Bechtel to fully eliminate U.S. mustard gas stockpiles by 2023; Shell report sees global LNG trade nearly doubling by 2040; AFPM sees potential for more Latin American, Canada oil imports; U.S. chemical production nearly flat in Jan. from 2021

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Bechtel has started the last part of its efforts to eliminate U.S. chemical stockpiles. Image courtesy of Bechtel.

Bechtel to fully eliminate U.S. mustard gas stockpiles by 2023

The Reston, Virginia-based engineering and construction company Bechtel said on March 1, 2022 that it will begin the final phase of its efforts under contract to eliminate U.S. mustard gas stockpiles that will be completed in Sep. 2023.

“After years of work and preparation in getting the SDC (Static Detonation Chamber) units up and running, it is gratifying to be on our way with destruction of the third and final campaign,” said Todd Ailes, project manager, Bechtel Pueblo Team.

The SDC units will “destroy decades-old munitions such as 4.2-inch mortar rounds containing mustard agent,” a chemical obtained from combining ethylene with chlorine gas.

Bechtel, known for its role behind engineering and construction of multiple petrochemical and other projects, has been destroying chemical weapons stored at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot since 2015.

The electrically heated vessels detonate the munitions, “and gases are treated by a pollution abatement system,” Bechtel said.

Destruction started after the 1997 ratification of chemical weapons treaties. Bechtel leads contracted teams for work in the U.S. two remaining stockpiles in Pueblo and near Richmond, Kentucky.

The stockpile sites in Colorado and Kentucky account for the last 10% of what was originally a national stockpile of over 30,000 tonnes of chemical weapons in seven sites.

Both sites are on target for destruction by Sept. 30, 2023. American law mandates stockpile destruction before the end of 2023.

Mustard gas started to be used during the first world war as it could penetrate masks and any clothing materials available at the time.

According to The Smithsonian Magazine Sep. 2020 issue, in 1943 during a German bombardment of the Italian port of Bari one of the ships hit, later identified as the John Harvey, had been carrying a cargo of mustard gas. Medical investigations of burnt sailors and servicemen discovered that when mixed with nitrogen it had selectively melted lymph nodes and blood cells.

This gave way to more research and medical uses of "nitrogen mustard" like chemotherapy. The difference between “mustard gas” and “nitrogen mustard” lies in a sulfur atom that replaces a nitrogen atom.

Shell report sees global LNG trade nearly doubling by 2040

The global trade in liquefied natural gas (LNG) increased 6% to 380 million tonnes during 2021 as many countries recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Shell’s latest annual LNG Outlook published on Feb. 21, 2022.

Overall, global LNG demand “is expected to cross 700 million tonnes a year by 2040,” a 90% increase from 2021, according to the report.

Prices reached record highs in October 2021 as European buyers struggled to secure LNG cargoes to meet expected winter gas demand, it said.

The U.S. will become the world’s biggest LNG exporter in 2022, according to the report.

Brazil tripled its LNG imports during 2021 to over seven million tonnes as persistent dry weather led to weaker hydropower generation.

AFPM sees potential for more Latin American, Canada oil imports

The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers association, known for its acronym AFPM, said on Feb. 25, 2022 that imports of crude oil from Canada and Latin America into the U.S. may increase as a result of sanctions against Russia. The U.S. announced sanctions against Russian oil and fuel on March 8.

The U.S. imported an average of 209,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil and 500,000 bpd of other petroleum products from Russia during 2021, it said.

Additional heavy crude supplies from Canada and countries within Latin America could replace imported Russian crude but it will not be “as cost effective as Russian imports, particularly heavy fuel oil,” the AFPM said.

“Although Russian crude accounts for only 3% of U.S. crude oil imports and about 1% of total crude oil processed by U.S. refineries, Russian crude oil imports are important to refineries on the West Coast and Gulf Coast,” it said.

“Our refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast import heavier crude and unfinished oils from Russia,” it said. Gasoline and diesel represent only a small part of Russian imports to the U.S., largely going to the East Coast, it added.

In 2021 Russian imports to refineries in California and Washington State increased to “help offset lower volumes of light sweet crude imports into California from other countries, notably Nigeria, and lower volumes of U.S.-produced crude oil shipped by rail to Washington.”

Since 2019 U.S. refineries have increased imports of unfinished heavy oils from Russia to help replace heavy sour crude from Venezuela that U.S. refineries could no longer import. The U.S. banned Venezuelan imports in 2019 and has sanctioned transportation companies for moving Venezuelan crude.

Oil prices had been projected to remain below 2021 peaks during this year. However, prices have surged since Russian military forces entered Ukraine on Feb. 24.

On March 8 the U.S. imposed sanctions against Russian crude and fuel imports along with other nations. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on the same day that official delegations from the U.S. and Venezuela had held a meeting and talks would continue.

U.S. chemical production nearly flat in Jan. from 2021

The U.S. Chemical Production Regional Index expanded by 0.4% in January slowing from a 1.4% gain in December, according to data from the American Chemistry Council released on Feb. 28.

Chemical output rose in all regions with the largest gains in the Midwest and Gulf Coast, according to the ACC.

Production of coatings, adhesives, crop protection, industrial gases, organic chemicals, and basic inorganic chemicals increased in January.

“These gains were offset by weakness in the output of synthetic rubber, manufactured fibers, plastic resins and other specialty chemicals,” the ACC added.

Manufacturing output expanded for a seventh month in January. It increased by 0.3% considering a three-month moving average.

In Nov. 2021 the Chemical Production Regional Index posted a 0.3% on-year increase.

By Reuters Events Downstream