Category Archives: Uncategorized

Surfactants Review – July 2017

By | Monthly Reviews, Uncategorized | No Comments

Surfactants Monthly Review – July 2017 From Coatzacoalcos to the Cantons.. This month we look again at the issue of freedom in our markets. The blog asks the question; can Pemex of Mexico teach Clariant of Switzerland, something on this subject. Mere months ago, this questions would seem preposterous. Today, I’m not so sure. Read on… This month’s first piece is pulled from the an article by the excellent Al Greenwood in ICIS Chemical business and is one which I have waited a long time to read. All comments in bold are mine. Reality finally comes to the Mexican EO Market! In another outstanding analysis, Al writes that Mexican state producer Pemex completed an electronic auction to award supplies of ethylene oxide (EO) to customers in the country.
Pemex said 10 businesses participated in the auction. 
Pemex did not disclose any prices, but said that it was at a level that balanced supply and demand (Wait, what!? Price settles at a level that balances supply and demand? What heresy is this?) Moreover, it exceeded the historical price (surprise!). 
Pemex called the auction a success (Duh..) and said that it left behind the previous cumbersome practice of allocating volumes and prices by the state…

Read More

Surfactants Monthly – June 2017

By | Monthly Reviews, Uncategorized | No Comments

Surfactants Monthly – June 2017 1776, NEPIC and the common good.. On this Independence Day here in the US, I think back to my homeland in the UK as I did one year ago in the blog. Mid June, I had the privilege, again, to attend the annual meeting of NEPIC, the Northeast Process Industries Cluster in Teeside in the Northeast of England. This meeting marked the retirement of the first CEO and founder of this outstanding trade organization, Stan Higgins. NEPIC was formed as a voluntary association of companies promoting industry in the Northeast and over 13 years has been incredibly successful. As Stan mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago, in the beginning it was just him, an overhead projector and a whole lot of doubt about the future of the UK chemical industry and the Northeast in particular. Since 2004, 83 process sector investment projects have been delivered in the region valued at £4.3 billion. There are more than 1,400 companies directly involved or in the supply chain of the chemical process industries, generating £26 billion of annual sales. Together they employ 190,000 people and the sector exports £12 billion each year – making this region the only net…

Read More

Surfactants Monthly – March and April 2017

By | Monthly Reviews, Uncategorized | No Comments

Surfactants Monthly Short-Review – March and April, 2017 Decisions, decisions… First the commercials: All the news this week is courtesy of ICIS. Consider subscribing to their dashboard to get the rest of the stories that are mentioned here. And, of course, if you like what you read here, please consider our upcoming conference in New York, May 17-19 At this flagship event, hundreds of industry leaders will take part in the first surfactant industry awards. You will be amazed at the work and preparation which went into the nominations and entries to this event. “You gotta be there” at the conference to attend the awards. It will be a great time. You’ll learn a lot, meet some great business contacts and make better decisions in your professional life as a result. Don’t miss it. We’ll be spending time talking about decisions, why they are hard, even physically exhausting and how you can make better ones. I won’t give too much away here, but I will examine what I have come to refer to as the “Oprah Effect”. Love her or not, Oprah is talented, focused, driven, hard working, successful, influential and very rich. She’s got a lot to teach the…

Read More

Surfactants Monthly – February 2017

By | Monthly Reviews, Uncategorized | No Comments

Surfactants Monthly Review – February, 2017 The Russians are Coming! Before the bulk of our surfactants news, a quick personal update. As many of you know, I have been spending an increasing portion of my time as CEO of a venture-backed technology start-up, P2 Science. In February, we closed on our B round of equity financing, bringing in $9.55 Million of new investment into the company. This was accomplished primarily by bringing in two large new investors, BASF Ventures and Xeraya Capital. BASF, I think everyone knows. Ventures is their venture capital company. Xeraya is based in Malaysia and is very active in the life sciences and health sectors. P2 is their first chemical investment. With this new capital, the company starts to build our first commercial manufacturing plant for F&F ingredients. The proprietary chemical manufacturing technology ( no bugs, algae, yeast, enzymes etc..) has been developed and patented over the last five years at our labs in New Haven and Woodbridge, CT. To learn more you can read the PR on our website and on BASF’s. OK back to surfactants, with the news courtesy largely of ICIS. Subscribe to their dashboard to get the rest of the stories that are…

