Business digest

C&I Issue 11, 2022

Read time: 5 mins

Belgian-French chemical company Solvay has taken full ownership of its joint venture stake Solvay Special Chem Japan (SSCJ) by acquiring 33% of the minority shares from Santoku Corporation. The acquisition advances Solvay’s capabilities in the production of rare earth specialities used for emissions control in automotive, semiconductor processing and other emerging technologies, including solid-oxide fuel cells.

Solvay has also announced it is working with 3TREES, a Chinese building materials manufacturer, to develop building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) thermoplastic polyolefin roofing membranes that comply with new 25-year weathering requirements. The project will support China’s goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 by accelerating the adoption of distributed rooftop BIPV installations. The demand for BIPV products continues to rise globally, driven by construction projects, new material options and growing consumer preference for sustainable solutions.

Swedish specialty chemicals company Perstorp has been acquired by Petronas Chemicals Group Berhad, a Malaysian integrated chemicals provider and part of oil and gas company Petronas Group.

Secop, a German manufacturer of hermetic compressors for cooling circuits for mobile battery-driven applications, commercial and medical cold chain refrigeration, and B Medical Systems, a Luxembourg-based manufacturer of medical refrigeration, blood management and vaccine cold chain equipment have announced a development agreement. They will develop solutions for a new generation of medical transport boxes to safely store and transport vaccines, biospecimens and other temperature-sensitive specimens at ultra-low temperatures, even in locations with tropical ambient conditions.

Swiss speciality chemicals company Clariant has launched a portfolio of flexible custom solutions for the emerging market of chemical plastics recycling. Their new HDMax catalysts and Clarit adsorbents are designed for the purification of pyrolysis oil made from hard-to-recycle mixed plastic waste. They are tailored to remove a wide range of contaminants that are continuously changing in the feed.

Indian CRDMO Aragen has announced that its new formulation manufacturing facility in the Mallapur campus, Hyderabad, India will be operational by January 2023. The 1100m2 site will include a wide range of dosage form capabilities for oral solids, liquids, topicals, films, and manufacturing technologies for granulation, film coating, spray drying and tableting – with expansion plans in place to add nano milling and hot melt extrusion capabilities.

Vianode, owned by Elkem, Hydro and Altor, which produces advanced battery materials with a greener footprint has announced the opening of the Vianode Technology Center in Kristiansand, Norway as it expands its R&D efforts and recruits more battery materials scientists. The opening comes after September’s investment of around NOK 2bn ($194m) to create a new industrial plant at Herøya, Norway, which will produce anode graphite for about 20,000 electric vehicles (EVs) per year by 2024. The plant construction will be carried out in parallel with preparations for a second phase plant scaled to provide battery materials to 2m EVs per year by 2030, covering a significant share of the global EV market.

US American life sciences company Agilent Technologies has opened a Dissolution Centre of Excellence facility in Craven Arms in the UK. The newly modernised premises will house the core of Agilent’s dissolution business, including R&D, quality, support, applications and marketing.

US biopharma Amgen has completed its $3.7bn acquisition of US biotech ChemoCentryx, a company focused on orally administered therapeutics to treat autoimmune diseases, inflammatory disorders and cancer.

US specialty materials company Ascend Performance Materials has developed two materials for electric vehicles that improve safety and passenger comfort. Starflam X-Protect is a flame-retardant nylon 66 that withstands exposure to 1100°C direct flame for 15 minutes. Ascend’s researchers have also created a novel solution to dampen noise, vibration and harshness in EVs. Vydyne AVS is a new engineered material effective at damping high-frequency vibrations from noise sources like motors and compressors, which translates into an 80% reduction in cabin sound pressure.

INEOS O&P Europe has announced a €30m investment in the conversion of its plant in Lillo, at the Port of Antwerp, to enable its existing capacity to produce either monomodal or bi-modal grades of high-density polyethylene (HDPE).

CF Industries, a US manufacturer and distributor of agricultural fertilisers, has entered into the largest-of-its-kind commercial agreement with ExxonMobil to capture and permanently store up to 2m t of CO2 emissions annually from CF Industries’ manufacturing complex in Louisiana. Start-up for the project is scheduled for early 2025 and supports Louisiana’s objective of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. The emissions captured each year will be equivalent to replacing approximately 700,000 gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles.

UK speciality chemicals and sustainable technologies company Johnson Matthey has begun fuel cell recycling in Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu province in China. The plant is refining and recycling the platinum group metals (PGM) content from membrane electrode assemblies. Secondary supply of PGMs is expected to grow globally at roughly 3-5%/year, and recycled metals cost less and have a much lower carbon footprint – up to 98% lower than primary supply PGMs.

Natron Energy, the US manufacturer of sodium-ion batteries, and Swiss specialty chemicals business Arxada have announced the successful initiation of large-scale production of battery-grade Prussian blue at Arxada’s facility in Visp, Switzerland. Arxada will supply Natron with materials to produce up to 600MW battery capacity annually. Natron manufactures its batteries in the US, and requires zero lithium, cobalt, copper, nickel or other conflict minerals.

