Issue Date: May 10, 2004
Rohm and Haas will build a research and technical center in Shanghai that could become as large as the firm's main R&D site in Spring House, Pa. CEO Raj L. Gupta announced at the company's annual meeting last week that the facility will open by the end of 2005 and support all of the company's businesses. Employment, expected to be 225 initially, could reach 1,000 when the center is fully occupied in a few years. Gupta noted that it was just over 40 years ago that the company decided to build the Spring House complex, which today employs about 1,100. "I expect this new research center in China to become just as important in enhancing our innovation capabilities and driving new product development in the future," he said.
Dow closing New Jersey plant
Dow Chemical is closing a plant in Bound Brook, N.J., this summer that makes Unigard flame-retardant and semiconductive polymer compounds used for wire and cable applications. The plant employs about 65 people. The company will transfer production to units on the Gulf Coast, particularly its Seadrift, Texas, plant. However, Dow says it will increasingly use the Bound Brook site, once part of Union Carbide, for business development and R&D.
ChevronTexaco MolecularDiamond Technologies says it has produced gram quantities of higher diamondoids, which it will make available immediately for applications R&D. The diamondoids it has made contain diamond lattices of four or more crystal cages. Such higher diamondoids have potential applications in pharmaceuticals, optics, and electronics. ChevronTexaco can also make the lower diamondoids diamantane and triamantane. "Nanotechnology researchers have for years imagined what they might be able to make with higher diamondoids, but until now they have been able to explore those ideas only with molecular simulation studies," says Bob Carlson, one of the discoverers of diamondoids in petroleum.
Bayer will start construction later this year on a $100 million hexamethylene diisocyanate (HDI) plant in Caojing, China. The firm plans to have 30,000 metric tons per year of capacity onstream by 2006 and another 20,000 metric tons in a second phase of the project. Bayer plans some $3.1 billion in construction projects for the integrated petrochemical production complex in Caojing. It is also building a polycarbonate plant there by 2006. And it plans methylene diphenyl diisocyanate and toluene diisocyanate (TDI) plants there by the end of the decade. Bayer already operates an aliphatic isocyanate plant on the site that uses HDI as a raw material. It is building a plant to produce an aromatic isocyanate based on TDI by the end of the year. "China's importance for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry will increase further in the coming years," Bayer Chairman Werner Wenning says. "Bayer wants to play a leading role in the economic development of the People's Republic."
Solutia gets new leaders
Jeffry N. Quinn, 45, has been named president and CEO of the bankrupt chemical company Solutia, succeeding John C. Hunter, 57. Luc De Temmerman, 49, will succeed Robert A. Clausen, 59, as senior vice president and chief operating officer. Hunter and Clausen will retire on May 31. Quinn is currently Solutia's senior vice president, general counsel, and chief restructuring officer. De Temmerman is now vice president and general manager of the firm's performance products division.
Lenzing buys Lyocell unit
Austrian cellulose fibers maker Lenzing has purchased Tencel from CVC Capital Partners' Corsadi unit. CVC tried to buy Lenzing in 2001 but the European Commission nixed the deal. Tencel operates 80,000 metric tons of annual capacity for the wood-pulp-based fiber Lyocell in Mobile, Ala., and Grimsby, U.K. Its sales in 2003 were about $115 million, and it employs 350. Lenzing has about 40,000 metric tons of Lyocell capacity in Heiligenkreuz, Austria. "We are tripling our Lyocell capacity and thereby reaching the critical size that is necessary for a sustainable and profitable Lyocell operation," says Thomas Fahnemann, chairman of Lenzing's managing board. Tencel has its origins as a part of Courtaulds, and subsequently, Acordis. Both Lenzing and Courtaulds licensed the Lyocell technology from Akzo Nobel.
Genencor hikes Japan presence
Genencor International has assumed majority ownership and a controlling interest in its eight-year-old Japanese enzymes joint venture with Kyowa Hakko Kogyo and has renamed the venture Genencor Kyowa Co. Ltd. Genencor, which values the Japanese market for industrial enzymes at more than $200 million per year, says it increased its 50% stake in the venture to more rapidly expand its business in Japan. Genencor executive Michael J. Vang has been named the venture's president.
Citing increased foreign competition, Albany Molecular Research Inc. (AMRI) last week detailed disappointing first-quarter financial results and announced plans to close its Mount Prospect Research Center near Chicago. The company reported that total revenue for the first quarter of 2004 decreased by 9.2%, to $40.8 million, compared with the first quarter of 2003. Contract revenue for the quarter decreased by 8.9% to $30.8 million. AMRI says that it will consolidate the Illinois center's operations--which include biocatalysis, drug metabolism screening, research fermentation, and a portion of AMRI's chemical development synthesis group--with its research facility in Albany, N.Y., later this year. The company says it is offering relocation options to about 40 of the 58 current employees in Mount Prospect.
