A fire knocked out Huntsman’s light olefins unit (LOU) in Port Arthur, Texas. The facility made up 30% of the company’s global ethylene capacity and is expected to be down for several months. The LOU has a production capacity of 1.4 billion pounds/year of ethylene. The unit also has capacity of 800 million pounds of propylene, 308,000 tons of cyclohexane and 209,000 tons of benzene. The fire began in the propylene refrigeration unit, but all present at the facility were safely evacuated.
Mosaic will close its South Pierce and Green Bay phosphate fertilizer production plants and its Fort Green phosphate mine in Central Florida by June 1. The closures will allow Mosaic to maximize production at more efficient phosphate operations in Florida and Louisiana. About 700 people will lose their jobs. The closures will result in lower raw material and operating costs, reduced capital expenditures and improved cash flow beginning in fiscal 2007.
Nova Chemicals will idle its Bayport, Texas styrene monomer plant due to the ethylene force majeure declared by Huntsman and limited ethylene availability on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Customer demands for both styrene monomer and styrenic polymers will be met through Nova’s Sarnia, Ontario, Canada styrene production unit and other supply arrangements.
Sealant that eliminates “shiners”
GE Sealants & Adhesives (GESA) has introduced GE Infinity, a paintable acrylic sealant that eliminates “shiners” (changes in the sheen of paint when it is applied over caulk or sealant). GE Infinity is a uniquely formulated acrylic urethane elastomeric sealant that provides superior adhesion, elasticity, long-lasting durability and no dirt pick-up or yellowing. It enables consumers and contractors to deliver a seamless look when painting.
BOC will expand production capacity in Wisconsin by building a new air separation unit to strengthen service to Midwestern customers. The plant will produce more than 700 tons/day of liquid oxygen and nitrogen. The gases will be trucked to hospitals, food processors, metals and chemicals manufacturers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. Construction should begin shortly, with production starting at the end of 2007.
Ethane-based cracker and derivates project
Westlake Chemical Corporation and The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Westlake to develop an ethane-based ethylene, polyethylene and other derivatives project there. The project evaluation will be in conjunction with The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago, Ltd. (NGC) and the National Energy Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago, Ltd. (NEC). Trinidad and Tobago has expressed an interest in becoming a minority equity partner in the project. The project would use 37,500 barrels/day of ethane to produce 570,000 tons/year of ethylene, which would in turn be used to produce polyethylene and other derivates. Costs are estimated at $1.5 billion, with construction starting in late 2007 and operations beginning in late 2010.
The House of Representatives has taken a major step toward restoring the supply of natural gas at reasonable prices. The step may mean survival for the domestic commodity chemicals industry. The House Appropriations Committee voted to end the 25-year Congressional ban on drilling for natural gas in federally owned outer continental shelf regions. The offshore regions extend for 200 miles off U.S. coasts and have estimated reserves of 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to meet U.S. gas requirements for 18 years.
The American Chemistry Council sees a 50/50 chance that Congress will authorize natural gas drilling in a small portion of the outer continental shelf this year to bring relief to high U.S. gas prices. There is momentum building in Congress to expand access to some of the vast offshore gas reserves, mainly a region off the Florida and Louisiana coasts known as Lease Area 181.
New rail depot
Western International Gas Cylinders has opened a rail depot site in Sealy, Texas. The location, within 20 miles of Western’s Bellville plant, will be served by both Burlington Northern-Santa Fe and Union Pacific railroads. The site includes a 9,600 sq. ft. unloading building, a 100-foot rail-truck combination scale, and more than 10,000 feet of track. Western Sealy transfers 120 tons of calcium carbide/hour. Propylene, MAPD, propane, other fuel gases and overseas cylinders can also be received.
Sun Chemical Performance Pigments has appointed ChemCentral as its exclusive distributor for cosmetic pigments and preparations in the U.S. and for all specialties in Canada. ChemCentral will distribute Performance’s complete line of specialty pigments and preparations, including organics, inorganics and pearls, through its existing sales force.