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Extracts from Nandini Chemical Journal, Nov 2009

Chemical industry in Singapore|Dimethyl carbonate|Polypropylene
Highlights of Some of the Articles

TALK OF THE MONTH - IS THE INDIAN CHEMICAL INDUSTRY SHOWING SIGNS OF SLOW DOWN ?
CHEMICAL INDUSTRIES IN SINGAPORE EMERGING CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE
DIMETHYL CARBONATE – INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY
SODIUM METAL – PRODUCT PROFILE
HAPPENINGS IN GLOBAL POLYPROPYLENE INDUSTRY
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS FOR BIOMASS BASED FUEL
NATURAL GAS SHORTAGE IN MIDDLE EAST COUNTRIES
VIEWS ON INDIAN SAFEGUARD DUTY DIRECTORATE
OTHER FEATURES
OTHER ARTICLES

TALK OF THE MONTH

IS THE INDIAN CHEMICAL INDUSTRY SHOWING SIGNS OF SLOW DOWN?

Those well versed with the Indian chemical industry and those closely involved at various levels in the chemical business in India cannot but recognize that there are definite symptoms of slow down in the Indian chemical industry in the recent times. Unfortunately, there have been no systematic study and analysis at national level by the Government or industry associations to ascertain the extent of slow down and the factors contributing to it. It is important that a knowledgeable study should be urgently initiated so that there would be no serious down slide in the performance in the coming years.

Of course, there have been substantial growth in some sectors such as the capacity creation in cement industries that is primarily driven by the  investment being made in the housing sector. Capacities are being built for sugar production, though the overall performance of the sugar industries continue to remain uncertain due to fluctuating sugarcane production. A few projects have been announced in the field of petrochemical sector for products like poly ethylene, poly propylene but the time taken for conceiving and implementing such projects in India are so high that it is often found that one would be talking about the same project again and again for extended period. It often happens that quite a few of such massive projects really do not materialise. Even in the case of pharma and bio tech sector, most significant investment have not been made in creation of basic manufacturing capacities but only in customs synthesis units to cater to the requirement of international companies.

Leaving such few projects, which are not representative of the vast segment of chemical industry, nothing much is happening in capacity creation to give confidence and sense of progress to the chemical and allied sector.

In the case of several products such as methanol, VAM, styrene, titanium dioxide etc. Indian imports are going up steadily without any tangible steps being initiated to build capacities at adequate level in the country. In the case of such projects, the problems in capacity creation appears to be due to the fear of the project promoters about the inability of the Indian projects to compete with the international price particularly in conditions of global melt down and their consequent lack of confidence to set up projects.

Obviously, Indian chemical industries cannot remain with feelings of helplessness in such conditions but have to find ingenious ways to continue with the buildingup of chemical projects in tune with the national strength and priorities.

This does not seem to be happening. The government’s involvement in this regard is conspicuous by absence of any forward looking confidence building measures.

As in the case of several other sectors, in the case of chemical industries also, only growth will create further growth. Therefore, finding avenues for growth even in the adverse circumstances is vitally important. The country’s strength and opportunities have to be skillfully exploited with great determination to keep the accent on growth.

In a vast country like India with huge natural wealth and big potential chemical market, Indian chemical industries can certainly find its way out but then there seem to be lack of will , though there is no dearth of opportunities.The following few examples would illustrate this point.

With India emerging as the second largest producer of sugar in the world and in spite of huge molasses availability,India is importing many molasses based chemicals like L-Lysine, Citric acid and others and certainly there is no excuse for not building up capacities in molasses based projects. Sea water magnesia is an extremely important product and Indian and global market have huge need for it. Sea water magnesia which is magnesium oxide is produced from sea water and there is no dearth of sea water in India. India holds around 14% of the world reserves of ilmenite but production of titanium dioxide from ilmenite in India is less than 1% of the total world production. India remains as a net importer of titanium dioxide. Several other similar opportunities where India has failed to exploit its strength so far can be readily cited.

It is certainly clear that the manufacturing sector in chemical industry is not adequately growing and this could cause dearly in the long run for the  progress of chemical industry in India and that of the Indian economy itself.

In recent times, a number of associations and chemical consultants have reported that even the seminars and symposiums on vital chemical topics organized by them have found very poor attendance. Chemical industries seem to ignore such attempts to disseminate knowledge and discuss the opportunities and strength.

It appears as if the chemical industry in India has got into a mood of slumber and with little enthusiasm to sustain its growth. Otherwise, such lack of project activities can not be explained. In these circumstances, the Government of India and particularly the Ministry of Petroleum and Chemicals has well defined responsibility to motivate and facilitate the investors . Here also, there appears to be a mood of slumber in the ministry.

