2013: The year's top stories on Chemicals Technology

BASF announced plans to restructure its leather and textile businesses, Dow Chemical unveiled its plan to spin-off or sell its commodity chemicals businesses, Sadara Chemical has concluded the main financing for the start of a world-class petrochemical complex in Saudi Arabia, while Carlyle Group has acquired DuPont Performance Coatings. Chemicals Technology wraps up the top stories of 2013.

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US court orders Dow Chemical to pay $400m in price-fixing case

A federal court in Kansas, US, has ordered the Dow Chemical Company to pay $400m in a price-fixing case, which involved chemicals used to manufacture foam products for car, packaging and furniture industries.

Dow Chemical was one of several chemical company defendants named in a urethane price-fixing class action lawsuit, which went to trial in January 2013.

The plaintiffs, the urethane-derived products purchasers, had sought more than $1bn in damages for a five-year conspiracy from Dow.

BASF to re-organise leather, textile chemicals business

BASF is planning to restructure its leather and textile chemicals business to focus on the growing Asia Pacific region and high value-added applications.

The leather and textile chemicals unit supplies products for weaving, pre-treatment, optical brightening, printing, coating and finishing, as well as dyeing auxiliaries.

The leather-chemical business will concentrate on premium textile articles and the automotive industry, while the textile chemicals unit will focus on value-adding steps, such as printing and finishing.

Yima JV's China facility begins methanol production

The Yima joint venture (JV) facility at the $4bn Maozhuang Industrial Park in Henan Province, China, has commenced with methanol production.

The coal-to-methanol facility forms part of phase one of the joint venture project between China-based Yima Coal Industry Group and Synthesis Energy Systems (SES).

The plant, which uses SES's patented and proprietary gasification technologies, is likely to convert around 2,400tpd of high ash Yima coal into 300,000tpy of refined methanol on reaching its full capacity later in 2013.

Merck to buy AZ Electronic Materials for €1.9bn

Drug and chemicals producer Merck has agreed to buy speciality chemical manufacturer AZ Electronic Materials for a consideration of £1.6bn (€1.9bn).

As per the agreement through its wholly-owned subsidiary Allgemeine Beteiligungs, Merck will offer £4.03 a share for all of AZ Electronic's outstanding shares.

The acquisition, being financed completely through existing cash resources, is subject to various conditions, including antitrust clearance and a minimum acceptance level of 95% of the share capital.

The transaction will require integration costs of around €50m between 2014 and 2016, and is estimated to generate savings of around €25m by 2016 through the synergy, which will enable the development of new tailor-made solutions for the electronics industry.

Dow Chemical to spin off commodity chemicals businesses

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Dow Chemical is planning to spin-off or sell its commodity chemicals businesses, which represent about $5bn of the company's total annual revenue.

The assets include about 40 manufacturing plants at 11 sites and about 2,000 employees.

The assets include Dow's US Gulf Coast chlor-alkali and chlor-vinyl facilities in Plaquemine, Louisiana, and Freeport, Texas, along with other plants in Texas, Germany, China, Italy, South Korea and Brazil.

Chevron Phillips Chemical's USGC petrochemicals project progresses

Chevron Phillips Chemical will go ahead with construction of its proposed ethane cracker and polyethylene units following air permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), US.

Earlier this year the company received a greenhouse gas approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the cracker.

Built at Chevron Phillips Chemical's Cedar Bayou facility in Baytown, Texas, the ethane cracker will have a manufacturing capacity of 1.5 million mt per year.

The two new polyethylene facilities will be constructed on a site near the Chevron Phillips Chemical Sweeny facility in Old Ocean, Texas, and each facility will have a production capacity of 500,000mt per year.

BP develops technologies for ethylene, acetic acid production

British energy company British Petroleum (BP) has developed two new technologies for production of key petrochemical feedstocks.

The first technology, SaaBre, will manufacture acetic acid from synthesis gas (syngas), while the other technology, Hummingbird, will directly convert ethanol to ethylene through dehydration.

SaaBre technology, which will eliminate the need to purify carbon monoxide (CO) or purchase methanol, is expected to reduce variable manufacturing costs and improve capital efficiencies.

European Commission to develop robots for container inspections

The European Commission (EC), along with a consortium of ten European companies, has launched the Petrobot project to ensure investigators' safety during the inspection of petrochemical containers.

Funded by the European Union (EU), the project aims to develop robots, which can replace humans in inspections of pressure vessels and storage tanks widely used in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors.

Currently petrochemical firms follow a long and costly procedure of shutting down plants, as well as decoupling vessels from live sections of the plant and extensively cleaning them to remove all products that can emit flammable or toxic gases, during inspection.

