Saturday, July 1, 2017

Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert – June 2017

The purpose of this blog is to identify chemical and metal shortages reported on the Internet.  The sources of the information reported here are primarily news releases issued on the Internet.  The issue period of the news releases is June 2017.

Section I below lists those chemicals and metals that were on the previous month’s Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert list and continue to have news releases indicating they are in short supply.  Click here to read the May 2017 Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert list.

Section II lists the new chemicals and metals (not on the May alert).  Also provided is some explanation for the shortage and geographical information.  This blog attempts to list only actual shortage situations – those shortages that are being experienced during the period covered by the news releases.  Chemicals and metals identified in news releases as only being in danger of being in short supply status are not listed.

Section I. 

Cobalt:  global; mining not keeping up with demand
Sand/gravel/cement:  India; supply not keeping up with demand
      
Section II.   Shortages Reported in June not found on the Previous Month’s List

Natural gas: Australia; supply not keeping up with demand
Palladium: global; supply not keeping up with demand
Rebar steel: China; production not keeping up with demand
Titanium dioxide: United Kingdom; production not keeping up with demand
Various rubber types: Viet Nam; insufficient imports

Reasons for Section II shortages can be broadly categorized as: 

1.  Mining not keeping up with demand: none
2.  Production not keeping up with demand:  rebar steel; titanium dioxide
3.  Government regulations: none
4.  Sources no longer available: none
5.  Insufficient imports: various rubber types
6.  Supply not keeping up with demand:  natural gas; palladium


Friday, June 30, 2017

Some Information Related to Nanocellulose

The use of nano-size materials in several commercial applicatiosn has been the subject of much research and development activity for several years.  Recent estimates of global sales of nano-size materials are mostly in the $5 billion range.   Applications for nano-size materials have been shown to exist in many sectors such as health and personal care, electronics, energy, and others.  It is likely that the beneficial uses of nano-size materials will grow at a high rate.

The importance of this area (nanotechnology) is reflected in that the United States Government maintains a separate website devoted to the area.   Click here to go to that website and to read much on nanotechnology and its current and potential applications.

Many materials (for example, carbons, metal oxides, and ceramics) can be processed to become nano-size (and in doing so acquire the unique properties that provide new, useful uses).   Cellulose is also a material that can be processed into the “nano” state.  As for other materials, much research and development is ongoing to discover better ways of processing cellulose into nanocellulose and to advance the applications of nanocellulose.

Nanocellulose is finding its way into commercial products, such as packaging, but still at a low level, probably at most a few hundred million dollars of sales a year.   A National Nanotechnology Institute/USDA Forest Service report provides information on commercializing nanocellulose.  Click here to read this report (PDF file).


Monday, June 19, 2017

Russia’s Petrochemical Clusters

A 2012 ICIS report (click here to read the report) indicated that the Russian Federation was setting out on a policy for building up petrochemical clusters.  Six petrochemical cluster projects were identified as being targeted for “build-up”.  The locations of these projects are:

            1.      Nakhodka City, Primorsky Region, Far Eastern Federal District;
2.      Novy Urengoy City, Yamolo Nenetsky Autonomous Region, Urals Federal Distract;
3.      Tobolsk City, Tyumen Region, Urals Federal District;
4.      Kstovo City, Nizhny Novgorod Region, Volga Federal District;
5.      Nizhnekamsk City, Tatarstan Republic, Volga Federal District; and
            6.      Salavat City, Bashkortostan Republic, Volga Federal District.       

The following are short overviews of the recent statuses of these projects.  The statuses are based on research conducted on the Internet and using Google Maps to analyze satellite imagery of the projects.  (A caveat is that Google Maps imagery can be 2 to 3 years, or more, old.)

1.       The Nakhodka Project.  I could find no areas in, or around, Nakhodka City on satellite imagery that shows evidence of petrochemical processing facilities, or that such facilities are being built.  Storage tanks and piping associated with a loading pier in the Vostochnyy Port area near Nakhodka City exist but nothing to indicate petrochemical processing.
2.      The Novy Urengoy Project.  Reportedly a gas and chemical complex has been under construction about 19 miles from the city of Novy Urengoy.   Satellite imagery shows area under developing at Korottsjajevo, which is about 19 miles west of Novy Urengoy.   This site’s size is about 2 square miles, which also agrees with reporting on the gas and chemical complex, so it is likely that this is the location of the complex.  Click here (PDF file) to read a Gazprorm (a Russian oil and gas company) report describing the gas and chemical project.  Some construction is observed.
3.      The Tobolsk Project.    Satellite imagery shows significant construction activity on a 9 square-mile site, just adjacent to Tobolsk City.  Click here to read a Sibur Petrochemical Company (a Russian company) article on their activities at the Tobolsk site.
4.      The Kstovo Project.  This project is at an approximately 5 square-mile site and includes a refinery and a recently-developed polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plant, which appears to be completed.   Click here to read about the PVC plant.  Little construction is observed at this site.
5.      The Nizhnekamsk Project.  Located on an approximately 12 square-mile site, the Nizhnekamsk location apparently is at the center of what seems to be a strong chemical industry sector in the Tatarstan Republic.  More details on the Nizhnekamsk site can be read by clicking here.  Major construction appears to be going on in one section of the site.  The rest of the site is well built-out.
6.      The Salavat Project.   This approximately 9 square-mile petrochemical production site is anchored by a company named Gazprorm Neftekhim Salavat.  More details on this company can be read by clicking here.  The site appears to be well-developed (little construction is obvious).

