Mexican Senate discusses plastic ban changes, Braskem to close chlor alkali plant, Nova sells stake in Texas project

News Briefs

A methanol plant owned by Methanex in Trinidad. Photo courtesy of Methanex.

Mexican Senate to evaluate proposals to reduce impact of bag bans

The Mexican association of chemical producers known for its acronym Aniq said on Jan. 24 it planned to voice concerns in late January as part of efforts to introduce legislative changes to try to reduce the impact of plastic bans.

The announcement comes just days after chemical companies complained new legislation against plastic bags in the biggest Mexican cities, Mexico City and Monterrey, starting 2020 could lead to reduced sales and layoffs of thousands.

Mexican chemical companies want to adjust current legislation through legislative work groups that could begin meetings as soon as in February.

Aniq wants to to limit the local government’s faculties to impose bans. It also seeks to establish mandatory infrastructure for residues on the part of local governments and to come up with residue handling plans as a potential way to continue to allow plastic products already considered in bans.

Mexican Senator Ricardo Monreal separately tweted on Jan. 24 that the Mexican Senate will “put in place legislative actions” aligned with the concepts of a singular plastic economy practices supported by the chemical industry.

Monreal belongs to the Morena party that has a majority in Mexican Congress. Aniq is the acronym for Asociacion Nacional de la Industria Quimica.

Greenpeace Mexico said in December that the circular economy initiative provisions supported by the industry are meant to introduce legal loopholes to extend certain plastic for a longer period.

Braskem to shut down chlor alkali plant in April

Braskem will permanently shut down a chor alkali plant in Camacari, in the Brazilian coastal state of Bahia, with capacity to produce 79,000 tonnes of caustic soda and 64,000 tonnes of chlorine, the company said Jan. 23 in a report to investors.

The decision to close the plant was taken as it had reached the end of its life, it said.

Last year Braskem closed down its other chlor alkali plant in Alagoas, another coastal state north of Bahia, and an ethylene dichloride plant. The company had to stop operations in a rock salt mine that provided raw material for the chlorine because it was suspected of causing fissures and cracks in a nearby town.

About 57% of the mass of PVC is chlorine. Chlorine is used as a feedstock for intermediate chemicals that go into PVC.

Nova sells to Borealis stake in Texas polymer project

Austria’s Borealis will buy Canada’s Nova Chemicals Corp. 50% equity in Novealis with the transaction expected to be completed in the first half of 2020.

Novealis is a joint venture formed in 2018 by Borealis and Nova. Novealis subsequently formed an equal venture with an affiliate of France’s Total to launch Bayport Polymers in Houston, Texas.

In Feb 2019 Novealis and Total announced plans for the construction of a new 625,000 tonnes per year polyethylene unit at its production site in Pasadena with an anticipated start-up in 2021.

Bayport Polymers is also building a one-million ton per year steam cracker in Port Arthur, Texas, to supply feedstock for its existing 400,000 tons per year polyethylene units as well as the planned plant.

Mexico-based Orbia may divest part of vinyl business

Mexico-based Orbia Advance Corp., previously known as Mexichem, said on Jan. 10 that it is considering changes to its vinyl business.

“In line with our long-term strategy, Orbia is in the process of analyzing potential divestment alternatives or strategic alliances with respect to our vinyl business, without, to date, having any certainty or approval of the execution of any transaction,” it said.

The company reported late last year in its earnings for the third quarter that during the first nine months of 2019 its revenues decreased 6% to $1.8 billion compared with a year earlier, mainly due to lower caustic soda and PVC prices as well as lower volume.

Canada’s Methanex negotiates new gas supply contract with Trinidad

Canada’s Methanex Corp. has held talks in January with the National Gas Co. of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd. terms for a natural gas supply contract for its Titan methanol facility in the Caribbean country.

The previous supply contracted ended in December, and current supplies are being provided under a temporary agreement that will expire at the end of the month. The one-month extension was meant to accommodate time for extended negotiations for a long-term accord.

Vancouver-based Methanex is the world's largest producer and supplier of methanol.

Methanex has two methanol plants on Trinidad’s west coast. Titan has a production capacity of 875,000 tonnes per year and the other plant, Atlas has an annual production capacity of 1.7 million tonnes.

U.S., Canada, Mexican chemical industries reaffirm support for trade accord

U.S., Canadian and Mexican chemical industries reaffirmed their support to the trade deal after the U.S. Senate ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement earlier in January.

American Chemistry Council President Chris Jahn as well as the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada's president Bob Masterson said ratifications was important given the high integration of the chemical industries in the three countries.

Canada’s parliament had yet to ratify the accord and was scheduled to return to session around Jan 27 after year-end holidays.

The Mexican Senate was the first to ratify the accord in December. The accord provides for labor-related changes in Mexico and clarifies regulations.

“We see greater regulatory cooperation as an unqualified win for companies,” said the president of the Mexican chemical industry association, Miguel Benedetto.

U.S.T.R. office says China to increase U.S. purchases

China will import U.S. goods and services over the next two years for an amount that is to exceed the Asian country's 2017 imports by at least $200 billion, the U.S. trade representative office said in mid-January.

The report came after the so-called Phase 1 of the U.S.-China trade deal was agreed in mid-December.

Tariffs on several products, including chemical goods and raw materials needed for chemical production, remain in place.

By Petrochemical Update