All said and done, Indian chemical industry is now losing time and opportunities.

With more of forward planning and dynamic thinking, several of the problems can be converted into opportunities. But, this calls for quality leadership and great commitment to the cause of sustaining the growth.

One need to keep in mind that in the fortunes of chemical industries, there would be either growth or decline but never stagnation. The present near stagnation conditions would lead to decline, if the trend would not be arrested immediately.

CHEMICAL INDUSTRY IN SINGAPORE - EMERGING SIGNS OF EXCELLENCE

In the recent times, there have been ample evidence that Singapore is being increasingly recognized by the leading chemical companies around the world as a centre of excellence for chemical industries Singapore has shown that for chemical industries to achieve excellence in growth, standards and performance, the small geographical size of the country need not be a constraint.

It is high time that those, who have been of the view that Singapore is largely a trade hub and transit point for chemicals in Far East and South East Asia, should revise their views and take a second look at the emerging scenario in Singapore chemical industries. Backed by the policies of the Government that clearly understands the requirements of growth of chemical industries and with the presence of technocrats and managerial personnel who have appropriate work culture, it looks that before long , the chemical industries in Singapore would emerge as a role model, particularly for the countries in Asia, who would bench mark their performance vis a vis the chemical industries in Singapore.

There are nearby countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines India, Indonesia and China, which are far bigger in size than Singapore and have much bigger indigenous market. While Singapore does not have such advantages, its chemical projects are being planned and implemented with great level of pragmatism in a way that it suits its conditions and as per the need of the global and regional requirements. While the chemical industries in other much larger countries in the nearby region are still trying to carve out an appropriate strategy in spite of their larger market size, Singapore is quietly showing them the way.

The number of big chemical projects that have been set up or under implementation in Singapore are targeting the international market for their product outlet and have been set up by well established global companies.

In Singapore, chemical projects are operated or under implementation for several basic chemicals, which are building blocks like 2-ethyl hexanol, titanium dioxide, butyl rubber, polyvinyl alcohol, vinyl acetate monomer, methyl methacrylate, polycarbonate etc. and these projects are of globally competitive size and standard.

ExxonMobil Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd., is now setting up a petroleum refinery in Singapore, which is ExxonMobil’s largest refinery in the world and is fully integrated with its Singapore chemical plant, which is a world-class petrochemical complex with a world-scale steam cracker at the heart of the integrated site. The project would be commissioned in 2011.It would produce several basic chemical building blocks such as ethylene, propylene, polyethylene, polypropylene etc. that would pave way for creating many more downstream products.

Jurong Aromatics Corp. would set up aromatics project at Jurong Island, Singapore. The project will start up in the latter part of 2011 .Juront Aromatics Corp. is owned 60% by Jurong Energy Corp., which is majority backed by a consortium comprising of several organizations and Economic Development Board Investment (Singapore).

Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore Pvt. Ltd.,is a joint venture promoted by Shell, that would produce several important chemicals including ethylene, propylene, butadiene, methyl tert-butyl ether, butene-1, benzene, toluene, xylene.

Singapore Refining Company Private Limited (SRC) is another joint venture between Singapore Petroleum Company Limited on one part and Chevron (namely, Chevron Singapore Pte. Ltd. & Chevron Trading Pte. Ltd.) on the other with refining capacity of 285,000 bpd.

The Polyolefin Company(Singapore) Pte.Ltd., is yet another major project, which is a 70 to 30 joint venture of Sumitomo and Shell, which recently converted a linear low-density polyethylene (PE) plant to produce polypropylene (PP)

Most of the above projects are in the area of Jurong Island, which is not a large site area wise, particularly when compared to the industrial zones in several other countries but is being put to use under ideal conditions for deriving maximum benefits. This should also be kept in mind that such massive chemical projects are underway in Singapore inspite of the that there is neither availability of starting raw materials nor the market for the finished products in Singapore. In setting up and operating such vital and sophisticated projects, Singapore chemical industry entirely depends on its managerial capability and dynamic outlook towards growth.

Singapore’s biotech pipeline

The investment in research in Singapore particularly in the field of bio technology and bio pharmaceuticals is very impressive.

Singapore is betting on a clutch of top international scientists to come up with new wonder drugs to combat diseases such as cancer, dengue and disorders including diabetes. Singapore is yet to develop a blockbuster drug, but the pipeline of products is promising.

Already, Singapore has attracted six of the world’s biggest drug makers, including Pfizer.