Of the six sites described above, the Kstovo and Nizhnekamsk sites seem to me to be the most likely of achieving “cluster status” in the sense of generally-accepted concepts and attributes associated with clusters.   (Generally-accepted concepts and attributes associated with clusters can be read by clicking here.)   One reason for Kstovo is its closeness to the cities of Nizhny Novgorod and Dzerzhinsk, which have chemical sector development histories.  And both Kstovo and Nizhnekamsk are in locations that support cluster development such as numerous universities, skilled work forces, and high population densities. 

The locations and other factors associate with the Nakhodka, Novy Urengoy, Tobolsk, and Salavat sites seem to suggest these sites could not easily become “chemical clusters”, for example, they are in remote areas with low population densities.  These sites are more likely to be in the “industrial park” category.





Thursday, June 1, 2017

Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert – May 2017

The purpose of this blog is to identify chemical and metal shortages reported on the Internet.  The sources of the information reported here are primarily news releases issued on the Internet.  The issue period of the news releases is May 2017.

Section I below lists those chemicals and metals that were on the previous month’s Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert list and continue to have news releases indicating they are in short supply.  Click here to read the April 2017 Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert list.

Section II lists the new chemicals and metals (not on the April alert).  Also provided is some explanation for the shortage and geographical information.  This blog attempts to list only actual shortage situations – those shortages that are being experienced during the period covered by the news releases.  Chemicals and metals identified in news releases as only being in danger of being in short supply status are not listed.

Section I. 

Cobalt:  global; mining not keeping up with demand
Sand/gravel/cement:  India; supply not keeping up with demand
      
Section II.   Shortages Reported in May not found on the Previous Month’s List

Cobalt:  global; mining not keeping up with demand
Copper foil:  global; production not keeping up with demand
Methyl methacrylate (MMA):  global; production not keeping up with demand
Methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI):  Ireland; production not keeping up with                                                                                  demand

Reasons for Section II shortages can be broadly categorized as: 

1.  Mining not keeping up with demand: cobalt
2.  Production not keeping up with demand:  copper foil; MMA; MDI
3.  Government regulations: none
4.  Sources no longer available: none
5.  Insufficient imports:  none

6.  Supply not keeping up with demand:  none

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Demonstration Projects for Using Hydrogen as a Source of Energy at Solar/Wind Electrical Power Plants

Successfully demonstrating the commercial viability of generating and using hydrogen to supplement solar and wind energy in producing electricity at power plants is important to increase the value of power plants that use solar and wind energy.   This is because a limitation on the value of power plants using solar and wind energy to generate electricity is the period of time when there is no sun or wind.  During these periods, power plants cannot generate electricity, rendering them useless without alternatives. 

A possible remedy to this problem is also using the power plants to produce hydrogen while solar and wind energy is available, storing the hydrogen, and then using the stored hydrogen as the needed source of energy at the power plants when there is no sun or wind.   However, the commercial and technical viability of this remedy needs to be demonstrated.   In this regards, many demonstration projects across several countries have been ongoing.

Examples of such demonstration projects are the five German demonstration projects listed below that are investigating the use of hydrogen as a source of energy at solar and wind power plants:

Mainz.  A demonstration plant, EnergiePark, began in 2014.  Siemens, Linde, Stadtwerke Mainz AG, and other organizations are associated with the project. A Siemens Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) electrolysis system is being used to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen using energy from wind farms.  The plant has a 6 megawatt (MW) rating and a capacity to produce 650,000 kg of hydrogen per year.   Click here for more details – PDF file.

Falkenhagen.  An alkaline electrolyser, provided by Hydrogenics, uses wind farm energy to produce hydrogen, which then is fed into the natural gas grid.   The plant has been operating since 2013 and has a 2 MW rating.  Click here for more details – PDF file.

