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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: March 6, 2007

Technically Speaking

North America

Back-to-Work Legislation
The Canadian government is looking for back-to-work legislation from the House of Commons to force an end to the rail workers’ strike that has disrupted chemicals production (about 70% of Canadian chemical production is moved by rail) as well as other industries.  Canadian Labor Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn filed a formal 48-hour notice with the House that he intended to introduce strike-breaking legislation that would force 2,800 striking employees of Canadian National (CN) railroad to return to work and would require CN to respect the existing collective agreement.  The ministry move came after the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) ruled that the strike was legal, rejecting CN management’s petition to declare the stoppage unlawful.

Farm Bill
The next Farm Bill will address the challenges of supplying biomass feedstock for future cellulosic ethanol plants as part of a wider energy element.  The Farm Bill is enacted by Congress every five years.  Ethanol is at center stage this time around because of the broad political and public support for using biofuels as a means of addressing the U.S. dependence on oil imports.  Current U.S. ethanol production of 5 billion gallons/year is based on corn, accounting for 17% of the national harvest in 2006 and driving grain prices up to record highs.  This is good news for grain farms, but the beef industry has been hurt by high feed prices.  The future promise of cellulosic technology is offset by the challenge of figuring out the best feedstocks to use and then how to supply enough of the biomass needed.
Biofuel Credit Rules
The final rules governing the Renewables Identification Number (RIN) plan and an associated U.S. credit trading system for biofuels is set to be finalized shortly.  The rules are likely to be closely aligned with proposals hammered out in talks during recent months with industry representatives, including the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), the National Biodiesel Board, and the American Petroleum Institute.  The proposed credit system would be titled to encourage new technologies by counting one gallon of cellulosic ethanol as the equivalent of 2.5 gallons of corn-based ethanol.  Similarly, one gallon of biodiesel would be counted as the equivalent of 1.5 gallons of corn-based ethanol.  RIN holders would be allowed to carry credits over from one calendar year to the next, with a maximum one-year limit and subject to a 20% limit on carryovers.  The new system is expected to launch on July 1.
Chemicals Safety
Canada’s government has launched an initiative challenging industries to manage chemicals safety.  As part of the government’s Chemicals Management Plant, industries are being challenged to provide information about how they are safely managing 200 chemical substances that were identified as high priorities as a result of government research.  The chemicals will be split into batches of 15 – 30 substances with a comprehensive list published every quarter.  Industries will then be required to take action and provide information on any of these substances in their possession within four to six months.
U.S. biofuels developers Diversa and Celunol have agreed to a $160 million merger to create a new company in the cellulosic ethanol industry.  The new company would be the first in the industry to fully integrate technologies for cellulosic ethanol production.  The merger agreement is subject to approval by stockholders in both companies, with the transaction expected to be completed by June.  The new company would be headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with research and operations facilities in San Diego, California, Jennings, Louisiana and Gainesville, Florida.
Enzyme Panel
Codexis has launched a next-generation diagnostic enzyme panel that uses biocatalysis to accelerate drug development.  By using its panel technology, Codexis’ customers will be able to apply the company’s technology in-house in their own drug development programs and on a broader basis.  Codex Biocatalyst Panels offer access to proprietary “evolved” biocatalysts not available through any other source.  It also offers the option to optimize biocatalysts to achieve specific goals using directed evolution methods.
U.S.-based Columbian Chemicals has bought Haihua Carbon Black in eastern China for $4.6 million.  With this deal, the U.S. major makes its first entry into the Chinese carbon black market.  The purchase includes a 20,000 ton/year plant in Weifang, China, which Columbian plans to triple. 


New Facility
Lyondell and Sinopec Zhenhai Refining & Chemical Co. (ZRCC) have received final government approval for the construction of a propylene oxide / styrene monomer (POSM) facility in Ningbo, China.  The plant will capitalize on Lyondell’s POSM technology, the operating experience of both companies and raw materials from ZRCC’s future olefins plant in Ningbo.

Project Consideration
Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) and Mittal Investments are considering forming joint ventures for a Brownfield refinery and an aromatics complex.  The draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) would establish one or more joint ventures to set up a 9 million ton/year Brownfield refinery and a petrochemical complex near HPCL’s existing refinery at Vizag in Andhra Pradesh state.  The Brownfield should be completed by 2011 at a cost of $2.3 billion while the downstream petrochemical complex should be completed by 2012 at a cost of $2 billion.

