oleochemical Archives - Neil A Burns LLC

Surfactants Monthly Review – April 2016

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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…

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Surfactants Monthly Review – March 2016

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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….

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Surfactants Monthly Review – February 2016

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Surfactants Monthly Review – February 2016 February saw a number of earnings reports, which we’ll take a look at below. As always, most, but not all of the key data for this blog is sources from ICIS and I remind readers that if they really want to have this kind of data available in-depth and on a real time basis (that means, as it happens), then they should subscribe to the ICIS services. A further reminder is also necessary that, although I have a conference and training course business with ICIS, my recommendations of their news and price reporting services, result in no financial or other benefit to me. End of disclaimer: Beginning the month, ICIS reported that North American EO contracts fell 1.5% on an ethylene decline. January EO contracts were assessed at 48.80-58.30 cents/lb ($1,076-1,285/tonne) FOB from 49.60-59.10 cents/lb FOB in December. Similarly in China, EO prices declined, although a bit more sharply, that is by 8%. Prices of EO were assessed at yuan (CNY) 6,900/tonne EXWH (ex-warehouse) during the week ended 3 February, down from CNY7,500/tonne EXWH the previous week, according to ICIS data. Back on the Forces Majeure front, ICIS reported that Shell will likely restart…

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Surfactants Monthly Review – January 2016

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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…

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Surfactants Monthly – December 2015

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Surfactants Monthly Review – December 2015 If you are reading this over the New Year’s holiday can I ask you to click over to the 2016 Surfactant Value Chain Survey and do it now while things are quiet. It’s about 10 minutes. All respondents (who identify themselves) and attendees at my conferences in the coming year will see an analysis of the results. December was quiet, personally, professionally and industry-wise and that is just fine by me. Except of course, for the usual brace of force majeures (or should that be forces majeure? French readers please opine!) in EO and related products. Is it my imagination, or perhaps more complete reporting, or is the hardware out there in our corner of the chemical industry getting pushed harder than it has been in the recent past? Is this necessarily a bad thing? As we all know, when utilization is high, money is made and a side – effect can be an uptick in unplanned outages. Maybe these forces majeure are just a small tax on a more profitable operation. Conversely of course, they could be interpreted as symptomatic of neglected assets protesting after years of under-investment in preventive maintenance. I don’t have the…

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Surfactants Monthly – November 2015

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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…

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Surfactants Monthly – October 2015

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Surfactants Monthly – October 2015             For those that missed my “Open Letter to the Surfactants Industry” last month on LinkedIn. Here is the link. It addresses some themes that I have been thinking about for a while. I’d be interested in your comments. Some business items first: Coming up next week in Singapore, we have our 5th Asian Surfactants Conference with speakers from L’Oreal, Sime Darby, Croda, LMC, Momentive, Tata, Archroma, Buss, Nexant, Stepan and many others. This will be our biggest and best event yet and we have moved to the beautiful new Grand Copthorne Hotel, right on the waterfront of the Alexandra Canal. As usual prior to the conference, we have our one day training course on surfactant business essentials. As always in this monthly roundup most of the news comes to us courtesy of ICIS and their outstanding news service. I again encourage readers to consider a subscription. Kicking off this month with LAB news, a name which I am quite sure has not appeared in 7 years worth of our blog postings; Iran’s Entekhab Investment Development Group is planning to expand its business by adding new production facilities of expandable polystyrene (EPS), linear alkyl benzene…

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The Future of Oleochemicals – Neil Burns at PIPOC 2015

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As I said in the previous post, it was a great honour to talk in front of 2,500 people at this year’s International Palm Oil Conference (PIPOC), produced by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board. Here’s a video of the talk. If you are expecting an exposition of Angelina Jolie, that’s not me, it’s Carl Bek-Nielsen of United Plantations (a superb talk and speaker). In my talk, however, you will get a story around little packets of salt and a hugely abbreviated history of oleochemicals from the time of the “big bang” to the present day. If you like some of the themes explored here and the manner in which I explore them, I encourage you to join me for a day and a half in Singapore, November 19 – 20th (Thursday and Friday) for our Fifth Asian Surfactants Conference.

