Falling Prices of Oils, on the Other Hand, Increased Demand for Biobased Chemicals

C&EN | July 06, 2020

The world is drowning in oil. Sometimes there’s no place to store even an extra drop. As the cost per barrel struggles to breach $40 and transportation fuels seem to be entering their sunset years, giant oil companies are pushing into chemical manufacturing. For chemical buyers, the outlook is for years of heavy competition and low, low prices.

In this environment, it is perhaps surprising that any company would bet on chemicals and materials made from sugar, rather than petroleum. Biobased chemical makers did briefly flower a decade ago when oil prices soared. High fliers like BioAmber, KiOR, Metabolix, Solazyme, and ZeaChem attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in investments and government-backed loans on the promise that fuels and chemicals made from biobased feedstocks would be cost competitive. But when oil prices went down again, so did those companies, and much of the rest of the nascent industry with them.

Spotlight

After enjoying many years of double-digit capacity and demand growth, many emerging commodity chemicals markets, such as China and the Middle East, are experiencing growing pains. Demand is no longer expanding faster than capacity additions, and demand growth is barely positive in some instances. This is occurring as many long-anticipated investment projects are just reaching completion, and new chemical production facilities are still being commissioned. The net effect is that capacity utilization is falling in many emerging commodity markets, prompting some producers to take extended shutdowns. A prominent example is China, where utilization has dropped to 60- 65% for key commodities, such as methanol and purified terephthalic acid (PTA).


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CHEMICAL MANAGEMENT

Aramco and Cognite Join Forces in New Data Venture

Aramco and Cognite | June 20, 2022

Aramco and Cognite, a global leader in industrial software, have launched CNTXT, a joint venture based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Headquartered in Riyadh, CNTXT will support industrial digitalization in the Kingdom and the wider MENA region. CNTXT will provide digital transformation services enabled by advanced cloud solutions and leading industrial software. These solutions and services will help companies in the public and private sectors future-proof their data infrastructure, increase revenue, cut costs, and reduce risks while enhancing operational sustainability and security. CNTXT is Google Cloud’s reseller for cloud solutions in the Kingdom and the exclusive reseller of Cognite Data Fusion® in the MENA region. Additionally, Google Cloud is expected to launch a “Center of Excellence” later this year to provide training to developers and business leaders on how to use cloud technologies. Led by Abdullah Jarwan, appointed CEO of CNTXT, and a management team of local and international talent, CNTXT plans to significantly grow the team this year in hopes of becoming the top tech employer in the Kingdom. The launch of CNTXT is a major milestone in the collaboration between Aramco and Aker ASA, the majority owner of Cognite. The partnership began in 2019 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop synergies and share knowledge on industrial digitalization and sustainability initiatives. Ahmad A. Al-Sa'adi, senior vice president of Technical Services at Aramco, said: “CNTXT brings together industrial legacy, unmatched technology, and a truly talented team that will aid in the digitalization of the public and private sectors in the Kingdom. CNTXT will be an important catalyst of digitalization of the Kingdom.” Øyvind Eriksen, president of Aker ASA and chair of the Cognite Board of Directors, said: “CNTXT will be an important vehicle for driving profitability and sustainability of the Kingdom’s industries through innovative use of technology. I look forward to seeing the company accelerate the digital transformation of the most important sectors in the region.” Abdullah Jarwan, CEO of CNTXT, said: “The untapped potential in the digital transformation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the greater Middle East is enormous. With Google Cloud and Cognite offerings in our portfolio, we can help the public and private sectors innovate faster, scale AI-driven solutions, and turn data into value.” Abdul Rahman Al Thehaiban, managing director, Middle East, Turkey, and Africa, Google Cloud, said: “Businesses all around the world turn to Google Cloud to enable growth and help them solve their most business-critical challenges. With CNTXT as Google Cloud’s reseller in the Kingdom, we will be leveraging the latest technologies and decades of expertise to help businesses grow and develop safely and securely.” About Aramco Aramco is a global integrated energy and chemicals company. We are driven by the core belief that energy is opportunity. From producing approximately one in every eight barrels of the world’s oil supply to developing new energy technologies, our global team is dedicated to creating impact in all that we do. We focus on making our resources more dependable, more sustainable and more useful. This helps promote stability and long-term growth around the world. About CNTXT Founded in 2022 and based in Saudi Arabia, CNTXT is a joint venture between Aramco and Cognite that delivers premium cloud and digital transformation products and services in the Middle East and North Africa. CNTXT’s digital offerings, including Google Cloud and Cognite Data Fusion, enable customers to achieve greater efficiency, sustainability, and profitability throughout their digital transformation journeys. About Cognite Cognite is a global industrial SaaS company that was established with one clear vision: to rapidly empower industrial companies with contextualized, trustworthy, and accessible data to help drive the full-scale digital transformation of asset-heavy industries around the world. Our core Industrial DataOps platform, Cognite Data Fusion®, enables industrial data and domain users to collaborate quickly and safely to develop, operationalize, and scale industrial AI solutions and applications to deliver both profitability and sustainability.

