ExxonMobil sees chemical earnings drop, Soft drink companies pledge funds for recycling, Port Houston eyes expansion

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ExxonMobil earnings half as chemical business weakens

ExxonMobil said Friday Nov. 1 its third quarter earnings fell sharply from last year as its chemical business deteriorated amid strong competition.

“Margins remained weak during the quarter with supply length from recent industry capacity additions,” it said.

Its U.S. chemical business turned $53 million in earnings in the third quarter, down from $404 million in the same quarter a year ago.
Overall third quarter earnings were $3.2 billion, roughly half from last year.

Chemicals production additions brought “lower margins, higher project-related expenses and lower volumes” it said.

Mexico’s Alpek buys U.K.-based Lotte Chemical

Alpek SAB de CV, one of the biggest PET (polyethylene terephthalate) producers in the Americas, said on Oct. 29 it will buy UK-based Lotte Chemical Corp.

The acquisition creates “value by integrating the asset into our global polyester footprint,” said Alpek’s CEO Jose de Jesus Valdez. It is Alpek’s first acquisition outside the Americas.

The company’s annual worldwide PET capacity after the transaction will stand at 2.8 million tonnes. The company makes other products like polypropylene and purified terephtalic acid.

Alpek owns and runs a 350,000-tonnes-per-year PET facility in Wilton, United Kingdom. Terms weren’t disclosed.

Port Houston taps U.S. Army Corps for expansion design

Port Houston said Oct. 23 that a commission approved a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for expansion design.

The so-called “Project 11” envisions widening the channel to 700 feet and deepening upstream segments, the Port said. This is “vital” to accommodate growing trade, it said.

“Port Houston and industry leaders remain laser-focused on advocacy in Washington D.C. for the widening and deepening of the Houston Ship Channel.”

U.S. soft drink makers pledge $100 million for recycling

The American Beverage Association said on Oct. 29 that its members—the United States biggest soft-drink makers—jointly pledged $100 million for a fund to support increased plastic bottle recycling.

The association expects contributions from outside the association would expand the fund and lead to an additional 80 million pounds of PET captured annually.

The fund will direct efforts “to improve sorting, processing and collection in areas with the biggest infrastructure gaps.”

The World Wildlife Fund will track progress, it added.

“Our bottles are designed to be remade, and that is why this program is so important,” said Katherine Lugar, the American Beverage Association’s president.

Alberta renews commitment to support petrochemicals

The Energy Minister of the hydrocarbon-rich Alberta in Western Canada confirmed on Oct. 23 the province’s pledge of C$1.1 billion for the second phase of a petrochemical diversification program.

The program provides tax credits to companies that turn feedstock such as ethane, methane and propane into downstream products.

About C$950 million of that fund remains available.

InterPipeline, which plans to build a 525,000-tonnes per year polypropylene facility in 2021, as well as Nauticol Energy Ltd., which plans to build a methanol plant, have received credits under this program. 

New chemical plants face opposition in Pennsylvania

The mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, said on Oct. 30 that he opposes more petrochemicals coming to western Pennsylvania due to pollution concerns, Public Source reported.

The mayor will write State Governor Tom Wolf to warn that “the expansion of this industry is an impediment to the region’s growth.”

He wants to prevent other companies following Shell plans and installing more crackers in the area.

“There is a direct opportunity cost when we continue to invest in 19th century industry that costs us the opportunity to bring 21st century industry to this region,” Peduto said

The Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex will include an ethylene cracker and downstream plastic pellets production at an estimated $6-billion investment. It is scheduled to start operations in the early 2020s. Shell Oil Co. is the American subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell.

Petrochemical Update