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christa.jpg (5628 bytes) Chemical Industry News Editor Christa Semko
Every two weeks, Christa will bring you the latest chemical industry news from around the world.  If you have a press release that you'd like to share with us, please mail it to us through our online contact form here.

Dateline: January 23, 2007

Technically Speaking

North America

Financing Secured
Pacific Ethanol has signed a commitment letter providing for up to $325 million of senior secured credit.  The loan will include up to $300 million in a senior secured construction and term debt facility, which will be used to recapitalize its
Madera, California ethanol plant, provide take-out financing on the completion of the company’s Boardman, Oregon ethanol plant, and provide both construction and term financing for an additional three ethanol plants.

Cargill will expand its bioethanol production by constructing four 100 million gallon/year plants in the Midwest United States.  The company is considering potential sites for the corn-based plants, with a heavy focus on Indiana, Missouri, Illinois and Kansas.  

Air Product’s acquisition of BOC Gazy in Poland allows the U.S. industrial gas major to take advantage of Central Europe’s strong growth.  The company purchased BOC Gazy for $480 million from Linde.  The acquisition serves as a bridge for Air Products to Ukraine, Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe as those markets expand.  Included in the acquisition were on-site facilities serving chemical and steel firms as well as assets in liquid bulk and packaged gas. 

Up For Sale
Citigroup believes that General Electric should be able to sell its GE Plastics business for $10 billion or more because the business is attractive to both strategic investors and private equity.  Interested bidders could include BASF, Dow Chemical and Saudi Arabia’s SABIC along with private equity firms.  It’s believed that the chronically disappointing performance of GE Plastics increases the odds that the business gets sold as GE is continuing to upgrade its portfolio to focus on growing organic revenue.  GE’s comment on the possible sale is that they continue to review their businesses to maximize shareholder value, including the consideration of both dispositions and acquisitions.

Fine Levied
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has fined Bayer $3.2 million for false advertising of its One-A-Day Weight Smart drug.  This is the highest fine the FTC has ever levied.  Bayer violated an earlier order to cease what the FTC said were bogus claims.

Production Resumed
Nalco’s specialty chemical plant in Sugar Land, Texas was suspended for a few hours after ethylenediamine was released into the air.  Three employees were taken to a hospital and 14 others were treated at the site, which makes chemicals used in petroleum refining and oil production.  The plant has reopened and an investigation is underway as to the cause of the chemical release.

Home Use Rejected
The EPA has denied an industry petition to allow the use of a chromium-based wood preservative in lumber sold for decks and playground equipment.  The Forest Products Research Laboratory was requesting to treat lumber for residential use with acid copper chromate (ACC), which contains high concentrations of hexavalent chromium, a known human carcinogen.  The EPA believed that the risks associated with residential uses of ACC outweighed the minimal benefits.  Residential use was believed to pose a cancer risk to treatment and manufacturing workers, as well as non-cancer risks to homeowners, children and contractors.  In addition, the treated wood would be considered hazardous waste for disposal purposes.

Online Resource
Rohm and Haas now offers an online resource for the flexible packaging industry that discusses adhesive facts, recommends proper uses, and highlights performance benefits.  The platform is a resource to help flexible packaging converters, end-users and specifiers choose the right formulated adhesives, handle them correctly and obtain optimum performance.  Users can expect that development time for new and innovative products that rely on adhesives will be shortened and that the marketing of higher performance materials can be enhanced.   

The Dow Chemical Company’s Water Soluble Polymers business unit will increase its focus on paint and oilfield applications with enhancements to certain manufacturing processes and capacity additions for CELLOSIZE hydroxyethlcellulose (HEC) in Institute, West Virginia.  The investment will yield an additional 5 million pounds each year along with numerous process improvements leading to energy cost savings of more than $3 million/year.  The multi-phase project should be completed during the first half of 2009.  The capacity expansion will primarily support additional production of more new CELLOSIZE products for use in paint and oilfield applications.


Job Cut
Arkema is restructuring and cutting 28 jobs at its Chantonnay, France-based Soveplast polyvinyl chloride (PVC) profiles subsidiary.  The site’s competitiveness is being affected by the complexity of its production range and manufacturing costs that cannot be passed on in its sales prices.  Some current production activities at the site will be halted and central services of the site will be merged with those of the nearby Sable-sur-Sarthe site to further reduce costs.

Raising Cash
Shasun Chemicals & Drugs has decided to raise Rupees (Rs) 198 million ($4.5 million) through an issue of 2.25 million warrants at Rs 88 each, which can later be converted into shares worth Rs 2 each.  The company recently signed a non-exclusive licensing agreement with Gilead Sciences for the manufacture and sale of a generic version of an HIV/AIDS drug, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, using Gilead’s proprietary technology.