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CHEMICAL TECHNOLOGY

Waters Collaborates with Leading Researchers and Industry Partners to Advance the Science of Alternative Proteins

Waters Corporation | July 27, 2022

Waters Corporation announced it is providing both technology and expertise to help advance plant-based protein science in collaboration with researchers of the Plant Protein Innovation Center at the University of Minnesota. Waters scientists will work with PPIC researchers to develop a workflow for measuring the amino acid content of plant-based proteins using a Waters ACQUITY™ Premier UPLC System. Waters is the first analytical instrument company to become a member of the PPIC, an industry-leading interdisciplinary research center dedicated to studying plant and alternative proteins. According to a July 2022 report by Boston Consulting Group, animal agriculture is the largest global greenhouse gas emitter within the food system and accounts for 15% of global emissions. If alternative proteins stay on track to match the taste, texture and price of conventional animal proteins, researchers estimate they will account for an 11% share of the food market by 2035 and account for a reduction in CO2 emissions equal to 95% of today’s aviation industry emissions.i “Just as climate change and population growth are driving demand for alternatives to animal protein, changing consumer tastes are also creating a preference for healthy and more sustainable dietary options to meet their future needs and wants. Waters is proud to be the first analytical instrument company to join PPIC in its pursuit of alternative sources of proteins while addressing the issues of climate change and food security.” Warren Potts, Senior Director, Global Food and Environmental Business, Waters Corporation “As we translate research to reality through developing and introducing novel and sustainable plant protein ingredients and products with acceptable functionality and nutrition, we rely heavily on robust and accurate analytical tools,” said Dr. B. Pam Ismail, Founder and Director of the PPIC. “PPIC and its member organizations are, therefore, thrilled to partner with Waters to advance our analytical capabilities for the alternative protein market.” Liquid Chromatography is Essential for Amino Acid Analysis Proteins are made up of 20 chemical ‘building blocks’ called amino acids. The amino acids we make ourselves or that we take in with food, link together in different combinations to make new proteins that help build and repair muscles, tendons, and organs. While humans produce 11 of these amino acids, the remaining nine amino acids are essential for human health and are derived only from plant or animal sources. Amino acid analysis provides a basic measure of the functional and nutritional value of both animal- and plant-based proteins slated for consumer food products. Any research into plant-based proteins requires a way to measure their amino acid content, for which liquid chromatography is particularly well-suited. About Waters Corporation Waters Corporation a global leader in analytical instruments and software, has pioneered chromatography, mass spectrometry, and thermal analysis innovations serving the life, materials, and food sciences for more than 60 years. With more than 7,800 employees worldwide, Waters operates directly in more than 35 countries, including 14 manufacturing facilities, and with products available in more than 100 countries.

