BASF to restructure paper chemicals

Phillips 66 revealed a plan to divest its flow improver business to Berkshire Hathaway for $1.4bn, AMEC agreed to acquire its Swiss rival Foster Wheeler for $3.2bn, while BASF is implementing a series of measures in its paper chemicals business to increase competitiveness. Chemicals Technology wraps up the top stories of January 2014.


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Phillips 66 to divest flow improver business to Berkshire Hathaway

Phillips 66 will sell its flow improver business to American multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway for $1.4bn, as part of its ongoing portfolio management and growth strategy.

The energy manufacturing and logistics company Phillips 66 will receive shares of Phillips 66 common stock currently held by Berkshire Hathaway in exchange for the share capital of its wholly owned subsidiary Phillips Specialty Products (PSPI).

According to Berkshire Hathaway, the specific number of shares will be determined by the share price at deal closing.

AMEC to acquire Swiss rival Foster Wheeler for $3.2bn

British oil and gas services firm AMEC agreed to acquire its Swiss rival Foster Wheeler for $3.2bn, in a bid to boost its coverage to growing markets.

According to AMEC, the deal would help the company expand its presence in the Latin American market.

The engineering and project management firm added that the acquisition will more than double its current revenue in markets such as Latin America, while saving an estimated $75m in cost synergies that would result in 'significant tax and revenue savings'.

AMEC is also considering the deal to extend its potential in oil and gas from exploration and production, as well as assisting in developing new consumer relationships.

Arkema to build new Chinese organic peroxide plant

Organic peroxides producer Arkema will build a new organic peroxide plant at its Changshu site in China, doubling the site's manufacturing capacity.

The investment, which complements investments made earlier such as the construction of a new plant in Saudi Arabia, forms part of Arkema's high-performance materials segment's development strategy.

The French-based company expects to continue to support the strong growth in the organic peroxide market in Asia by doubling its production capacity in China.

BASF to restructure paper chemicals business to boost competitiveness

BASF

Germany-based chemical company BASF is implementing a series of measures in its paper chemicals business to increase the competitiveness of its performance products segment.

The company will cut 250 jobs in production, marketing, sales and administration by 2015, as part of planned measures, though it did not reveal where the jobs will be eliminated.

BASF added that it will adjust capacities in its European latex manufacturing network and close down a plant with an annual capacity of 120,000t in Europe, keeping in view 'decreasing market demand'.

The chemical firm added that it will supply latex from its plants in Ludwigshafen, Germany; Pischelsdorf, Austria, and Hamina, Finland.

SunVic to sell two Chinese chemical production facilities to Arkema

Arkema

SunVic Chemical agreed to sell two of its Chinese production facilities to Arkema Asie, a subsidiary of Arkema, for approximately RMB3.9bn ($644m).

The acrylic acid and acrylate esters production facilities are currently held under SunVic's indirect wholly owned subsidiary, Taixing Jurong Chemical.

Sunvic and Arkema will also form a joint venture (JV), dubbed Sunke, which will own the assets of Jurong's acrylic acid production facilities located in Taixing.

SunVic will initially own 45% of the JV company while Arkema will own the remaining 55%.

BioAmber and Vinmar sign take-or-pay contract for BDO plant

Canada-based BioAmber signed a take-or-pay contract with Vinmar International, a subsidiary of Goradia Group, for bio-based 1.4-Butanediol (BDO).

Vinmar has agreed to purchase BDO produced in the plant, which is being built in North America by BioAmber, as part of the 15-year master off-take agreement.

Vinmar also plans to take approximately 10% interest in the 100,000t per annum (pa) capacity BDO plant, which is expected to be commissioned in 2017.

BioAmber plans to initially produce around 4,000tpa of BDO at a toll manufacturing facility that the company is expected to commission in 2015, in order to seed the market for its bio-based BDO.

Huntsman to expand global polyetheramines capacity

Huntsman's performance products division will expand its global polyetheramines (PEA) capacity by a minimum of 15% following the expansion of three of its PEA manufacturing plants in the Americas, Europe and Asia.

The US-based differentiated chemicals manufacturer and marketer expects facilities at Conroe, Texas, US; Llanelli, Wales, UK, and Singapore to be fully operational by May 2014.

Huntsman's performance products division president Stu Monteith said in addition to an increase in capacity, these debottlenecking projects will enhance Huntsman's manufacturing flexibility worldwide.

University of Delaware develops new catalyst to convert greenhouse gases into chemicals

New Catalyst

Researchers from the University of Delaware (UD), US, developed a highly selective catalyst to convert greenhouse gases into chemicals with 92% efficiency.

The new catalyst will electrochemically convert the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) to carbon monoxide (CO), which can be used for producing synthetic fuels, while reducing industrial CO2 emissions by as much as 40%.

While validating their findings the researchers found that the UD-developed nano-porous silver electrocatalyst was 3,000 times more active than polycrystalline silver, a catalyst commonly used in converting CO2 to useful chemicals.