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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: August 22, 2006

Technically Speaking

North America

Sulfuric acid unit

DuPont has begun work on a sulfuric acid regeneration plant serving Western Refining’s 117,000 barrel/day refinery in El Paso, Texas.  DuPont has historically provided off-site sulfuric acid regeneration services for refiners who use sulfuric acid as a catalyst in alkylation.  A DuPont unit at the refinery will receive spent acid from the refinery’s alkylation unit and sulfur gases from the refinery’s process units, recycle the spent acid and convert the sulfur gases to sulfuric acid.  The unit will return fresh sulfuric acid to the refinery’s alkylation unit.  As a result of processing sulfur gases, the unit will reduce the refinery’s sulfur dioxide emissions by 74% and will also allow the refinery to use crude oil feedstocks with higher sulfur content.

Cracker restarted

Huntsman’s cracker in Port Neches, Texas has resumed full production.  The 193,000 ton/year cracker was shut down on July 31 due to a steam leak.  All of the ethylene produced at the cracker is for internal consumption.



Huber Engineering Materials will restructure its Georgia-based kaolin operations.  Huber will transition certain product lines during the next six to nine months from its Macon, Georgia facility to its Sandersville, Georgia facility.  In addition, Huber will eliminate certain product lines that have not achieved levels of profitability that support continued investment.  The reduction will primarily impact paper-grade output; however, the transfer of some production to Sandersville will partially offset this reduction.

Biodiesel and glycerin

Cargill will build a 40 million gallon/year biodiesel plant and a 30 million pound/year food-grade glycerin refinery in Kansas City, Missouri.  The plant will be adjacent to Cargill’s existing soybean processing facility and will be co-owned by Paseo Biofuels, a new company formed by the Missouri Soybean Association.  Paseo Biofuels is working on a $24 million statewide equity drive to make the facility majority-owned by Missouri soybean farmers.  The facility is expected to be on line in mid-2007.


Specialty Amines

Huntsman Corporation is expanding its capability to manufacture its Diglycolamine Agent (DGA Agent) amine product, increasing capacity by more than 20%.  The expansion at the company’s Port Neches, Texas manufacturing plant is complete, with a similar expansion at the company’s specialty amines plant in Llanelli, Wales scheduled for completion during the fourth quarter of this year.

Air separation expansion

Air Liquide Industrial will expand its industrial production capacity by building a new air separation plant in the Salt Lake City, Utah area.  This expansion is planned to meet surging demand for oil and gas drilling in the Rocky mountain region.


Cracker shutdown

BASF’s Port Arthur, Texas ethylene cracker was shut down due to an electrical failure.  BASF is unsure how long the 930,000 ton/year cracker will remain shut.  It was also unsure whether it would purchase spot ethylene while the cracker is down.


Cracker will be rebuilt

Huntsman will spend $100 million to rebuild its fire-damaged Port Arthur, Texas cracker.  The plant was shutdown on April 29 as a result of a fire that began in the propylene refrigeration unit.  The company expects to restart the plant, responsible for 30% of its global ethylene capacity, by the second half of 2007.  Shaw Group, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been appointed as the general contractor for the rebuild, responsible for all aspects of engineering, procurement and construction.  Huntsman plans to accelerate some maintenance work on the facility that was scheduled to be done during a 2010 turnaround and inspection, but this work is not expected to extend the time required to repair and restart the facility.  The facility has an annual capacity of 635,000 tons of ethylene and 363,000 tons of propylene.



Koch Nitrogen will acquire the nitrogen fertilizer business of Simplot Canada.  The acquisition includes a fertilizer manufacturing complex in Brandon, Manitoba and associated product distribution terminals in Watson and Tuxford, Saskatchewan and Oak Bluff, Manitoba.  The complex produces approximately 400,000 tons/year of ammonia and 120,000 tons/year of urea.