Read More

Surfactants Monthly – January 2017

By | Monthly Reviews, Uncategorized | No Comments

Surfactants Monthly – January 2017  January is always ACI month in the surfactants calendar. This year’s ACI was distinguished by the return of Burns and Muir (this time with Blackmon and Campbell) to the winner’s (2nd place) podium at the P&G golf outing. The rich prize money was, on this occasion, dwarfed by the prestigious Tide trophy which will receive pride of place on our mantelpiece (once the detergent inside has been used). If you’re looking for a summary of ACI proceedings here or some Page Six style ACI gossip, stop reading now (and by the way, get a life, if it was the gossip you were after). We don’t do that here because, as regular readers know, “you gotta be there” is our attitude to industry events. If you did miss the ACI, I suppose your only recourse (in addition possibly to going to Confession) is to make sure you absolutely do not miss our 7th ICIS Surfactants Conference, May 17 – 19th in Jersey City, NJ. The blog is being written while the superbowl pre-game chunters on in the background. For our industry, a superbowl of sorts has already been playing out all of last year and is…

Read More

2016 Retrospective

By | Perspectives, Uncategorized | No Comments

2016 Retrospective Division This is not the December 2016 Surfactant Review. That is in a separate post, at this link. This post here consists of some of my thoughts about 2016 and the near future, interspersed with topical music video mostly from my youth. By reading this post, you will likely not learn much, if anything, about surfactants. So, if it is surfactants news and analysis you are after, go to this link for our December 2016 Surfactants Monthly. End of disclaimer. 2016 was characterized as one of “division” and much popular opinion deemed it therefore a bad year and one to be dismissed with “good riddance”. In fact, just today (December 28th), a 2016 good riddance party was held in New York. Of course it seems that division is the worst characterization of all that can be made of any situation and divisiveness is right up there with the sloth, gluttony et al in the popular firmament of modern sins. In any event, 2016 is being branded the year of division for reasons which I understand but into which I think we should dig a little deeper. Looking back in even recent history, one sees much greater division and…

Read More

Surfactant Monthly Review – October 2016

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

October 2016 – Surfactants Monthly The nine most terrifying words… October was a big news month and so I won’t waste a lot of time on commercials except to note that, next week, I’ll be in Singapore for a bunch of meetings and the sixth Asian Surfactant Conference in Singapore. Please join me there, November 8 – 9th at the Marina Bay Sands. On Monday the 7th we have our business training course. I also want to remind readers that if you like this news content, you can get stuff like this every single day, all day, 24/7, 365 (get the picture!) at www.icis.com. Subscribe to the dashboard, like I do. You won’t regret it. Now the news: In Berlin, the talk was all about Palm and I expect the same in Singapore next week. As reported by ICIS, Malaysia’s crude palm oil (CPO) production increased for the second month running in September, but crude palm kernel oil (CPKO) production declined after recovering in August, according to official data from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board.
The country saw its CPO production increased from 1,701,831 tonnes in August to 1,715,125 tonnes in September, marking a second consecutive month of increase, but still…

