Methanol market to grow to $36 billion by 2026; Colombia´s Ecopetrol to invest in decarbonization; Pet food producer Mars to use more recycled plastic; Monsanto successors to clean site; Novonor mulls a sale of Braskem; Peru bans expandible polystyrene

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Trinidad methanol plant at night. Image courtesy of Canada-based Methanex.

Methanol market to grow to $36 billion by 2026

The global methanol market will expand to $36 billion in five years from under $31 billion in 2021, according to projections by Chicago-based MarketsandMarkets released on Dec. 14.

Methanol-to-olefins and methanol-to-propylene end uses will account for “the fastest growth” during the period, it said.

The growth is due to the rise of investments in plants in China to produce olefins through methanol. Methanol is used in construction, automotive, electronics, coatings, insulation, pharmaceuticals, and solvents.

Coal will account for the fastest growth in the methanol feedstock segment from 2021 to 2026, MarketsandMarkets said.

Canada´s Methanex, Germany´s Helm Proman, SABIC, Yanzhou Coal, and Zagros from Iran are some leading methanol manufacturers.

Colombia´s Ecopetrol to invest in decarbonization

Colombian state oil company Ecopetrol said on Dec. 9 it plans to invest over $50 million in decarbonization, $30 million in fuel quality improvement, and $6 million in green and blue hydrogen pilots.

The spending is part of the company´s 2022 investment plan that will range from $4.8 billion to $5.8 billion.

”Investments in the downstream segment are expected to reach 8% of the total estimated for 2022 and are expected to remain focused on ensuring operational reliability and sustainability in the Barrancabermeja and Cartagena refineries,” Ecopetrol said.

The hydrogen projects would “be applied at the refineries and for mobility initiatives, among others,” it said.

Ecopetrol has set a target of reducing 25% of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and plans to become a net-zero emissions company by 2050. It is Colombia´s biggest company.

“The 2022 investment plan is expected to be self-funded, and it will not require increasing leverage, under an average Brent scenario of $63 per barrel for the year,” Ecopetrol said.

Ecopetrol produces over 60% of Colombia´s hydrocarbons. It also owns 51% of energy transmission company ISA, which operates power lines in Latin America.

Pet food producer Mars to use more recycled plastic

Mars Petcare, which owns brands such as Sheba for cat food as well as Royal Canin for dogs, said on Dec 14 that the company will significantly increase the use of plastic recycled materials.

The initiative is the result of a joint partnership for chemical recycling with SABIC and Finland-based sustainable packaging company Huhtamaki that was initially announced in November 2020, it said.

Barry Parkin, chief procurement and sustainability officer at Mars, said the project will increase recycled content use to 30% and help cut 25% on virgin resins.

Two successors of Monsanto to clean site

Solutia and Pharmacia, two succesors of agricultural and chemical company Monsanto, will jointly pay $18 million to clean a “Superfund” site along the Mississipi River near St. Louis after a settlement, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Dec. 14.

This demonstrates the EPA’s efforts “to ensure that polluters, not the American public, pay for the investigation and cleanup of Superfund sites,” said deputy assistant attorney general Bruce Gelber of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Waste in the site includes PCBs, dioxin, lead, cadmium, benzene and chlorobenzene.  The cleanup requires “placing engineered caps over identified waste areas, conducting vapor intrusion mitigation,”it said.

“This is only the latest in various lawsuits and settlements involving the cleanup of these former landfills dating back 15 years,” the EPA said.

Monsanto was founded in 1901 in Missouri. Bayer acquired Monsanto in 2018.

Superfund sites are polluted areas in need of managed long-term cleanup. There have been concerns within the U.S. chemical industry about a possible higher tax burden related to the need to pay for work on these sites. 

Novonor mulls a sale of Braskem

Braskem said on Dec. 1 in a notice to investors in Sao Paulo that its controlling, majority equity owner Novonor has “provided information” related to advances toward a possible equity sale in the secondary market.

Novonor told Braskem that it is “considering the possibility of making a secondary public share offering, to potentially alienate part or all of our preferred shares issued by Braskem,” Braskem reported.

Braskem is Latin America´s biggest petrochemical company and also the biggest polypropylene producer in North America. Novonor used to be called Odebrecht but changed its name a year ago.

Novonor and Braskem´s other major stockholder Petrobras have expressed in the past an intention to sell.

Brazil will hold presidential elections in October 2022. Polls show former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva leading the race and ahead of current president Jair Bolsonaro.

Peru bans expandible polystyrene

Peruvian officials will enforce starting Dec. 20 a ban on production, import and any trade with expandable polystyrene, widely known in the country under the brand name Tecnopor, as part of efforts to regulate single-use plastic.

The law was enacted on Dec. 2018 but there was a time allowed for manufacturers to come up with alternative products before it entered into effect on Dec. 20, 2021 RPP radio reported. A group of legislators had sought an extension into 2024 before the ban entered into effect but their efforts were defeated in a tight vote in a Congress committee.

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