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Chemistry World

 

Business roundup



BASF: Asian shift won't slow European growth 

Katharine Sanderson/ Ludwigshafen, Germany 

German chemicals giant BASF has announced plans to focus on expansion in Europe until 2015, and aims to double eastern European sales by 2010. The announcement came just days after the official opening of BASF's latest verbund site in Nanjing, China.

'Europe will remain crucial for BASF,' said Eggert Voscherau, vice chairman of the company's board of executive directors, adding that BASF regards Europe as the entire continent, not just the EU countries. Annual sales in eastern Europe, currently €1 billion (£0.7 million), should reach €2 billion by 2010, the company announced. Voscherau said that the company aims to grow twice as fast as its competitors in Europe, with plans for three to four per cent annual growth. 

He also announced annual savings of €730 million, which he attributed to making sales more market focused, and increasing efficiency in production, infrastructure and services at the main Ludwigshafen verbund site in Germany. 

Walter Seufert, BASF president for Europe, acknowledged that future demand for chemicals will be met by countries outside western Europe. But despite this shift in manufacturing, said Seufert, only a third of customers will migrate their business to Asia, with eastern Europe being the area of choice for the others. 

Innovation awards announced

This year's ICIS Publications innovation awards, sponsored by Dow Corning, have been made to four companies in the UK, US and Canada.  

The winners, from a shortlist of 12, are Westech Aerosol Corp, Port Orchard, US, for best product innovation; SAM Electron Technologies, Shawnigan, Canada, for best process innovation; Halocarbon Products of North Augusta, US, for best innovation by an SME; and Oxonica, Oxford, UK, for the innovation with the best environmental benefit. 

Awards will be made later in the year and published in European Chemical NewsAsian Chemical News  and Chemical Market Reporter.

BP sells olefins group to Ineos

BP is to sell Innovene, its olefins, derivatives and refining group, to UK-based Ineos.  

The $9 billion (£5 billion) cash sale, subject to regulatory approvals, includes all Innovene's manufacturing sites, markets and technologies.  

The sale is expected to be concluded early in 2006 at which time payment will be received by BP. 

DuPont to offset energy impact

DuPont intends to raise prices for all products in light of increasing energy and feedstock costs. 

The company announced that record-high energy prices, exacerbated by Hurricane Katrina, will be a factor in the global energy outlook for the foreseeable future. 

'We are facing the unfortunate reality that the world has truly changed and energy prices are not receding, nor do we see signs of lower energy costs in the near future,' said DuPont chief marketing officer Diane Gulyas. 'This supply shock has affected all of our operations.' 

Crude oil prices for 2006 are expected to be above 2005 prices, which already represented a 44 per cent increase on 2004 prices, according to a DuPont report. Natural gas prices had doubled in the US in less than 12 months prior to the hurricane and almost tripled after the hurricane.

Industry, unions join skills debate 

The Chemical Industries Association (CIA) and trade unions representing the sector in the UK have issued a joint statement on skills in the industry.  

The statement covers the government's skills strategy; a report looking at future skill needs in the industry, along with views on science and chemistry education, and sustainable development.  

'Employers and trade unions are working together on these critical issues for the benefit of the whole of the chemical sector, including those vital sectors allied to it and society at large,' said Simon Marsh, CIA director of employment relations. 'Our new statement calls for action that will deliver the skills we need for a 21st century chemicals industry.'

Boost for GE Shanghai facility 

GE Healthcare is to invest $37.5 million (£21 million) in its production facility in Shanghai, China. The move is designed to meet increasing demand for products in China and worldwide.  

The Shanghai plant is undergoing a review process to be the first US Food and Drug Administration approved site for contrast media in China. Once approved, the plant will be able to supply product to the US and markets throughout the world. 

Demand for contrast media in China is expected to grow in double digits over the next five years, the company predicts. 

The Shanghai facility manufactures close to five million units of GE Healthcare's x-ray and magnetic resonance imaging products; Visipaque, Omnipaque and Omniscan. This investment will involve the expansion of the facility over the next two years to increase production capacity to 15 million units.  

Cefic: Reach fails industry 

The European chemical industry is disappointed with the outcome of the EU parliament environment committee vote on Reach (registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals). 

Cefic, the European chemical industry council, said the parliamentary committee backed changes that will make the system more bureaucratic and less workable. It reduced the requirements for safety data on chemicals produced in quantities of less than 10 tonnes per year, whereas, in September, the internal market committee voted to ease requirements for volumes less than 100 tonnes. 

'It is quite a step back in the sense that the industry and internal market committees came out in favour of an approach that better took into account a risk-based approach,' said Cefic spokesperson Annemarie Ojanperä. 

The parliamentary committee said authorisations should only be given for five years to encourage alternatives to be developed. It also supported compulsory substitution of hazardous chemicals. 

'The only positive was fewer requirements for substances produced at one to 10 tonnes per year,' said Ojanperä.

The parliamentary committees' amendments will be voted on in mid-November. 

Toxin detectors on trial 

Hand-held detectors based on Sandia National Laboratories' microChemLab could soon be checking for toxins and pathogenic bacteria in US water supplies.  

There is a liquid-phase prototype for biotoxin analysis and a gas-phase variant that takes measurements for chemical toxins in the gas phase. The units weigh about 11kg. 

The liquid microChemLab is currently being tested at the Contra Costa, California, water district. 

'Our goal is to place these sensors within utility water systems and use them to quickly determine if the water contains harmful bacteria and toxins,' says Wayne Einfeld of the sensor development focus area within Sandia's water initiative. 

Biodiesel tech transferred 

Kwikpower International, a renewable energy and fuels company, and technology transfer company the Utek Corporation, have completed a technology transfer to Kwikpower International in a securities exchange transaction.

The technology transferred is the licence to a process enabling the continuous conversion for onward sale of plant-based oils into biodiesel using a mobile refinery, a technology developed at the University of Cambridge, UK. 

The system uses a tubular oscillatory flow reactor. Conventional biodiesel plants require the use of large tanks which must be emptied and cleaned after each batch, say the new technology developers. 

'This technology offers real promise to allow us to reduce the time and cost of production of biodiesel from a variety of feedstocks, allowing biodiesel to compete on a level playing field with crude oil derived diesel,' said Jim Watkins, chief executive officer and chairman of Kwikpower. 

BASF and Japan's JGC to cooperate

German chemical company BASF and JGC Corporation, Japan, are jointly developing a technology for removing and storing the carbon dioxide contained in natural gas.  

The companies aim to develop a process that will cut 20 per cent off the cost of traditional methods. The collaboration, established for an expected term of eight years, is sponsored by the Japanese ministry of economy, trade and industry. 

Quantum dots commercialised 

The University of Manchester, UK, spin-out company Nanoco Technologies, has raised funding from three venture capital funds to commercialise its quantum dot manufacturing technology. 

The company says it will continue to invest in further developing the technology into applications in the electronics, biomedical and security sectors. 

Nanoco Technologies has also appointed Michael Edelman as its new chief executive officer. He will lead the development of the business and increase alliances with companies that apply nanotechnology in growing markets.  

'Dr Edelman's proven track record of building and leading successful teams and bringing new technologies to market makes him an ideal leader for this exciting and critical phase of Nanoco's development,' said company co-founder Paul O'Brien, head of chemistry at the University of Manchester. Edelman, a US national, also has a PhD in chemistry.