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CHEMICAL MANAGEMENT

Chemours Leads Remove2Reclaim Project to Advance Plastic Circularity

Chemours Compan | May 18, 2022

The Chemours Company a global chemistry company with leading market positions in Titanium Technologies, Thermal & Specialized Solutions, and Advanced Performance Materials, announced its participation leading a three-year recycling research project in collaboration with industry, academic, and government experts to develop an efficient, cost-effective, and more sustainable process for recovering titanium dioxide (TiO2) and polymers from plastic end-use products. The initiative, dubbed Remove2Reclaim, has the potential to drive significant environmental benefits, eliminating waste and reducing the amount of energy used in manufacturing, by enabling circularity across a much wider range of applications. Current commercial scale recycling technologies do not allow polymers and additives to be effectively removed and separated, limiting the potential applications and overall quality of products made with recycled plastic. Remove2Reclaim is designed to change that. The project goal is to develop commercial-scale detection and extraction technologies that enable the removal and recovery of TiO2 and polymers for reuse. “Through the Remove2Reclaim initiative, we hope to help crack the code on effective plastic recycling, achieving a new level of circularity for the industry. This initiative has the potential to reclaim thousands of tons of TiO2 from different end-of-life streams, reducing raw material demands, and creating a new TiO2 supply stream for our customers. We’re honored to lead this project in collaboration with a team of experts from across the value chain to pursue a common goal that benefits our shared planet.” Steven De Backer, EMEA Technical Marketing Manager at Chemours In the project’s first year, research partners have developed a sorting mechanism to effectively identify plastic wastes that contain TiO2 and determined innovative solvent-based extraction routes to remove TiO2 from different polymer matrices. Other project milestones include developing methods and equipment to detect TiO2 in specific polymer matrices, recovering TiO2 from the polymer by dissolution route, and eventually reusing the TiO2 and polymer in new products. “At Chemours, we aspire to be the most sustainable TiO2 enterprise in the world, and that requires applying our expertise to some of the world’s greatest challenges, including plastic circularity,” said Ed Sparks, President of Titanium Technologies at Chemours. “We’re committed to leveraging responsible chemistry and cross-industry collaboration to solve our customers’ challenges with minimal impact on our shared planet. Remove2Reclaim is a great example of this model at work.” The Remove2Reclaim project kicked off in September 2020 with the support of Catalisti, the spearhead cluster for the chemical and plastics industry in Flanders, Belgium. It includes a collaboration of the public and private sectors, including Chemours as the project coordinator, INEOS Styrolution, Lybover, Deceuninck, Matco Plastics, Centexbel, VITO, Ghent University, and KU Leuven. The project also received funding from VLAIO, the Flanders Innovation and Entrepreneurship Agency. “Remove2Reclaim is an exciting project with the potential to turn recycling ambitions into circular solutions that benefit our planet,” reads a statement from Catalisti. “By bringing together leaders in the industry, academic, and government spheres, we’re taking a holistic approach that engages the entire value chain. The project has gained momentum under Chemours’ leadership, and we’re looking forward to seeing this initiative continue making progress toward achieving its goal of producing an innovative new recycling process.” About The Chemours Company The Chemours Company is a global leader in Titanium Technologies, Thermal & Specialized Solutions, and Advanced Performance Materials providing its customers with solutions in a wide range of industries with market-defining products, application expertise and chemistry-based innovations. We deliver customized solutions with a wide range of industrial and specialty chemicals products for markets, including coatings, plastics, refrigeration and air conditioning, transportation, semiconductor and consumer electronics, general industrial, and oil and gas. Our flagship products include prominent brands such as Ti-Pure™, Opteon™, Freon™, Teflon™, Viton™, Nafion™, and Krytox™. The company has approximately 6,400 employees and 29 manufacturing sites serving approximately 3,300 customers in approximately 120 countries. Chemours is headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware and is listed on the NYSE under the symbol CC.

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CHEMICAL MANAGEMENT

Owens Corning to Acquire Spray Foam Manufacturer Natural Polymers

Owens Corning | June 22, 2022

Owens Corning announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire Natural Polymers, LLC, an innovative manufacturer of spray polyurethane foam insulation for building and construction applications, based in Cortland, Illinois. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary conditions and is anticipated to close in the third quarter. “This acquisition advances Owens Corning’s strategy to strengthen our core building and construction products and expand our addressable markets into higher-growth segments. Natural Polymers’ proven technology enables us to offer our customers a more diversified insulation product portfolio and solidify our commitment to provide long-term, sustainable solutions.” Todd Fister, president of Owens Corning’s Insulation business Natural Polymers is dedicated to the development of high-quality products and systems, offering some of the lowest-volatile organic compound products available in the spray foam industry today. Many of the business’ products are GREENGUARD Gold Certified by Underwriter’s Laboratories – a third party standard set to help reduce indoor air pollution and the risk of chemical exposure. “Over the last several years, we’ve seen many advancements in the overall spray foam industry, from standardized installer training to product enhancements that make the material a much more attractive solution,” said Mr. Fister. “Natural Polymers’ focus on product development provides Owens Corning with a foundation upon which we can use our material science knowledge to drive innovation and differentiate the business.” Natural Polymers expects to deliver sales of approximately $100 million in 2022. The business has demonstrated a strong track record of above-market growth and is expected to continue to achieve double-digit growth over the next several years. Benjamin Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer of Natural Polymers, stated, “I am excited by this transaction and believe Owens Corning is best suited to accelerate the business’ growth, benefiting our customers and supporting our vision to build the best spray polyurethane foam brand in the industry. Together, I believe we have the best people, technology, and capabilities.” About Owens Corning Owens Corning is a global building and construction materials leader committed to building a sustainable future through material innovation. Our three integrated businesses – Composites, Insulation, and Roofing – provide durable, sustainable, energy-efficient solutions that leverage our unique material science, manufacturing, and market knowledge to help our customers win and grow. We are global in scope, human in scale with approximately 20,000 employees in 33 countries dedicated to generating value for our customers and shareholders, and making a difference in the communities where we work and live. Founded in 1938 and based in Toledo, Ohio, USA, Owens Corning posted 2021 sales of $8.5 billion.

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Spotlight

After enjoying many years of double-digit capacity and demand growth, many emerging commodity chemicals markets, such as China and the Middle East, are experiencing growing pains. Demand is no longer expanding faster than capacity additions, and demand growth is barely positive in some instances. This is occurring as many long-anticipated investment projects are just reaching completion, and new chemical production facilities are still being commissioned. The net effect is that capacity utilization is falling in many emerging commodity markets, prompting some producers to take extended shutdowns. A prominent example is China, where utilization has dropped to 60- 65% for key commodities, such as methanol and purified terephthalic acid (PTA).

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