Joint Venture Abandoned
ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum have abandoned a joint gas-to-liquids (GTL) project worth $7 billion.  The companies did not give specific reasons, but the project was to have been located at the Ras Laffan Industrial City and would have been one of the largest GTL facilities in the world.  However, the companies have announced a new joint venture project to supply 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas to meet Qatar’s infrastructure and industry growth.  ExxonMobil has also been granted exclusive rights to participate in the Barzan project, which is also located in the North Field, and should start up in 2012.

Phenol and Acetone Plant
Ineos Phenol will invest in a 400,000 ton/year phenol plant in Zhangijagang, China to be completed at the end of 2009.  The facility will also produce 250,000 tons/year of acetone.
New Plant
CariSal will invest $80 million to build a chlor-alkali plant in Point Lisas, Trinidad.  The facility will produce 100,000 tons of caustic soda and 100,000 tons of calcium chloride.  It is expected to come on line by September 2008.  CariSal will process a waste salt stream from a local desalination plant to provide raw material for the facility and potable water for local industrial use.  Houston, Texas-based DX Terminals will market the caustic soda from the plant internationally.
TiO2 Expansion
Tiwest’s 50-50 joint venture partners, Tronox Western Australia and Yalgoo Minerals, will increase annual production capacity at the Tiwest titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment plant in Kwinana, Western Australia.  Currently, the plant has a capacity of 110,000 tons/year of chloride-process Ti02 pigment.  The Brownfield expansion will increase the plant’s annual capacity by 40,000 – 50,000 tons at a cost of $35 – 45 million.  The additional capacity should come on line in 2009.

Plant Location Chosen
Ticona will locate its new GUR ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW-PE) facility at the Celanese integrated chemical complex in Janjing, China.  The 20,000 ton plant is expected to begin operations in the second half of 2008.
API Expansion
Cambrex will expand its production capabilities for APIs (advanced pharmaceutical ingredients) in Karlskoga, Sweden and Charles City, Iowa.  The detailed engineering for the Swedish expansion has started, with activities scheduled to begin in July for a targeted early 2009 completion.  This expansion intended to increase production capacity for small-molecule APIs will add a flexible, mid-sized cGMP manufacturing plant that will complement the existing large- and small-scale facilities.  At the Iowa site, Cambrex will build new laboratory space to augment its existing high-potency development facilities.  The project will include constructing an 11,500 square foot facility with five new process development/kilo lab production suites for high-potency APIs, as well as enhanced facilities for analytical development and quality controls activities.

Sorghum Tests
The Philippines is looking at sorghum as a way to help fuel its ethanol-dominated biofuels drive after successful trials were completed in India.  The water-efficient crop was turned into ethanol by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, a non-government organization based in India.

New Base
BJ Process and Pipeline Services (BJ PPS) has opened a new base of operations in Doha, Qatar.  The base will serve as the center of operations for all BJ PPS activities in Qatar and joins other BJ PPS facilities throughout the Middle East in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.  The new 5,000 square-foot base features offices and a sizeable workshop, with technical sales, operations personnel and process and pipeline equipment based there.  The Qatar facility offers a full range of process and pipeline services including cold and hot nitrogen work, chemical cleaning, hydrostatic testing, nitrogen and helium leak detection and pipe freezing, as well as pipeline and process pipe cleaning and drying services.

Technically Speaking

When specifying a cooling tower, should I look up historic wet bulb temperatures for my area or should I take measurements?

If this is a new installation, look up historical wet bulb temperatures for area and be sure to report them to the cooling tower manufacturer as "ambient wet bulb temperatures". The manufacturer will adjust this temperature accordingly to estimate an "entering wet bulb temperature".

If you have an existing tower that is to be replaced, take several wet bulb temperature measurements near the air inlet during the hottest months. Report this as the "entering wet bulb temperature" to the tower manufacturer.

The difference between the ambient and the entering wet bulb temperatures is to account for wet recirculation from the tower exit back to the tower entrance. The entering wet bulb temperature always higher than the ambient wet bulb temperature.

Cooling Tower Fundamentals, SPX Cooling Technologies

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