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HPIn Brief

09.01.2011  |  Thinnes, Billy,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX

Keywords: [Dow] [natural gas] [Angola] [KBR] [Singapore] [health and safety] [awards] [API] [NPRA]

Dow optimistic about natural gas

George Biltz, Dow Chemical’s vice president of energy and climate change, recently testified before a US Senate committee about the future of natural gas and the opportunity for a US manufacturing renaissance fueled by competitively priced natural gas.

“Natural gas can be a game changer. It can fuel a renaissance in American manufacturing, but only if we produce enough of it, use it wisely and don’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” Mr. Biltz said. “We can create the best opportunity if we enact policies to encourage natural gas production, avoid legislating natural gas demand and enact a comprehensive energy policy.”

Dow is one of the largest industrial users of natural gas, using it both as a fuel for heating, cooling and processing, as well as a raw material for the manufacturing of chemicals and other products. Manufacturers like Dow turn natural gas and natural gas liquids into routine products, such as insulation and food packaging, and advanced materials that support wind and solar energy.

Biltz informed the committee that using natural gas for manufacturing provides an eight-fold multiplier in value to the economy by adding jobs and products into the market. He said that research has shown that a 25% increase in ethane supply, a petrochemical byproduct of natural gas, would generate: 17,000 direct, high-paying jobs; $4.4 billion in annual tax revenue; a $33 billion increase in US chemical production; and $132 billion in US economic output.

Leveraging US natural gas reserves, Dow said it is investing more than $500 million on ethane cracking and ethylene supply improvements on the US Gulf Coast and has proposed further plans representing billions of dollars. The company is also focusing on increasing its ethylene and propylene production, as well as integrating feedstock supply from recent shale gas discoveries.

“The future of natural gas is very bright,” Mr. Blitz said.

Hestya Energy has signed an agreement to purchase the Wilhelmshaven oil refinery, tank farm and marine terminal in Germany from an affiliate of ConocoPhillips. Hestya will then restart the refinery, which has been mothballed for about two years. The Wilhelmshaven refinery is located on the German North Sea coast. It has a deepwater port and crude oil processing capacity of 260,000 bpd, making it one of Europe’s leading refineries in terms of scale. The refinery had been mothballed by ConocoPhillips for most of the past two years, following a May 2010 fire, that led to poor margins.

Industrial gases major Praxair has entered into a long-term environmental research collaboration with the State Key Lab of Pollution Control and Resource Reuse Study at Tongji University in Shanghai, China. Praxair will cooperate with Tongji University on the development of environmental technologies at the United Nations Environmental Program, Tongji Institute of Environment for Sustainable Development. Praxair has also established environmental scholarships to support study and research by Chinese students in several key environmental areas, including water treatment. The agreement was signed by Wu Jiang, vice president of Tongji University, and Ray Roberge, Praxair’s senior vice president and chief technology officer.

Engineering and construction major KBR has officially opened a new operating center in Luanda, Angola. Present at the opening ceremony for the facilities were senior executives from KBR; US and UK embassy staffers; and client executives from Sonangol, Chevron, BP and Total. KBR has been present on the African continent for nearly 60 years and in Angola since 1968.

While past projects have been focused primarily on the downstream and gas monetization sectors, the office opening is part of KBR’s strategic plan to expand geographically and diversify its in-country offerings with the goal of becoming an EPC company in the oil and gas sector, company officials said. Operations out of this facility include engineering, project management and construction management services. In preparation for the office opening, a group of 12 Angolan engineers have undergone significant training at KBR facilities in the UK and Houston.

Foster Wheeler announced that its Singapore subsidiary, Foster Wheeler Asia Pacific, won six workplace safety and health (WSH) awards in Singapore for performance in 2010. The awards are presented annually by the WSH Council, in collaboration with Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower. For the third year running, Foster Wheeler won a gold award for its overall safety performance in Singapore, the company said. The Foster Wheeler-led joint venture executing a major petrochemical project in Singapore has also won a silver award. In addition, a further four of the company’s projects in Singapore, namely a refinery modifications project and three others that form part of the major petrochemical project, each received safety and health recognition awards.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) and National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA) each issued statements of support after the US House of Representatives passed the North American-Made Energy Act, which seeks to speed up the permitting process for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The Keystone XL pipeline is an extension of the original Keystone pipeline owned by TransCanada that has been operational since June 2010. The Keystone XL would transport Canadian oil to the US Gulf Coast. The issue of granting final approval for the project has been held up by environmental concerns, wrangling in the US Congress and politics in general. The API contends that this project will generate 20,000 new US jobs, and says that investing in Canadian oil will support 600,000 Americans jobs by 2035. HP

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