Processing news briefs, July 7

Methanex ... Sterling Chemical ... BP Amoco Chemicals ... Engelhard ... Sasol ... Norsk Hydro ... Trevisa Investimentos SA-Grupo Trevo ... Adubos Trevo

Methanex Corp., Vancouver, BC, closed its 500,000 tonne/year methanol plant in Kitimat, BC, July 1, due to significant cash losses due to very high input costs "in an increasingly competitive global methanol market." Methanex and its employees have been working hard to find a solution that will avoid a permanent closure of the facility, says Pierre Choquette, president and CEO of Methanex. The firm attempted to sell the plant to Acetex Corp., but the firms were unable to negotiate a final agreement. The Kitimat plant processes about 65% of the natural gas transported in the Pacific Northern Gas pipeline, says Methanex.

Methanex also has decided to shut down Sterling Chemicals Inc.'s Texas City, Tex., methanol plant for at least 6 months because of high natural gas prices in the US. Recently, Methanex made a production agreement with Sterling that gives it exclusive rights to output from Sterling's Texas City methanol plant. Methanex entered a separate agreement with BP Amoco Chemicals to fulfill its methanol requirements in Texas City and the Houston area.

An explosion at Liuhe Petrochemical's plant near Qingzhou, China, killed 10 people, it was reported Wednesday. The explosion caused fires that destroyed much of the plant, including 20-30 oil tanks, according to the Beijing Youth Daily. The cause of the incident is being investigated.

Engelhard Corp., Iselin, NJ, and South Africa's Sasol Ltd. on Wednesday announced a manufacturing and supply agreement under which Engelhard will produce an advanced Fischer-Tropsch base-metal catalyst for Sasol affiliate Sasol Technology Pty. Ltd. The catalyst technology, developed by Sasol and scaled up by Engelhard, will be used in the first commercial plants using Sasol's proprietary method for converting natural gas to liquid hydrocarbons. Engelhard has designed and will soon begin construction on a $20 million expansion at its catalyst manufacturing plant in DeMeern, the Netherlands. The new capacity will be devoted to production of Sasol's Fischer-Tropsch catalyst. Engelhard and Sasol are sharing the cost of the expansion.

Norsk Hydro AS, the Norwegian oil and energy, light metals, and fertilizer group, has signed an agreement with Trevisa Investimentos SA-Grupo Trevo to purchase all the outstanding shares in the Brazilian fertilizer company Adubos Trevo SA. Hydro has also signed a share subscription agreement with a group of Brazil�s leading banks to convert their credits in Trevo into equity. Founded in 1930, Trevo traditionally has been ranked the third largest fertilizer company in Brazil, where it holds a market share of 10%. Due to an unsuccessful expansion plan and the introduction of the new currency regime in the mid-1990s, the company has struggled with financial problems since 1996. While sales in 1994 were 1.6 million tonnes, only 0.5 million tonnes were sold in 1999.

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