Gas supply disruption

Heavy rains and floods in Gujarat state triggered massive disruptions in the operations of oil and gas, gas processing and gas-based petrochemical, fertilizer and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) plants and other industries in India.  A flood that caused a boundary wall to give way and flood the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) unit forced the unit to shutdown its gas processing.  The shut-off of domestic gas supplies forced gas-based fertilizer plants, Gail’s LPG  plant, its petrochemical complex in Uttar Pradesh and other gas-based industries to cut back their production.  Those industries that had contracted imported gas supplied by Gail through the HVJ pipeline were not affected.

Petrochemicals and refining

BOC India Ltd. has begun to pursue opportunities in sectors such as petrochemicals, glass, chemicals and refining.  Taking up large projects is crucial to BOC India’s long-term growth plans.  Under a new contract with JSW Steel Ltd., the company will supply 3,000 tons/day of gaseous oxygen, nitrogen and argon to JSW Steel’s plant in Bellary.  To meet this requirement, BOC India will setup one of the largest build, own and operate on-site air separation plants in India at an investment of Rs. 350-400 crore.


Capacity expansion

Kanoria Chemicals & Industries Ltd. (KCIL) plans to invest Rs. 150-crore this year for expanding the capacity of caustic soda and four plants that make chlorine-based derivatives.  The company is planning to enhance the capacity of the chlor alkali plant from 90,000 tons/year to 130,000 tons/year in 18 months at an investment of Rs. 115-crore.  The additional Rs. 35-crore will be invested in plants for chlorine-based derivatives, particularly polyaluminum chloride, a water clarifier used for water treatment plants, increasing capacity to 15,000-18,000 tons/year by the end of this financial year, with a goal to sell 30,000 tons/year by 2007 or 2008.  The capacity addition in the chlor alkali division will use environmentally friendly membrane cell technology.

Biodiesel plants planned

Nandan Biomatrix plans to set up eight biodiesel refinery plants in Gujarat in three years.  Each Rs. 8-crore refinery would produce 10,000 tons/year of biodiesel using Jatropha seeds.


Paint and coatings

Japan-based Nippon Paint is planning to invest about Rs. 160-crore to set up two paint and coatings manufacturing units in India.  The units are proposed at Chennai and Gurgaon with production planned to begin in 2008.  The units will cater to the decorative and automotive paint segments.  Both will have a minimum capacity of 20,000 tons/year and facility to scale up to 40,000 tons/year.  In addition, the company will set up 50 exclusive retail outlets through a franchise model across India by December.  These outlets will market its products and offer consultancy services.  The India operations will be called Nippon Paint India, representing a 50/50 joint venture between Nippon Paint Japan and the Singapore-based Nipsea Holdings International.  Nippon India will import decorative paints, including interior and exterior enamel, multi-purpose wall primer and an aerosol-based “do-it-yourself” paint, until the manufacturing units are set up.

Capacity increase

Jayshree Chemicals Ltd. (JCL) has decided to expand its caustic soda manufacturing capacity from 70 tons/day to 170 tons/day by March 2008 at an investment of Rs. 120-crore.  In a second expansion phase, the capacity is planned to be raised to 220 tons/day by 2012.


Cracker project delayed

Indian Oil Corporation’s (IOC) naphtha cracker unit in Panipat has been delayed by a year with operations now scheduled to begin in September 2009.  The Rs. 12,138-crore project includes setting up the naphtha cracker based on captive utilization of naphtha from the Panipat, Mathura and Kovali refineries of IOC.  The plant will process between 2 and 2.3 million tons of naphtha every year.

Technically Speaking

Can applying a vacuum over a substance lower it's decomposition temperature?

This is sometimes a point of confusion.  It's common to vaporize liquids under vacuum when they decompose into other chemicals at relatively low temperatures.   Essentally, the boiling occurs at a temperature below where it would normally boil at atmospheric pressure.  While this technique is useful in helping to avoid decomposition, applying a vacuum will NOT lower the decomposition of most substances.   Decomposition is almost always thermally dictated. 

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