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HPIn Brief

03.01.2012  |  Thinnes, Billy,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX

Keywords: [US demand] [plastic] [refiners] [independents] [integrated] [oil] [mergers and acquisitions] [United Nations] [UN]

US demand grows for wood-plastic composite

US demand for wood-plastic composite and plastic lumber is projected to advance by over 13% per year to $5.4 billion in 2015, creating a market for 2.6 billion pounds of plastic. Advances will be driven by a rebound in construction expenditures from a depressed 2010 base. Growth will be further boosted by increasing consumer demand for building products made from composite and plastic lumber, instead of more traditional materials, such as natural wood. These and other trends are presented in a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc.

Decking, which was the leading application for composite and plastic lumber in 2010, will experience the most rapid demand advances through 2015. Among other applications, molding and trim, as well as windows and doors, are expected to post the quickest demand gains through 2015. Homeowners will install windows and doors made from cellular PVC and composite lumber because of their resistance to rotting and resemblance to natural wood. Demand for composite and plastic lumber in landscape and outdoor products, fencing and other applications will be promoted by increasing consumer recognition of the performance properties of these materials.

Demand for wood-plastic composite lumber will post more rapid gains than that for plastic lumber through 2015, advancing over 16% annually to $2.5 billion. Gains will be driven by ongoing consumer interest in composite lumber as a substitute for natural wood products in such applications as decking and fencing. Moreover, because wood-plastic composite lumber incorporates recycled materials, it is seen as an environmentally friendly building material.

Plastic lumber demand is forecast to rise nearly 11% per year to $2.8 billion in 2015. Gains will be spurred by rising consumer interest in the material because of its low maintenance properties.

Deloitte has released a report predicting that the future of US refining is in the hands of the independents. The report says that, by the end of 2013, over 70% of US refining capacity could be controlled by independent refiners. This is in sharp contrast to 20 years ago, when the vast majority of US refining was done by integrated oil companies.

The total value of US oil and gas mergers and acquisitions increased significantly in 2011 due to continued investment in shale plays and related infrastructure, sustained interest from foreign buyers and private equity entrants deploying capital in the energy industry, according to a new report from professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. A major trend in the energy sector driving the increase in deal value throughout the year was a shift towards more investments in oil and liquid plays as natural gas prices remained depressed, hitting a 10-year low in 2011. In 2011, there were 191 deals with values greater than $50 million, accounting for $186.5 billion, a significant jump in total deal value from the $138.5 billion during 2010, which had five more announced deals. Average deal size also increased in 2011 to $977 million, a 38% jump from $706 million in 2010.

The director-general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization recently urged countries across Asia to commit to achieving sustainable energy. “Reaching the goal of sustainable energy for all will require action by all countries and all sectors to shape the policy and investment decisions needed for a brighter energy future,” Dr. Kandeh Yumkella said. “Industrialized countries must accelerate the transition to low-emission technologies. Developing countries, many of them growing rapidly and at large scale, have the opportunity to leapfrog conventional energy options and move directly to cleaner energy alternatives that will enhance economic and social development.” The UN has set three complementary objectives to be achieved by 2030: ensure universal access to modern energy services, double energy efficiency and double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

Aquaviridis has signed a commercial agreement with OriginOil to help develop the multi-phase algae production rollout at a site in Mexicali, Mexico. The two companies are heralding this as a potential model for algae sites throughout the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) region, with a focus on desert areas of the American Southwest and Mexico. OriginOil will provide its expertise to help develop growth and harvesting solutions. Aquaviridis plans to scale up from research and development to 10 acres of pilot algae production by the middle of this year. Commercial-scale production capacity is expected by the second quarter of 2013.

Brian MacDonald will soon replace Lynn Elsenhans as Sunoco CEO amid the company’s ongoing exit from the manufacturing industry and transition to a logistics and retail focus. US-based Sunoco announced last September that it plans to leave the refining business by mid-2012. Effective March 1, Mr. MacDonald will become president, CEO and director of Sunoco. He currently serves as senior vice president and chief financial officer for the company. Ms. Elsenhans will remain chairman of Sunoco and Sunoco Logistics until Sunoco’s annual shareholder’s meeting in May, at which time Mr. MacDonald will become chairman of both companies.

Eastman Chemical has agreed to acquire US-based specialty chemicals and performance materials firm Solutia, a global leader in performance materials and specialty chemicals, in a deal valued at about $4.7 billion (including debt). Eastman and Solutia share several key fundamentals, such as complementary technologies and business capabilities, a polymer science backbone, similar operating philosophies and a high performance culture, the companies said. HP

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