March’s top stories: Dow Chemical’s $5bn deal, Lanxess's rubber restructuring

Dow Chemical announced plans to separate and merge chlor-alkali assets with Olin in $5bn deal, Lanxess planned restructuring its rubber production activities, and Evonik Industries was reportedly looking to bid for Clariant that would create more than €20bn worth entity. wraps-up the key headlines from March 2015.

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Scientists develop new catalyst for nitrogen bond dissociation in ammonia

Scientists from Japan, the UK and US at Tokyo Institute of Technology developed a new catalyst, said to facilitate dissociation of nitrogen bond in ammonia production.

The catalyst is said to allow breaking the triple bond in nitrogen molecules, which has been a significant challenge for researchers.

The team found that the bond dissociation no longer limits the rate of the reaction.

Demand for ammonia produced from molecular nitrogen and hydrogen is high as it is the key component used in synthesis of fertilisers and pharmaceuticals.

Dow Chemical signs $5bn deal to separate and merge chlorine assets with Olin


Dow Chemical agreed to separate and merge its chlor-alkali and downstream derivatives businesses with Olin in a $5bn deal.

The deal will be done through a tax efficient, Reverse Morris Trust transaction, which includes Dow's US Gulf Coast chlor-alkali and vinyl, global chlorinated organics and global epoxy businesses.

With the completion of the deal, Dow will hold 50.5% stake in Olin with the latter's shareholders will have around 49.5% interest.

Evonik considers bid to buy speciality chemical firm Clariant

Evonik Industries was reportedly looking to make a bid to acquire Swiss speciality chemicals company Clariant in a deal that would create an entity worth more than €20bn.

Sources familiar with the matter were reported by The Financial Times as saying that the German firm has been considering various options to pursue mergers and acquisitions in the chemical sector.

A potential bid for Clariant is expected to value the company at CHF7.3bn ($7.6bn), which represents CHF23 ($24) per share, a source told the newspaper.

The sources said that no bid has been finalised so far.

University of Texas scientists develop yeast for bio-chemicals production


Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin developed a new yeast strain, which could help produce bio-chemicals and bio-fuels.

Called Yarrowia lipolytica, the re-engineered strain is said to enhance bio-fuel and bio-chemical production processes with its ability to convert simple sugars into oils and fats that could replace petroleum-derived products.

The cell-based platform is said to produce oleochemicals, including nutritional polyunsaturated fatty acids, waxes, lubricants, oils, industrial solvents, and vitamin supplements called nutraceuticals.

Pasargad Energy to build $3bn petrochemical complex in Iran

Pasargad Energy Development (PEDC) secured a contract from the Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization (IMIDRO) to build a petrochemical complex in Iran with an investment of $3bn.

Covering an area of 160ha, the complex will be built at the Parsian Energy Intensive Industrial Zone in Fars Province. It will feature eight production units.

The complex will source 20 million cubic meters of gas a day, to produce 11 million cubic meters a year of various petrochemical products such as propylene and methanol. It is estimated to generate $2.4bn in annual revenue.

The facility will be the first-of-its-kind in Iran to implement natural gas-to-propylene conversion technology, reported IRNA.

Lanxess plans to restructure rubber production activities


German chemicals firm Lanxess announced plans to restructure its ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) rubber and neodymium-based performance butadiene rubber (Nd-PBR) production activities, to tackle overcapacities for synthetic rubbers.

As part of the plan, the company plans to suspend EPDM rubber production at its facility in Marl, Germany later this year.

According to Lanxess, the Marl facility is least competitive among Lanxess's EPDM production network due to its high energy and raw material costs and economy of scale limitations.

The company will soon enter negotiations with employee representatives at the plant, to identify feasible solutions.

Petro Rabigh secures $5.2bn loan for petrochemical complex expansion

Rabigh Refining and Petrochemical (Petro Rabigh) secured a SAR19.4bn ($5.2bn) credit facilities to fund its Rabigh Phase II project, an expansion of the existing facility.

The company has signed deals with Japan Bank for International (JBIC), state-owned Public Investment Fund (PIF), and a group of 19 local and international banks.

Petro Rabigh will receive SAR7.48bn ($1.99bn) from JBIC, SAR4.87bn ($1.29bn) from PIF, SAR3.5bn ($935m) from a group of international commercial banks and SAR3.5bn ($935m) from Islamic financing facilities.

The credit facilities have tenure in excess of 16 years with final maturity in June 2031.

Huntsman to close four colour pigment manufacturing facilities in US and Germany

Huntsman announced plans to close four manufacturing facilities by the end of this year, as part of restructuring of its colour pigments business.

The plan to restructure colour pigments operations comes after the company previously announced plans to streamline its global pigments and additives business.

Huntsman's facilities in Cartersville, Georgia; East St. Louis, Illinois; and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania in the US and one plant in Hainhausen, Germany will be closed.

The company said that products manufactured at these plants will be supplied by its other facilities, including the Augusta plant, which was acquired as part of Rockwood Holdings' pigment and additives divisions.

Orica sells chemicals unit to equity firm Blackstone for A$750m


Orica concluded the sale of its chemicals business to American private equity firm Blackstone for A$750m ($583.5m).

The transaction allows the company to focus on blasting products and services for mining, quarrying and construction segments in more than 100 countries worldwide.

The sale includes Orica's chemicals operations in Australia, New Zealand and Latin America, as well as the Chloralkali manufacturing unit in Australia, and Bronson & Jacobs, which serves the food, nutrition, healthcare and personal care segments.

Graphene aerogels optimised with boron and nitrogen can act as catalysts


Rice University scientists found that metal-free aerogels made from graphene nanoribbons and optimised with boron and nitrogen can serve as catalysts to produce fuel cells.

The team used various levels of boron and nitrogen with graphene nanoribbons, to test their electrochemical properties.

During tests, which involved half of the catalytic reaction, researchers identified that a version with around 10% boron and nitrogen is efficient at catalysing oxygen reduction reactions.