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Malaysian Palm Oil Board’s PIPOC 2015 – Review

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Notes on MPOB’s PIPOC in Malaysia October 6 – 8th, 2015 The excellent MPOB’s international palm oil congress (PIPOC) attracted about 8,000 to the KLCC in central Kuala Lumpur this month. I was honoured to be asked to speak again after my last appearance there in 2011. This being Malaysia and Palm Oil, the event was a big deal. Oil palm represents about 6% of Malaysian GDP, over 60% of exports and an employer of over 600,000 people. The industry is a key driver of the country’s ongoing transition to beyond emerging market status. The event was attended and opened by the Minister of Planation Industries and Commodities, Malaysia, YB Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas. Numerous members of government and ambassadors to Malaysia attended the opening ceremony. The six plenary lectures in the opening session set the tone for the entire event and took place in front of an attentive crowd of around 2,500. Here a few comments and my take on each:” Carl Bek-Nielsen, CEO of United Plantations Berhad opened with a talk on sustainability in the oil palm business. A remark which has stayed with me is the following “Like it or not, the proboscis monkey and the…

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Surfactants Monthly – September 2015

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Surfactants Monthly Summary – September 2105 As I prepare to head back over to Southeast Asia for our plenary speaking engagement on day 1 of PIPOC in KL, the following news from earlier in September caught my eye. Apparently Wilmar is not doing enough deals! This according to…. Wilmar. This news may come as a surprise to those of us who have followed the prolific company’s activities in surfactants and oleochemicals alone. However, the Kuok family has decided they need to kick it up a notch and therefore have brought in the former head of Goldman Sachs Southeast Asia Investment Banking unit, Hsin Yue Yong in a dealmaking role. It probably doesn’t hurt that Ms. Yong is the wife of the nephew of Wilmar’s CEO, Kuok Khoon Hong. However, with an almost 20 career with Goldman behind her, she is clearly no lightweight. Look for more deals going forward like Wilmar’s acquisition with First Pacific Co., of Australia’s largest baker, Goodman Fielder Ltd. Who knows, we may soon see the much anticipated big move into the North American surfactant value chain by Kuok family. This is my speculation only, I must add. However, if you’ve read this blog or attended…

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Surfactants Monthly – August 2015

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Surfactants Monthly – August 2015 August was a somewhat slow month for the industry and the blog. Nonetheless, even as we write, I’m on the way to a board meeting in Chicago, then over to Europe for a bunch of things including, of course our 4th ICIS Surfactant Conference in Berlin, September 17 – 18th. If you have not registered yet, there is still time and you’ll join over 100 of the most informed and networked people in the industry from companies including L’Oreal, BASF, Henkel, Vopak, Houghton, Jiahua, Syngenta, Kao, SIBUR, Evonik, Unger, Buss, IMCD, PTT, Ecogreen and many more – is that diverse enough for you? I should also remind you that the day before the conference starts, I am teaching the completely revamped “Surfactant Business Essentials” one-day course and that in fact may not have room left as we seek some additional space to accommodate registration. Please check the website for the current status and hopefully you will be able to register. In another commercial plug, which I hope you’ll indulge, most of the news items and links in this blog are from (and to) ICIS News. You are getting here a miniscule sampling of what they…

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Surfactants Monthly – April & May 2015 and World Surfactants Conference Notes

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The beginning of April saw Shell lifting the force majeure (FM) on ethylene oxide (EO) out of Moerdijk, the Netherlands. The Anglo-Dutch petrochemical producer first shut down its EO plant and declared FM due to a damaged heat exchanger last September, 2014. An FM on upstream ethylene and propylene supplies from the site followed, on the back of operational issues caused by a steam leak.

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