If anyone was wondering about the outlook in the petrochemicals industry then they need look no further than the past month’s news, which has been full of eyewatering investments upstream, and even downstream.

Perhaps the most significant declaration was made by The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), which is to invest upwards of AED 165 billion (US$45bn) over the next five years to expand its refining and petrochemical operations at Ruwais, UAE. ADNOC plans to create the world’s largest and most advanced integrated refining and petrochemicals complex and increase its volume of high-value downstream products. For this it is seeking partnership and co-investment opportunities.

Not to be outdone by its Middle East neighbours, Qatar Petroleum (QP) has invited a group of international companies to submit proposals to create partnerships with it in the development and operation of a world-scale petrochemicals complex at Ras Laffan Industrial City. The complex will include an ethane cracker with a capacity of more than 1.6 million tonnes per year of ethylene, making it the largest ethane cracker in the Middle East, and one of the largest in the world.

If things come in threes, then petrochemical giant Total takes this to the extreme, as it is involved in a trio of major olefins projects already this year. The company has signed an agreement with Algeria’s Sonatrach to launch engineering studies for a petrochemical project in the west of the country, and is also working on a mixed-feed world-scale steam cracker in Saudi Arabia with Saudi Aramco and a joint venture ethylene-polyethylene expansion in the US. The jv is a three-way project involving Total, Borealis and Nova Chemicals.

Costing a little less to implement than these projects, Klöckner Pentaplast’s Pharmaceutical & Medical Device Films Division, kp Pharma, has invested €5 million ($5.9m) in its facility in Cotia, Brazil to enable new products to be manufactured in the region, and sheet extrusion machinery maker Processing Technologies International (PTI) has opened a 15,000sqft Technology Development Centre (TDC) at its headquarters in Aurora, Illinois (USA).

Also in the US, when the NPE show took place in Orlando, Florida, there were a number of acquisitions in the domestic market. Novolex is acquiring The Waddington Group, a manufacturer of packaging and disposables servicing the foodservice, bakery, and confectionery markets, while reusables packaging producer Orbis Corporation completed the purchase of Ohio-based thermoformer Hinkle Manufacturing, and Tekni-Plex acquired both Commodore Plastics and Commodore Technology, which will now operate under a newly-formed subsidiary called Dolco LLC.  

In other M&A activity, Novio Packaging joined forces with Danish converter Scandinavian Packaging, Luxembourg-based caps and closures producer United Caps acquired Spanish firm Embalatap, Dutch converter Weener Plastics (WP) Group acquired Colombian pharmaceutical and cosmetics plastics packaging solutions provider Proenfar, and Finnish converter Huhtamaki gained access to the Australian market by buying a majority stake in foodservice packaging distributor Tailored Packaging.

Across the water in China, Engel has completed the largest investment programme in its history in the Asian country, while speciality chemicals firm Clariant confirmed that it is making good progress with the implementation of its China strategy, which was launched in 2016 and aims to increase production capacity and provide more local cooperation.

Barely a month goes by without some marine litter related news, and May was no exception. Austrian polyethylene and polypropylene producer Borealis has joined in the mission to tackle ocean plastics by providing funding for the second phase of the project Stop Ocean Plastics (STOP). This phase is designed to focus on city partnership, and Muncar, a fishing port in Indonesia has been chosen since the country is considered the second largest after China to suffer from excessive marine litter.

Meanwhile, the British Plastics Federation (BPF) welcomed the British Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledge of £61.4m ($88m) towards tackling the issue of plastics waste.

In sunnier climes, an all-women plastics research voyage called North Pacific 2018 sets sail this month from Hawaii and will head to Vancouver in Canada and then Seattle, USA, finishing at the end of July. Reverse vending recycling supplier TOMRA has signed up as the title sponsor for eXXpedition’s journey across the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.


And finally…

The Canary Wharf Group in London has launched the UK’s first on-site deposit return scheme that will enable visitors to recycle their single-use plastics bottles and cans. The automated machine has been supplied by Norway’s RVM Systems.

The initiative follows the successful ‘Wake Up and Smell the Coffee’ campaign launched in 2017 to recycle coffee cups, lids and coffee grounds at Canary Wharf with 664,285 coffee cups recycled instead of going to landfill.

That’s certainly some news worth tweet Tweeting about.