German science and technology company Merck has commissioned its first fully automated unit for the digital colour measurement of its pigment products in Gernsheim, Germany, the site of the company’s largest pigments production facility. The investment of nearly €10m in automation and digital colour measurement aims to advance the digitalisation of production processes and improve the colour reliability of its pigment products.

US biopharma AbbVie has announced the acquisition of DJS Antibodies, a privately held UK-based biotechnology company working to discover and develop antibody medicines that target difficult-to-drug disease-causing proteins, such as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). The DJS lead programme is in investigational preclinical studies for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and other fibrotic diseases. IPF is an aggressive, high-mortality disease caused by fibrotic scarring in the lungs and remains an area of high unmet medical need.

US pharma Eli Lilly has bought US hearing-loss gene-therapy company Akouos for $487m. The deal will give Lilly control of a treatment for a genetic form of hearing loss that is advancing toward a Phase 1/2 trial.

BASF is to invest in a new neopentyl glycol (NPG) plant with an annual production capacity of 80,000t at its new Zhanjiang Verbund site, China. The plant is expected to come on stream in Q4 2025, boosting BASF’s global annual NPG capacity from 255,000t to 335,000t.

Also in the Asia Pacific region, and subject to the approval of relevant authorities, BASF and Hannong Chemicals are planning to establish a production joint venture – BASF Hannong Chemicals Solutions. The joint venture will combine BASF’s technology and product innovation with Hannong’s efficient production capabilities to supply non-ionic surfactant products to BASF and Hannong Chemicals.

US multinational chemical and materials corporation Dow and CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society, have established a strategic collaboration focused on digital capabilities to accelerate R&D and identify new opportunities in key growth areas around the world. In the initial phase of a planned multi-phased approach, CAS has developed a search and retrieval platform with customised scientific information filtering that accelerates the identification of new materials. The new solution from CAS replaces a highly labour intensive, manual process. When fully adopted, researchers can execute the process in a matter of hours when before it would have been a weeks-long process. This will enable Dow to identify the best material to solve specific challenges from a database of hundreds of millions of potential options.

UK chlorvinyls supplier Inovyn has undergone a name change and is now officially INEOS Inovyn.

US water technologies company Solenis has chosen Wilmington, Delaware as the site for a $40m R&D expansion. This new facility will provide Solenis with 1850m2 more lab space than its existing R&D centre.

NETZSCH Process Intelligence, a corporate venture of German technology company NETZSCH has announced the launch of sensXPERT, a technology business designed to deliver productivity and quality benefits to processors in the plastics industry through data-driven manufacturing solutions. sensXPERT combines real-time material data from moulds with machine learning software to analyse material behaviour and support process optimisation.

French energy company TotalEnergies and Indaver, a German provider of waste management and recycling have announced an agreement for the supply of petrochemical feedstock generated from recycling mixed polyolefins waste. TotalEnergies will purchase the petrochemical feedstock produced at Indaver’s first Plastics2Chemicals plant (P2C). Indaver will supply and transform post-consumer mixed plastic waste into a petrochemical feedstock at its plant in Antwerp using proprietary depolymerisation technology. Currently under construction, the plant is expected to become operational by 2024. TotalEnergies will process this petrochemical feedstock into high-quality circular polymers. With properties and quality identical to virgin polymers, the recycled polymers will be suitable for a wide range of demanding applications, including food-grade packaging.

A Boeing 777-300ER has been flown for the first time with AeroSHARK surface technology, jointly developed by German aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul services provider Lufthansa Technik and BASF. The fuselage and engine nacelles were fitted with 950m2 of ‘riblet’ films, which replicate the flow-efficient properties of shark skin to reduce drag. Flow simulations have identified a savings potential of just over 1% for this type of aircraft, leading to annual savings of around 400t of kerosene and more than 1200t of carbon dioxide.

UK advanced materials company Graphene Composites and William Blythe, a UK chemicals innovator and part of the Synthomer Group have announced a successful partnership in which William Blythe’s supply of graphene oxide for use in GC Halo, a coating for air filters that destroys viruses, bacteria and mould on contact. The coating is a nanoparticle ink formulation that destroys pathogens by forming a ‘trap and kill’ layer on air filters and has been independently verified to significantly reduce SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in the air.

The European Chemicals Agency (Echa) Biocidal Products Committee has concluded that iodine and polyvinyl-pyrrolidone (PVP) iodine meet the criteria for being endocrine disruptors, meaning the biocides can no longer be approved for use in the EU unless they qualify for a derogation.

UK multinational oil and gas company Shell has qualified Johnson Matthey’s Puravoc Green purification catalysts for use in its global hydrogen production projects. The catalysts will be used to remove trace oxygen to meet oxygen specifications in the production of high-purity, zero-carbon hydrogen. Removal of oxygen is critical to make the process safer and more efficient. Thus, deoxygenation is an essential step in the production of ‘green hydrogen’ and requires a flexible and robust catalyst that can operate under a variety of pressures, relatively low temperatures and intermittent feed flows.

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