Petrochemical Project
Pak-Iran Joint Investment Company (PIJIC), a new joint-venture company between Iran and Pakistan, is considering establishing refineries and petrochemical projects.  PIJIC is focusing on naptha-based cracker projects that will probably be built in Pakistan.  There is also the possibility to invest in LNG, LPG, coal-power generation, gas pipeline and mineral projects.

Toxic Controls
The Philippines government plans to draft chemical control orders (CCOs) for several more chemicals.  A CCO regulates the use, manufacture, import, export, transport, processing, storage, possession and wholesale of toxic chemical substances.  The chemicals that will be issued CCOs include arsenic compounds, vinyl chloride, hexafluorbenzene and chromium VI.

New Crackers
Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology will start up one cracker complex each in Taiwan and somewhere in the Middle East in 2015.  The Taiwan plant will be at Taixi, Yunlin County, and locations in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are being evaluated for the Middle East plant.  The company wants to bring the units on stream at the same time for efficiency.  Even though there may be some overlap in downstream products, the complexes are intended to complement each other.  Most of the output from the Middle East plant will be shipped back and used in Taiwan.  The $12.7 billion Taiwanese project includes a 300,000 barrels/day and a 1.2 million ton/year naphtha cracker.  Twenty three petrochemical units would be built to produce synthetic resins, rubber, fiber, packaging materials and specialty chemicals, like solvents.  The Middle East project could include aromatics, polyvinyl chloride, purified terephthalic acid and monoethylene glycol.

Concessions Awarded
Thailand’s Energy Ministry awarded petroleum concession rights to four consortiums, allowing them to explore for petroleum in the Gulf of Thailand as well as in onshore blocks.  The winners included Pearl Oil Esarn, Northern Gulf Oil, Occidental Exploration Pte., and Pan Orient Energy Corp.  The operators will have to pay approximately $19 million for a six-year exploration concession for each block.  If petroleum is discovered, they will have to apply for production rights, which would be valid for 20 – 30 years.

Production Started
The Dow Chemical Company has opened its first ever production facility in Russia in Kryukovo, outside Moscow.  The plant will produce the company’s STYROFOAM brand extruded polystyrene (XPS) insulation boards for Dow Building Solutions, one of Dow’s market-facing business units.  The company is already working on a second production facility in Russia.  Dow and Izolan recently announced the formation of a joint venture company, Dow Izolan, will provide customer-tailored, polyurethane systems products to a growing customer base.  The plant will be opened in the Vladimir area within the next two years.

Plant Conversion
Archer Daniels Midland Company will convert its Spyck, Germany rapeseed crushing facility to a multi-seed crushing facility.  The multi-seed crushing plant will be able to crush both rapeseed and sunseed to enhance the product portfolio offering to food oil customers.  The expansion is scheduled to be complete in April 2007.

Technically Speaking

We're about to shut down a distillation column in a refinery.  What are some safety aspects that we need to address prior to allowing entry by our plant personnel?

"This is such an important part of a plant engineer's responsibilities and concerns that I can't write enough on this subject. We would require a special forum that would probably last weeks - if not months - discussing all the important items and details that must go into ensuring a safe entry into distillation towers. Obviously, we don't have that availability on this forum so I'll be terse and direct: You require procedures and training; procedures and more training; and still more procedures and more training.

Items to always be aware of are:

1) never allow anyone to enter the tower without an authorized safe entry pass issued by the unit's principal engineer or manager;

2) never allow any piped or hosed connection to the tower to remain intact; always inspect and insure that all piped and hosed connections have an "air break and are blinded and valved off - and tagged appropriately.

3) never allow anyone to enter without sniffing, testing and ensuring a safe, breathing atmosphere inside the tower;

4) never allow anyone to enter without a trained and recognized "partner" directly on the outside of the enterance manway 100% of the time and ready with phone communications to the entry person and to the main control room where the shutdown control center is located.

5) always keep a faithful and true written account of who enters and under what conditions with a full report of the results.

There are many, many other points and recommendations to make mention of and I could go on for hours. Suffice it to say that this subject can't get enough attention from the interested parties. Every operating company I have worked for has had its own set of instructions and detailed procedures - I presume yours has also.

I anticipate others will write their comments on this thread and I look forward to reading other people's notes and ideas on this very important subject and how to communicate creative and good recommendations.

Art Montemayor via Forums

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