Read More
Love - to the Seventh Generation

Surfactant Monthly Review – September 2016

By | Monthly Reviews, Uncategorized | No Comments

September 2016 – Surfactants Monthly The highlight of the month for me, of course, was the trip to Berlin and the 5th ICIS European Surfactant Conference. We were fortunate enough to have one of ICIS’ young up-and-coming journalists cover the whole thing for us so I will post a few links to Melissa Bartlett’s surfactant articles in a separate post. Coming up next month we have the 6th (already!) Asian Surfactant Conference in Singapore. Please join me there, November 8 – 9th at the Marina Bay Sands. As always, the day before, we have our business training course as an optional extra for all conference attendees. End of commercial. Here’s the news: A big new refinery project in China will include ethylene oxide capacity, according to ICIS. China’s Zhejiang Rongsheng is building a joint venture refinery-petrochemical complex in Zhoushan, with the first phase due to start up in late 2018.
The yuan (CNY) 160bn ($24bn) project, which will be built in two phases in China’s eastern Zhejiang province, is expected to have an overall refining capacity of 40m tonnes/year or 800,000 bbl/day. 
It will have an ethylene capacity of 2.8m tonnes/year, with aromatics production estimated at 10.4m tonnes/year, and will include a propane dehydrogenation (PDH)…

Read More

August 2016 – No Review this Month – Music Videos Instead

By | Monthly Reviews, Uncategorized | No Comments

No Monthly Review for August – Music Videos Instead This month was consumed by work and a proper vacation for a welcome change. Instead of a surfactants review, therefore, I am going to pull a selection of music videos that represent, for me some themes of the summer that just passed. Allow some time for this whole post to load.. First for those who worked all summer, who better than Bananarama from the early 80’s: Some classic NYC scenes, including from Jersey City.. If you are still feeling regretful about working instead of the basting on the beach, consider this classic from Madness. Going one step beyond in your work is OK. Don’t be ashamed of it. Just make sure you do it in all your walks of life, not just work.. As I trawled the internet looking for songs this summer, I got to thinking just how many songs feature, in a very glamorous light, towns and cities in the USA, some very small. For example, even my little adopted home-town, Freehold, NJ has its own paean written and sung by Bruce Springsteen here.. I distinctly remember coming to the US in 1984 and going on my first business trip…

Read More

Surfactants Monthly Review – July 2016

By | Monthly Reviews, Uncategorized | No Comments

Surfactants Monthly – July 2016 Of Bucks Fizz, Kim and a Pricey Razor Herewith our summary for the month of July, as always, with the much appreciated help of the news team at ICIS. I strongly urge readers who want real-time news across the whole chemicals value chain to subscribe to the dashboard. “We’re from the government and we’re here to help” – words to cast a chill over any industry and the US cleaning industry is no exception. As reported at the beginning of the month, the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) wants to reduce or eliminate the government encouraged, use of animal fats in biodiesel. The reason is that its members are losing out to biofuels under EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Animal fats are a key feedstock for oleochemical producers, which help supply makers of soap, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, hard surface cleaners, dish detergents and personal care products, as well as many other everyday consumer and industrial products.
”The proposed (RFS) volumes would continue to divert large quantities of a finite, inelastic supply of animal fats to the biofuels market, thereby critically disadvantaging the domestic oleochemical industry,” said Jacob Cassady, ACI associate director of government affairs.
”EPA has a responsibility, if…

Read More

Surfactants Monthly Review – June 2016

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Surfactants Monthly Review – June 2106 We hold these truths to be self-evident.. Yesterday in our small New Jersey town, I participated in the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence in front of the town hall. Each volunteer gets to read a line from the document and the whole crowd joins in to read the last paragraph together. Since, I am a US citizen by immigration, I have been able to take a fresh look at this amazing statement from an outsiders and insiders perspective. The greatest among the many phrases which strike an emotional chord for me is this one: “We hold these truths to be self evident” After the introductory paragraph, telling the reader what the document is, we get straight to the meat and I love this phrase for everything it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say that the best and brightest have discovered these truths. It doesn’t say that they convened an expert panel or surveyed a sample of adults in key demographics. It doesn’t say that “we have decided” or deduced that these are the truths: They are just self evident; surely the most revolutionary statement on the human condition in thousands of years. On…