Merck Pte Ltd., a subsidiary of Merck KgaA, is a global chemical and pharmaceutical company with a history of more than 300 years. The company has activity in Singapore in several bio tech products/ area including calbiochem/oncogene: biochemicals and immunochemicals for signal transduction, glycobiology, apoptosis, peptide synthesis and combinatorial chemistry,protein expression, proteomics and molecular biology and cancer research.

Lonza, a Swiss based organisation signed a deal with biotechnology investment company to create a joint venture, Lonza Biologics Tuas, that would invest $350 million to build a mammalian cell culture biologic drug manufacturing plant in Singapore. The facility should become operational in 2011 at the latest.The flexible process includes upto four mammalian bioreactor trains, each with a capacity of 1000 to 20 000 litre, plus purification units. This will be a competitive production facility and the annual turnover potential of the new plant would be $20m to $50m per reactor line.

Recently, Roche Holding AG Genentech unit agreed to buy the above Lonza Group AG biotechnology plant in Singapore, adding production facilities for the Avastin cancer drug.

To support the growth of Singapore’s biomedical industry, Tuas Biomedical Park has been set up in Singapore, which currently occupies a land area of 183 ha. The park will be expanded to include an adjacent 188 ha site. Tuas Biomedical Park is designed for bulk active pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturers.

Strategies of global companies in Singapore

The global companies have chosen to invest in Singapore knowing very well that the Singapore market cannot buy the chemicals produced in Singapore.

Unlike their strategy in other countries like India, China or Indonesia where the global investors are predominantly attracted by the local market , the attraction for the global chemical companies in Singapore is its assured standards of discipline and dedication and strong proactive government policies. Such conditions have created enormous confidence amongst the multi national investors about the efficiency and competency with which the projects in Singapore can be set up and operated.

Safety and ecological standards

In larger countries like India and China, where massive chemical projects are operated, accidents and environmental issues are not uncommon.

Singapore can not afford any laxity in operating massive chemical projects due to it’s geographically small size.

It is gratifying that the safety and environmental standards of chemical companies in Singapore represent the best standards in the world. It is to the credit of the chemical industries in Singapore that no serious accidents and environmental issues have been reported .

Obviously, the confidence of the Singapore government and chemical industries in Singapore in their ability to ensure such safety and environmental standards have to be noted and applauded.

The task ahead

There are certain areas like chemical consultancy and design and detailed engineering services that are yet to be established in a big way in Singapore. Such areas offer great opportunities for Singapore based native companies to enter in a big way, complimenting the major investment efforts by international chemical companies in Singapore.

DIMETHYL CARBONATE – INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY

Physical state            

Colourless liquid at higher temperature

Molecular formula

C3H6O3

CAS No

616-38-6

Boiling point                   

90 deg.C

Solubility

Soluble in water, alcohols, esters and ketones. Solubility in water is 13.9 g per 100g-water. Can be compounded at any proportion with organic solvent like alcohol and ester

Specifications

Description

Value

Active ingredient content

99.5 %

Density @ 20 deg. C

1.0768 gm per ml

Viscosity(20 deg C)

0.625 Mpas

Water content

0.2%

Methyl alcohol content

0.1%

Toxicity

Dimethyl carbonate (DMC) has excellent reaction activity and low toxicity.

This article discusses the following details :

  • Product application
  • Sectorwise application
  • Indian supply scenario
  • Driving factors for demand
  • Demand in India
  • Global scenario
    • Global installed capacity
    • Global demand
    • Growth rate in demand
    • Global demand pattern
    • Scenario in China
  • Alternate process routes for DMC
  • Prognosis
SODIUM METAL – PRODUCT PROFILE

Chemical Formula

Na

CAS Number                            

7440-23-5

Appearance                             

Light, silvery, white metal

Density, g per cm³

0.968 to 0.927

Sodium metal is extremely caustic to all tissues. The safe handling of sodium requires special consideration because of its high reactivity.

Application

Sodium metal with strong reducibility was earlier used to manufacture tetraethyl lead, an antiknock agent used in gasoline.

After the use of leaded gasoline was banned, sodium metal is now mainly used in chemical and pharmaceutical, pesticides, precious metals etc.

This article discusses the following details :

  • Chemical derivatives
  • Pharmaceutical derivatives
  • Metal manufacture & Refining
  • Emerging application sector
  • Process
  • Indian scenario
    • Import/Export
    • Indian manufacturer
    • Indian demand
  • Global scenario
    • Global capacity
    • Global demand
    • Sectorwise pattern of demand
    • Global manufacturers
    • Consumption pattern for sodium metal in US
    • Scenario in China
  • Prognosis
HAPPENINGS IN GLOBAL POLYPROPYLENE INDUSTRY

In recent times, in North America, Europe and Japan, a number of outdated polypropylene plants have been closed to improve plant utilization rates. Numerous investment projects have been delayed or shelved due to the downturn.

