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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 the U.S. and India.  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: April 18, 2006

Technically Speaking


Polyols expansion
BASF is investing approximately $125 million to increase its polyols production capacity in the U.S. by 28% to help strengthen its polyurethanes business. The company plans to construct two new reactors and revamp two existing ones used to make polyols at its Geismar, Louisiana site. BASF will also transfer a major part of the polyol production from its sits in Wyandotte, Michigan to Geismar. In addition, the company will build a logistics center for polyurethane basic products and other chemicals. These efforts will increase BASF's U.S. polyol production from 250,000 tons/year to 350,000 tons/year by 2008.

Capacity increased
Merisol, the 50-50 joint venture between Sasol and Merichem, is increased its meta-cresol capacity by 20% at its Oil City, Pennsylvania facilities. Merisol also operates a meta-cresol plant in Winnie, Texas. The expansion is planned in order to provide customers with a second major supply point, enhancing the reliability and availability of supply.

BOC will build an air separation unit in Cartersville, Georgia. This new plant should start operations by the third quarter of 2007. The plant will cryogenically separate air to produce more than 700 tons of liquid oxygen and nitrogen each day. The gases will be trucked to hospitals, food processors, metals and chemicals manufacturers in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Biotechnology cooperation

DuPont and Syngenta’s seed subsidiaries, Syngenta Seeds Inc. and DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred International inc. have formed a 50-50 joint venture in GreenLeaf Genetics LLC to offer North American seed growers licenses to the companies’ corn and soybean genetics and biotechnology traits.  GreenLeaf Genetics will be based in Omaha, Nebraska.  The alliance is intended to deliver new technologies to the market more quickly.  As part of the deal, both Syngenta and DuPont will be able to cross-license certain corn and soybean traits that each company will market independently under their own seed brands.

Biofuels focus

DuPont has launched a new business unit – DuPont BioFuels – to accelerate commercialization of the company’s biofuels technologies and pipeline candidates.  The business unit will aim to leverage DuPont’s capabilities in agricultural biotechnology, metabolic engineering, chemistry and process engineering to accelerate commercialization of environmentally attractive and cost-effective solutions in the expanding biofuels market.  Existing growth projects will be consolidated within this business unit, including crop-based products and technologies, a biorefinery initiative with the U.S. Department of Energy, and metabolic engineering capability to manufacture biofuels.  DuPont will focus on developing and licensing cellulosic ethanol production, exploiting the whole corn plant, including corn stover (stalks) and other sources of biomass including switchgrass.  In addition, the company may partner with energy companies that could provide downstream distribution of biofuels.

Proppants facility

Engelhard Corporation has broken ground on a multimillion-dollar processing facility to produce frac-sand proppants to enhance production rates of oil and gas fields.  The facility will be located in Sanders, Arizona and is scheduled to begin operations in the second half of 2006, with full production reached in early 2007.  Frac-sand proppants are hard, spherical particles that are mixed with a fluid and pumped into wells at very high pressure.  The proppants fracture hydrocarbon-bearing rock to create channels where oil reserves and gases can flow easily.  Proppants remain in place after the facture job is completed, propping open the cracks and creating a highly permeable pathway for oil and gas to flow.


Two SBM units

Reliance Group plans to set up two new Single Buoy Mooring (SBM) units off the coast of Jamnagar.  These units will cater to the upcoming 33 million ton/year refinery being built by Reliance Petroleum Corporation.  The SBM facility will provide crude oil unloading in the deep sea as well as loading products for export from the upcoming Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Refinery. 

Ethanol from sweet sorghum

International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in association with Rusni Distilleries Private Ltd. has produced ethanol and biofuel from the stalks of sweet sorghum.  The Rs. 24-crore project, a 40 kiloliter/day distillery, will start production in June of 2006.  This production method is cheaper than the conventional sugar cane-based production, creates less liquid effluents and additional revenue in the form of carbon credits.

Increased ethylamines capacity

Alkyl Amines Chemicals Ltd. will increase its capacity for ethylamines by more than 40% by debottlenecking and making minor investings in its existing facility at Patalganga.  The first phase of the expansion, scheduled for completion in July 2006, will increase capacity by 15%.  The second phase, scheduled for completion in January 2007, will increase capacity by 40%.

Bid talks

Chevron Corp. is in talks with India’s Reliance Industries Ltd. to jointly bid on the latest blocks being offered to explore for oil and gas in India.  This is one of several options Chevron is considering to expand its presence in India.  The company has already agreed to spend $300 million to buy a 5% stake in a refinery being built by Reliance.  In addition, Chevron is looking into collaborating with Reliance in other areas, including marketing natural gas to industrial customer and developing technology that could be applied globally.

Coal-based power plant

India has signed an agreement with the U.S. for participating in the $950-million “FutureGen” project, aimed at producing electricity from coal without any carbon emission.  India is the first Government member of the project, contributing $10 million towards it.  The project is expected to be commissioned by 2012.  Participation in the project entitles India to full membership on the FutureGen Government Steering Committee, access to reports and other project-related information, access to Indian scientists and engineers for visiting project facility and a royalty-free license in all countries to translate, reproduce and distribute reports arising from cooperation under the agreement.

Technically Speaking

What are some common materials of construction for seawater pipelines?

Here's a question that few people agree on a single answer.  People have successfully used the following materials:

Cement-lined carbon steel (larger, above ground lines)
6 Mo stainless steels (such as 254 SMO from Avesta)
Fiberglass-lined carbon steel (4-36" lines, above ground)
Fiberglass (usually large lines, preferrable less than 150-200 feet)
FRP (Fiberglass reinforced polyethylene)
Cu-Ni alloys (popular for offshore oil rigs)

In short, the proper choice of material depends on your specific application.  Plastics are better at inhibiting sea-life growth, but are difficult to repair in case of leaks (prohibiting pressure surges is a design feature to be incorporated).  6 Mo stainless metals are often cost prohibitive, but generally will perform very well on a lifecycle bost basis.   Cement-lined carbon steel almost always requires ongoing maintenance (therefore, it must be accessible). 

We've found that there is no lack of opinions or examples of which is the best material to use.  Try to find an application that is as close as possible to your given situation and solicate the advice of others.   Generally, the engineering community is very willing to share their experiences on this topic.

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