Read More

Surfactants Monthly Review – April 2016

By | Monthly Reviews, Uncategorized | No Comments

Surfactants Monthly Review April 2016 – of Bowie and Bonds   With May underway, I’m focused now on our 6th ICIS World Surfactants Conference in NYC, which I feel duty-bound to shill for just a little bit here. This is the first of our conferences to feature a pre-seminar, this one on bio-surfactants. We’ll have over 200 people at the conference and 100 at the seminar alone. Among many other things, we’ll have the chance to hear an investigative reporter from the Wall Street Journal talk about what she found when she looked into consumer cleaning product marketing and label claims. You’ll be pretty surprised to hear about some superb old-fashioned sleuthing and what it uncovered. Tangentially surfactant related: I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about David Bowie recently. That he was a musical inventor who stretched boundaries and crossed over many markets, is well known. Lesser known is his financial innovation of being the first musician to securitize and sell future cashflows from music royalties in the form of what came to be known in the financial world as “Bowie bonds”. This enabled the music icon to enjoy the fruits of his labors “today” while not losing…

Read More

Surfactants Monthly Review – March 2016

By | Monthly Reviews, Uncategorized | No Comments

Surfactants Monthly Review March 2016 – Of Kardashians and Canaries This month’s blog posting, is brief primarily due to a heavy travel schedule during April. As many blog readers and conference attendees know, I am fond of working pop culture references into my analyses of the surfactant industry. For that reason, I was most impressed by the question raised in a recent issue of ICIS Chemical Business, i.e. “Could BPA be the Kim Kardashian of Petrochemicals”, referencing the controversy that rages whenever BPA (bis-Phenol A) is mentioned in polite company. Attendees at 2015’s World Surfactant Conference in NYC will recall our discussion of certain members of the hip-hop fraternity and conclusion that Solvay could well be the “Kanye West of the Surfactant Industry”. West, of course as notorious for being married to Ms. Kardashian as he is for borrowing riffs and hooks from the pop music pantheon for his own work. Solvay was quite happy with this light hearted metaphor until earlier this year, when West got into some financial difficulties as a result of, let’s say, debt to various private and public entities. Solvay let me know, with surprising speed thereafter, that they carry very prudent levels of leverage….

Read More

Surfactants Monthly Review – January 2016

By | Monthly Reviews, Uncategorized | No Comments

Surfactants Monthly Review – January 2016 January was ACI month of course, when the final week held the 90th anniversary meeting in Orlando, FL. You will not read any reports or analysis of what happened at ACI here in this blog. Why not? Regular readers know I have a philosophy that can be summed up as “You gotta be there”. If you want to benefit from some event or conference or tradeshow then, you know, be there. So no gossip or tidbits or what have you from ACI in this blog. ACI themselves has published some news from the meeting here. If you really want to be involved in the cleaning industry, then sign up and or join for next year. End of sermon. What we do write about here is news from a variety of sources, drawing heavily on ICIS News. We co-produce a series of conferences and training courses with ICIS on surfactants, but otherwise I have no specific interest in promoting ICIS News, except that it is a great product which I use on a daily basis. Interlaced among the news here is my own opinion, which I try to clearly label as such. I hope you…

Read More

Surfactants Monthly – November 2015

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Surfactants Monthly Review – November 2015 The highlight of November for me was, of course our 5th ICIS Asian Surfactants conference. With some new and familiar speakers, we learned a lot about China, India, Southeast Asia and the growing impact of the palm companies all the way down the surfactant value chain. Here’s some of the news that impacted surfactants during the month.: Pemex, in Mexico continues to attempt its transisiton from a government owned monopoly to a productive independent company. That was the company line at APLA, the Latin American Petrochemical Association Meeting.
Pemex controls not just energy and basic petrochemicals like ethylene, but also ethylene oxide (EO). 
The company has some ambitious project plans, including for an EO corridor. 
The corridor project will cost $200m, according to Alejandro Martínez Sibaja, general director of Pemex’s Industrial Transformation subsidiary. It will be built around the existing EO capacity in the Cangrejera and Morelos petrochemical complexes. Apparently EO demand exceeds supply (at least at the historically discounted Pemex pricing) and hence the need for the corridor. Sibaja has also hinted at a willingness to work with a JV partner on this. However, an executive said last year that Pemex was in the engineering…

Read More