Meanwhile, huge PP capacity additions are being planned and implemented in the Mid East countries

This article discusses the following details :

  • Major global players and their capacity level
  • Likely capacity of major global players in 2014
  • Saudi PP producers
  • Capacity expansion
  • Scenario in China
  • Plant closure
  • Product development
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS FOR BIOMASS BASED FUEL

In recent times, the focus of biofuel industry activity has shifted to development of biomass based feedstocks based on cellulosic biomass and nonfood lipid sources, such as algae.

This article further discusses the following details :

  • Usage trend
  • Cellulosic ethanol
  • Biobutanol
  • Efforts of Shell
  • Biofuel from waste grease
  • Biodesel from sugar
  • Converting trash into biofuel
NATURAL GAS SHORTAGE IN MIDDLE EAST COUNTRIES

Despite abundant reserves of Natural gas, the Middle East countries continue to run short of natural gas.

This article discusses the following

  • Scenario in Kuwait
  • Scenario in Saudi Arabia
  • Scenario in Iran
  • Scenario in GCC
  • Scenario in Qatar
VIEWS ON INDIAN SAFEGUARD DUTY DIRECTORATE

Safeguard duty is levied when surge in imports would destabilize domestic producers’ viability even as the imported goods price may be fair.

Unlike safeguard duty which is levied in a uniform way, anti-dumping duty varies from product to product and country to country. Both duties are allowed under the multilateral trade rules after investigations to stand the WTO scrutiny.

The article discusses the views of different agencies on the performance of Indian Safeguard Duty Directorate.

OTHER FEATURES

PLANT CLOSURES

The article discusses the plans for closure of selected units by the following players

  • Exxonmobil to close xylene units
  • Chemtura to close Indiana plant

ANTI DUMPING PAGE

The antidumping measures introduced in  the various countries in the last few weeks on the following products are discussed:

  • Soda ash
  • Fibre board
  • PET
  • Acetone
  • Phenol
  • Tyre vulcanisers
  • PVC
  • China imposes antidumping tariff on imported PA 6,6 chips

NEWS ROUND UP

The recent developments on the following products/events are discussed:

INTERNATIONAL

  • Co2 Storage hub in Netherlands
  • Lithium carbonate project in Bolivia
  • Solar silicon wafers
  • Acrylates complex in Saudi Arabia
  • Bentonite joint venture in Brazil
  • Solar Shingles

INDIA

  • Projected cement capacity in India
  • Organic fertilizer project of FACT
  • Hardy abandons exploration in one D9 well of KG basin

CHINA NEWS

The recent developments on the following products/events are updated :

  • Overcapacity issue in some industries in China
  • Coal based dimethyl ether project
  • CBM based DME plant
  • Silicon project
  • Rutile titanium dioxide project
  • Phenol plant
  • Caustic soda project
  • Sodium dithionite project
  • Soda ash project
  • Calcium carbide project
  • Styrene project
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Calcium carbide
  • Pyrogenic silica

TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT

The recent developments on the following technology efforts are highlighted

International

  • Development of enzymes to process agricultural waste
  • Plastic from banana fibre
  • Catalyst simulations for fuel cells to make clean cars
  • Plasticised hydrogen storage
  • Septon k elastomers

ENERGY PAGE

The recent developments on the following products/events are discussed:

  • Coal gas based power project of NTPC
  • Investment in solar farm project in AP
  • Solar powered mobile system
  • Wind energy potential in India
  • Burning coal deep down has huge potential

PHARMA PAGE

The recent developments on the following products/events are discussed:

  • Chemical & pharma companies are now becoming only chemical companies
  • China allows pharmaceutical technologies to be transferred without restrictions

PRICE DETAILS – INTERNATIONAL

Global price trends on the following products are provided :

  • Butadiene
  • Titanium dioxide
  • Polyolefins
  • Monoethylene glycol
  • Epichlorohydrin
  • Styrene butadiene rubber
  • Toluene di isocyanate
  • Paraxylene
  • Orthoxylene
  • Styrene
  • Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene
  • Purified terephthalic acid
  • Spot bulk chemical prices
  • Contract bulk chemical prices
OTHER ARTICLES
  • Biomass power projects in Tamil Nadu
  • Exciting prospects for algae based biofuel
  • Winners of the ICIS Innovation Awards
  • Vanilla output to drop further in India
  • Methodology under development to avoid co2 pollution in coal based power plants
  • R & D trends in the carbon capture & storage
  • India’s lost share in the global rare earth market
  • Indian glass industry
  • Tender announcements
  • Chemicals imported at chennai port during the month of  September 2009
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