The proposed robotic technology is expected to reduce the exposure of personnel to potentially hazardous conditions, as well as save the industry time and resources.

DuPont to spin-off performance chemicals segment

US chemical firm DuPont will separate its $7bn performance chemicals segment through a tax-free spin-off to shareholders, following authorisation from the board of directors.

The segment includes the titanium technologies and chemicals and fluoroproducts businesses.

The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is anticipated to be completed within about 18 months.

DuPont's Performance Chemicals segment will operate as an independent, publicly traded company after the separation.

QP and QAPCO sign contract for multibillion dollar Al Sejeel Complex


Qatar Petroleum (QP) has signed a technology license contract with Qatar Petrochemical Company (QAPCO) for the multibillion dollar Al Sejeel Petrochemical Complex, which is scheduled to be built at the Ras Laffan Industrial City in Doha, Qatar.

Technology licensing agreements have also been signed with Univation Technologies for polyethylene technology and Dow Chemical Company for the polypropylene technology, marking a highly strategic landmark in the progress of the project.

The agreements are expected to help the Al Sejeel plants produce 2.2 million mt per annum of polymers, including PE and PP resins.

QP and QAPCO had already signed the heads of agreement (HoA) for joint development of the complex in February 2012.

Sadara concludes financing for Saudi Arabian petrochemical complex


Sadara Chemical Company has concluded the main financing worth $10.5bn for the construction and start-up of a $19.3bn world-class petrochemical complex at Jubail Industrial City II in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (the KSA).

The company, a joint venture between the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) and the Dow Chemical Company (Dow), has signed agreements with some export credit agencies, commercial banks and the Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the additional funding.

Main financing supplements the existing $2bn of funds raised through a Sukuk issuance in April 2013. It not only marks a major milestone in the project financing, but also takes the total funding to about $12.5bn, making it the largest project financing ever in the Middle East.

Upon completion, the chemical complex would be the world's largest ever built in a single phase, and becomes the first in the region to use refinery liquids such as naphtha as feedstock, claimed Sadara.

Braskem Idesa receives $1.5bn for Mexican petrochemical complex

Braskem Idesa, a joint venture between the Brazilian Braskem and Mexican Group Idesa, has received the first tranche of approximately $1.5bn in financing, as part of $3.2bn project funding.

The company will use the finance for a joint venture petrochemical project being constructed in Mexico.

The integrated petrochemical complex will manufacture 1.05mt per year of polyethylene, and an equal volume of ethylene raw material in the region of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.

Solvay, INEOS seek European Commission clearance for JV

South African energy and chemical company Sasol and Ineos Olefins and Polymers USA have filed an application before the European Commission to clear their 50-50 joint venture (JV).

Following clearance from the Commission, the JV will proceed as proposed, while the transaction is also subject to the applicable information and consultation procedures with employee representatives in the countries involved.

"The combined business would have around 5,650 employees in nine countries and combine the assets of both companies."

In May 2013, Solvay and INEOS signed a Letter of Intent to combine their European chlorvinyls businesses in the proposed €4.3bn JV.

Pertamina, PTTGC to construct Indonesian petrochemical complex


PT Pertamina (Persero) has entered into a head of agreement (HOA) with PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) to jointly construct a petrochemical complex in Indonesia.

The complex, which will include olefins and downstream polymer units, is expected to begin commercial operations by 2017.

Pertamina president, director and CEO Karen Agustiawan said the company has invested about $4bn to $5bn in the petrochemical complex.

Belgian firm Solvay to buy Chemlogics for $1.34bn


Solvay has agreed to acquire privately-held Chemlogics for $1.34bn to expand its offering of chemical solutions for the oil and gas industry.

Headquartered in Paso Robles, California, in the US, Chemlogics was established in 2002 to serve the needs of the oil and gas industry's stimulation and cementing segments.

The company, which employs about 277 people, reported sales of around $500m in the past year.

Chemlogics' assets, which are situated in the US, include three manufacturing sites with annual capacity exceeding 300KT, eight formulation centres and six research and technical facilities.

Carlyle Group acquires DuPont Performance Coatings for $4.9bn

US-based global asset management firm the Carlyle Group has acquired DuPont Performance Coatings (DPC) for $4.9bn in cash (approximately $4bn after-tax) and the assumption of certain liabilities.

The transaction is expected to help the chemical company DuPont remain committed to working with the automotive industry and generate more than $3bn in sales of advanced materials to the sector annually.

The subsidiary of DuPont, DPC, is a global supplier of products, services and solutions aimed at improving the automotive re-finishing process.