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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: June 27, 2006

Technically Speaking

North America

Biofuels research
BP plans to spend $500 million on energy bioscience research during the next 10 years in a bid to discover long-term alternatives to oil and gas.  BP has begun discussions with several universities in the
U.S. and United Kingdom to find a host for the proposed BP Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), the first facility of its kind in the world.  The institute will focus on the development of new biofuel components and improving the efficiency and flexibility of those currently blended with traditional fuels.  In addition, it would work to devise new technologies to enhance the conversion of organic matter to biofuel molecules and develop plant species that produce a higher yield of energy molecules.

Petrochemical expansion
Texas Petrochemicals is working on a project that includes a world-scale propylene derivatives plant in Baytown, Texas.  The project will include a twin-reactor plant that will produce nonene and propylene tetramer as well as polymer gasoline and propane.  The project should be complete by the first quarter of 2007.

EPA violation
The EPA has cited Lanxess Chemical for alleged air violations at the company’s plastics manufacturing plant in Addyston, Ohio.  The EPA may issue a compliance order, assess a penalty or bring suit against the company.  Lanxess has 30 days from receipt of the notice to meet with the EPA to discuss resolving the allegations.

Ethanol plant completed
Front Range Energy and Pacific Ethanol have completed Front Range Energy’s ethanol plant in Windsor, Colorado.  The ICM-designed facility has a capacity of 40 million gallons of fuel ethanol/year.

Hydrogen facility
Air Products Canada has unveiled its first hydrogen production facility to serve the Canadian refining industry near Edmonton, Alberta.  Air Products’ 71 million standard-cubic-feet/day plant serves the Petro-Canada and Imperial Oil refineries as well as other customers in the local area.

Accidental process shutdown
Nova Chemicals’ Corunna, Ontario facility had an accidental process shutdown as a result of a contract employee hitting a switch while installing steel platforms.  Nova declared a force majeure on propylene, crude C4s and other pipeline delivered co-products after the plant sustained minor damages during the inadvertent shutdown.  The ethylene portion of the plant is down, but there are parts that are still running.  The facility should be back in full production within two weeks, but the force majeure will remain until the plant returns to normal operating rates and inventory levels.  The outage and sales loss is expected to reduce second-quarter net income by about $8 million and a third-quarter impact of up to $3 million.

Capacity increase
Solutia is increasing its capacity for polyamide 6.6 resins and compounds by 70 million pounds at its Pensacola, Florida plant.  This plant is already the world’s largest integrated PA66 facility.  The increase will occur by the third quarter and is the first of several that are expected to continue through 2008.  The plastics are used primarily in injection molding and extrusion applications for the auto, consumer, electronic and industrial markets.


Fine chemical venture
Ciba Specialty Chemicals India is forming a joint venture with Indian pharmaceuticals producer Virchow Drugs.  The joint venture will be in
Hyderabad.  Ciba Specialty Chemicals India will take a 51% equity stake in the joint venture for $1.8 million.

Tech deal approved
The Indian government has approved plans by Reliance Petroleum Ltd. (RPL) to use ExxonMobil’s alkylate and diesel desulfurization technology.  RPL will incorporate processes developed by ExxonMobil Research and Engineering (EMRE) in its export-focused refinery and polypropylene (PP) complex at Jamnagar.  The complex will be composed of a 27 million ton/year refinery and 900,000 ton/year PP plant with a scheduled commissioning by December 2008.

Regional customer application center
Dow Biocides, a business unit of The Dow Chemical Company, and Angus Chemical Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow, are introducing a customer application center in Pune to serve the Central Asian region.  The Pune facility is one of eight regional customer application centers around the world that will be introduced as part of a new business organization meant to align the companies’ business growth strategies with direct market and customer focus.  The center will house a fully equipped, state-of-the-art laboratory for the Angus and Dow Biocides product applications in the Central Asian region, including high throughput microbial testing and challenge testing capabilities, dedicated technical sales representatives and customer application specialists and technologists.


Gas cracker project approval
The Union cabinet has given its approval for setting up the Assam gas cracker project at Lepetkata to be implemented by a consortium with GAIL (India) Ltd. as the main promoter.  GAIL will have a 70% share in the equity of the project with Oil India Ltd. (OIL), Numaligarh Refinery Ltd. (NRL) and the Assam Industrial Development Corporation (Government of Assam) will each hold a 10% stake.   

Petro product pipeline
The 680 kilometer long Chennai-Tiruchi-Madurai pipeline for transporting petroleum products has been inaugurated.  The product pipeline, laid at a cost of Rs. 450 crores, was commissioned in August 2005.  It has a capacity to transport 1.8 million tons of products a year, and by 2010, when fully completed, the capacity will go to 2.3 million tons/year.  The pipeline is being used to transport diesel, kerosene and petrol.  It is 30% cheaper to transport these products by the pipeline than by rail.

Capacity increase
Mitsubishi Chemical’s Indian subsidiary has increased the capacity of its purified terephthalic acid (PTA) project by 100,000 tons/year to 900,000 tons/year.  The company received the nod from India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests to complete another project that would raise its total capacity to 1.37 million tons/year.

Technically Speaking

Are there any guidelines for heat tracing a 50% NaOH line to prevent freezing?

Two very important things to keep in mind.  First, be sure to place spacers between any heat tracing elements and the carbon steel pipe used for the NaOH.  50% NaOH will agressively attack carbon steel at higher temperatures (particularily any welds).  Additionally, you really shouldn't use aluminum to cover the insulation on the line (a common material used for this purpose).  Try stainless steel instead.

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