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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: July 21, 2009

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North America

Investment in Biofuels

Exxon Mobil Corp. will make its first major investment in greenhouse-gas reducing biofuels through a $600 million partnership with Synthetic Genomics Inc. to develop transportation fuels from algae. Exxon was  looking for a biofuel source that could be produced on a large scale and has said that photosynthetic algae appears to be a viable, long-term candidate. If the alliance is successful, pumping algae-based gasoline at Exxon service stations is still several years away and will mean additional, multibillion-dollar investments for mass production. The project will include identifying algae strains that can produce suitable types of oil quickly and at low costs, determining the best way to grow the algae, and developing systems to harvest enough algae for commercial use.

Air Pollution Watch Removed

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has removed two sites from its Air Pollution Watch List: Merriman Street in Port Neches and Carroll Street Park in Beaumont. The watch list keeps records on areas where specific pollutants are measured at levels of concern for human health. Both of these areas have been removed from the Commissionís watch list.

No Plans to Rebuild

Sunoco Inc.ís Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania refinery will not be rebuilt. The chemical plant was destroyed in a fire and explosion on May 17. Demand for the plantís products, primarily precursors to plastics, was too low to justify reconstruction. As a result, 40 to 50 workers will lose their jobs.

Research Center

Enerkem is forming an advanced energy research center with the City of Edmonton and the Alberta Energy Research Institute. The research center will focus on the development and demonstration of novel catalytic conversion processes to produce advanced biofuels and green chemicals from non-hazardous industrial waste as well as from municipal waste. It will be adjacent to the planned commercial waste-to-biofuels production facility that is ready for construction. The research center will include laboratory equipment and a well-instrumented pilot plant. Construction is expected to be complete by the first quarter of 2010.  


Potential Sale

BASF SE is looking at selling or shuttering half of newly acquired Ciba Holding AGís production sites and offices in a plan that would cost 3,700 jobs at the combined company. BASF is reviewing the sale or closure of 23 of the 55 worldwide Ciba production sites and plans to arrive at a decision in the first quarter of 2010. Additionally, the company is aiming to consolidate 36 of Cibaís 70 sales and administrative offices and research sites with existing BASF activities. If job cuts are taken, the majority would be by the end of 2010, but the reduction would not be complete until the end of 2013.


Resin Raw Material Plant

Mitsui Chemicals, Inc. is considering the construction of a resin raw material plant with China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec Group). The plant, to be located in China, would produce some resin raw materials, such as polycarbonate, and provide these products for producers of auto taillight chimneys and other products.


Joint Venture

Hanwha Chemical Cop. Has set up a petrochemical joint venture with Saudi International Petrochemical Co. (Sipchem). The $900 million investment by Hanwha will be used to build a petrochemical plant in Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Sipchem will own a 75 percent stake in the venture and Hanwha will hold the remaining 25 percent stake. The new plant will have an annual production capacity of 200,000 tons of ethylene-vinyl acetates and 125,000 tons of polyvinyl acetates when it starts production in 2014. Hanwha expects the new plant to help generate $800 million in sales each year.


Petrochemical Plant Blast

A blast at a Total SA petrochemicals plant in Carling, France killed two people, injured five and left others buried under rubble. There was a blast in a steam-cracking furnace that caused damage to equipment, but didnít cause the fire. The cause of the explosion is still unknown.


Acetex Chimie, a subsidiary of Celanese Corp., has announced it has completed the consultation procedure with the workers council and has announced its formal intent to cease all manufacturing operations and associated activities of Acetex Chimie. Acetex Chimie has agreed with the workers council on a set of measures of assistance aimed at minimizing the effects of the plantís closing on the workers, including training, outplacement and severance. All acetic acide and vinyl acetate monomer production operations at the Pardies, France site are expected to stop by December 2009.

Expansion Approved

China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec Group) has announced that the Chinese government has approved the feasibility study report on the expansion of the joint venture between its listed subsidiary China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) and BASF in Nanjing, China. Sinopec and BASF will jointly invest $1.4 billion to expand the BASF-YPC Co. Ltd. joint venture to produce downstream specialty chemicals for the Chinese market. The investment includes the expansion of the existing steam cracker and three existing plants as well as construction of 10 new chemical plants. It is expected that the expansion will become operational by 2011.

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