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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 20, 2009

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North America

Bankruptcy Protection

The U.S. arm of LyondellBasell Industries has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as the recession continues to weaken demand for its products. The company has arranged for up to $8 billion in financing to keep operating while it reorganizes. The company has announced job cuts and plans to idle some plants and is considering further cost-cutting steps.


Loans Approved

A New York judge gave LyondellBasell Industries approval to borrow more than $2 billion after a subsidiary of the chemical maker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (see story above this one in this issue of ChExpress).


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to update its Air Quality Index (AQI) to reflect the latest standards for fine particle pollution. The proposal would also set a “significant harm” level, which states use in developing emergency episode plans. Under the proposed changes, the AQI would reach “code orange” – unhealthy for sensitive groups – when particle pollution levels reach 35.5 micrograms/cubic meter of air. The changes would also mean air quality reaches the “unhealthy” category at a lower particle pollution level. These proposed changes likely would not have a noticeable impact on daily air quality forecasts as states have already been voluntarily following this guideline.

Job Cuts

Cytec Industries Inc. announced plans to cut 600 jobs, mostly in its specialty chemicals product lines, as the company builds its other segments and adjusts to the global economic downturn. In addition, the company has lowered its fiscal 2008 profit estimate.

Cost-Reduction Measures

Texas Petrochemicals, Inc. continues to see weak demand across its C4 and Performance Product businesses, especially in its largest market, butadiene. As a result, the company has temporarily idled various production units at both its Houston and Port Neches, Texas facilities. In addition, the company has released a number of its contractor workforce.

Plant Closure

Sunoco, Inc. will permanently close its polypropylene manufacturing facility in Bayport, Texas no later than April 30, 2009. The facility has the capacity to produce approximately 400 million pounds of polypropylene/year. The company said that the plant is no longer financially viable. The company’s La Porte, Texas; Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania; and Neal, West Virginia polypropylene facilities will assume a portion of the unit’s production.

Biofuels Start Up

Enerkem Inc. has started up its first commercial-scale clean-conditioned synthesis gas plant in Westbury, Quebec. The premium syngas island serves as the chemical production platform from which the methanol and ethanol production modules will be added progressively in the coming months. Once these gas-to-liquid modules are bolted to the syngas island, Enerkem will become the first producer of liquid fuels and green chemicals to commercially use renewable, non-food, negative-cost feedstock.



A chemical plant that provoked vehement protests from Xiamen, China residents worried over potential health hazards will now be built in a less populated area. According to China’s Environment Ministry, the $2 billion paraxylene complex will be built in Zhangzhou. The project is being undertaken by Tenglong Aromatic PX Co. and its sister company Xianglu Petrochemical Co. The project had been suspended for months after government advisers joined residents in lobbying the government not to locate the plant in Xiamen.


Dow Chemical International Pvt. Ltd. (Dow India) and Royal Castor Products Ltd. have signed a commitment to conduct research in sustainable, bio-based products and solutions using castor oil. Castor oil is natural oil obtained from the seed of the castor plant, with its chemical makeup a triglyceride (ester) of fatty acids. It has numerous applications in lubricants, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals as well as a variety of manufacturing industries.

Expansion Commitment

INEOS remains committed to its expansion of the Rafnes cracker and its operations in Grenland, Norway. It continues to provide its full support to the country’s Skanled project and is working toward delivery in 2012. The expansion plans for the cracker include producing 10,000 more tons of ethylene in Norway.

Carbon Monoxide Coldbox

Air Products has manufactured a world-scale carbon monoxide (CO) coldbox at its cryogenic equipment manufacturing facility in Caojing, Shanghai for Yangzi Petrochemical Corporation, a subsidiary of Sinopec Corporation. The coldbox will produce more than 300,000 tons of CO/year. In addition to CO, the coldbox will produce hydrogen and syngas, a mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, to produce methanol, fuel, acetic acid and other products.


Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. has restarted a 450,000 tons/year naphtha cracker in Mizushima, Japan, following almost two weeks of repair work. The repairs followed a gas leakage from a corroded pipe.


Fire Extinguished

A fire at the Sasol Solvents plant in Germiston, South Africa that resulted in an explosion was quickly contained and then extinguished. One injury was sustained. The cause of the fire is unknown and under investigation.



IRPC plans to shut its refinery and petrochemical plants for maintenance during various periods in February and March. The shutdown of the 18 plants, including one refinery, should have limited impact on output.   

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