Glassell shows up at Cerus
Claes Glassell, formerly chief operating officer of Cambrex, will replace Stephen Isaacs as CEO of Cerus, a biopharmaceutical firm specializing in DNA and RNA replication. When Glassell, 53, resigned last year from Cambrex he was considered heir apparent to CEO James Mack. Industry sources say Glassell, whose eight-year tenure at Cambrex included heading its pharmaceutical division, left Cambrex when Mack decided not to retire as planned. Cerus says Isaacs, 55, a company cofounder, decided to retire voluntarily from his position as CEO and from the board effective May 10.
Chemical demand jumps in March
U.S. chemical shipments surged in March, according to the latest seasonally adjusted data from the Commerce Department. The value of all chemical shipments rose 3.7% from February and was 7.2% ahead of March 2003. Inventories, meanwhile, rose just 1.0% from the previous month, but were up 5.5% from March of last year. Thus, the inventories-to-shipments ratio fell to 1.34 from 1.38 in February and 1.36 in the same month a year ago. The chemical industry, excluding pharmaceuticals, did even better, with shipments up 4.7% month-to-month and rising 12.9% from March of last year. Inventories were up just 0.4% from February and were unchanged from year-earlier levels, resulting in a decline in the inventories-to-shipments ratio to 1.02 from 1.04 in February and 1.14 in March 2003.
Petrobras to control Triunfo
Petroquisa, Brazilian national oil company Petrobras' chemical arm, is exercising an option to buy an additional 15% interest in Petroquímica Triunfo from Primera Indústria e Comércio (PIC). Triunfo has 160,000 metric tons per year of low-density polyethylene capacity downstream from the Copesul ethylene cracker in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but with the purchase, Petroquisa will increase its stake in the voting capital of Triunfo from 45% to 60%. Dow Chemical has a 25% interest in PIC.
MG Technologies will move another step toward its exit from the chemical business with the planned sale of Dynamit Nobel Kunststoff to U.S. automotive supplier Flex-N-Gate for about $515 million. Headquartered in Germany, DNK supplies molded plastics to carmakers worldwide. MG recently announced the sale of the rest of Dynamit Nobel to Rockwood Specialties for $2.7 billion (C&EN, April 26, page 9). The sale of Solvadis, a chemical trading business, is proceeding as planned, MG says, and will complete the exit from chemicals.
DOD drops Arch for hydrazine
The Department of Defense has awarded SpaceChem, a division of Santa Maria, Calif.-based United Paradyne, a 20-year contract with a potential value of $159 million to supply hydrazine for rocket fuel. According to DOD, SpaceChem was awarded the project in a government bid over Arch Chemical, the government's current hydrazine supplier, and a third bidder. Hydrazine will be produced in a new facility in Corinth, Miss., set to open in 2007 and based on hydrazine technology from Paris-based SNPE. SpaceChem plans to manufacture monomethyl hydrazine, unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, and high-purity hydrazine. Arch's hydrazine contract expired on April 20; however, Arch will continue to supply DOD until the SpaceChem facility opens. An Arch source says the firm may file an appeal pending a meeting with DOD. Arch, currently the sole U.S. producer of hydrazine, has supplied DOD for more than 50 years.
Degussa will work with China's Changchun Jida High Performance Materials to develop high-temperature polymers. Degussa says Jida polymers will complement products such as polyamide 12 and polybutylene terephthalate from its high-performance polymers unit.
ICI has completed the sale of the food ingredients business of its Quest International subsidiary to Kerry Group for $440 million in cash. ICI says it will use the net proceeds of some $365 million to reduce debt.
DuPont has completed the sale of Invista, its former textiles and interiors unit, to Koch Industries for $4.2 billion. Koch says Invista's strengths in nylon and spandex complement the polyester capabilities of its KoSa unit.
Air Products & Chemicals and Kinetic Systems are let- ting the operating contract for their TriMega joint venture expire. The venture provides support and services to the U.S.-based semiconductor industry. The partners say the agreement reflects the industry's shift to Asia.
National Petrochemical Industrial Co., a joint venture between Saudi Arabia's Alujain Corp., Xenel Industries, and other investors, is licensing Basell's Spheripol technology for a 400,000-metric-ton-per-year polypropylene plant planned for Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, for the first quarter of 2007. Tecnimont will be the engineering contractor for the unit.
Pharmacopeia has completed the spin-off of its drug discovery unit and expects to rename itself Accelrys, the name of its remaining business in drug discovery instrumentation and bioinformatics. Pharmacopeia Drug Discovery has been established as an independent, separately traded company based in Princeton, N.J.
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