Reitbrook.   A 2015-started plant, owned by Uniper and using a Hydrogenics PEM electrolyser, feeds hydrogen into the local natural gas grid.  The 1.5 MW-rated plant is reportedly one of a few using a 1.5 MW PEM electrolyser, provided by Hydrogenics.  Click here (PDF file) and here for further details.

Werlte.   A 2013-started plant in Werlte, associated with Etogas, EWE, and AUDI, uses solar, wind, and biogas renewable resources to generate hydrogen from water. The hydrogen is used to produce methane.  An alkaline electrolyser is used.  Click here for more details - PDF file.

Ibbenbueren.  A PEM electrolyser, provided by ITW Power, is being used at a plant in Ibbenbueren to produce hydrogen, which then is fed into the local natural gas grid.  Click here for further details – PDF file. 


As indicated above, many demonstration projects across several countries (in addition to the ones being conducted in Germany) have been ongoing.  A Danish Gas Technology Centre 2013 report identifies more than fifty such projects.   (Click here to read this report – PDF file.)  And a Master’s Thesis (Vesa Vartiainen – Lappeenranta University of Technology) also identifies more than fifty such projects.   (Click here to read this thesis – PDF file.)  The thesis also provides an overview of processes for producing hydrogen and its use as an energy carrier.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Some Data on Ammonia Uses

The data that follows on ammonia shows, I believe, how substantial ammonia is as an important chemical.  Ammonia is a raw material in many reactions leading to chemicals used in many applications throughout the economy.   Developments related to ammonia and its uses have brought tremendous value to the chemical enterprise and to society.

Global annual ammonia consumption is in the 180 million metric ton range.  About 80% of that amount is estimated to be used as a fertilizer with the rest in other uses, mostly as a raw material in making other chemicals.  Ammonia is used as a raw material to make:  ethylene amines; ethanol amine; acrylonitrile; caprolactam; urea; and ammonium nitrate.  A recent United States (US) retail price for ammonia is in the $500 per metric ton range and a wholesale price of $300 per metric ton.  These prices vary globally.  Most ammonia is made using natural gas as a source of hydrogen and reacting hydrogen with nitrogen.  Expected annual growth rates for ammonia use are in the 2 to 3 % range.  What follows is more data on ammonia uses.

Ethylene amines.  Approximately 10 million metric tons of ethylene amines are consumed globally each year.  The most used method to make ethylene amines apparently is the reaction of ammonia with 1, 2-dichloroethane.  Recent ethylene amine prices in the US are in the $1,800 per metric ton range.  Ethylene amines are used for many purposes in such areas as: agriculture; cleaning; personal care; oil and gas production; and water treatment.   Future growth consumption rates for ethylene amines are estimated to be in the 6 to 8% range.

Ethanol amine.  Ethanol amine is usually made from the reaction of ammonia and ethylene oxide.  Global consumption is estimated in the 2 million metric ton per year range.  Prices vary globally with recent US prices in the $2,400 per metric ton range.  Like for ethylene amines, ethanol amine has a good estimated future annual consumption rate increase annually.  Ethanol amine has uses in such areas as: agriculture; surfactant technology; cement processing; chemical intermediates; and gas processing.

Acrylonitrile.  Acrylonitrile is usually produced from the reaction of ammonia with propylene and oxygen.   Global annual consumption is estimated to be in the 7 million metric ton range.  A recent market price is in the $1,600 per metric ton range.  Acrylonitrile is used to produce acrylic fibers and other polymers such as: acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene; styrene-acrylonitrile; and acrylonitrile-butadiene rubber (polymers that are used in several products).  Estimated global consumption growth rate of acrylonitrile is in the 4% range.

Caprolactam.  Caprolactam is usually made from the reaction of ammonia and cyclohexanone oxime. Recent prices for caprolactam are in the $1,800 per metric ton range. Recent global annual consumption is estimated to be in the 8 to 9 million metric ton range. Caprolactam is used mostly to make polyamide (nylon) 6 fibers. Estimated future global growth rates are in the 4 to 5% per year range.

Urea.   Urea is made by reacting ammonia with carbon dioxide.  Recent retail prices in the US are in the $350 per metric ton range and wholesale prices in the $250 per metric ton rate.  Determinants influencing urea prices are many and therefore understanding and predicting urea prices are difficult.  Prices globally for urea can vary considerably and change quickly.   The primary use for urea is as nitrogen-providing fertilizer (estimated 80-85% of urea produced is used as a fertilizer).  Other uses of urea include: reducing nitrogen oxides emissions and as an intermediate in producing urea-formaldehyde resins and melamine. Estimated future annual growth rates for urea use are in the 2 to 3% per year range, considerably less than the above identified chemicals made with ammonia as one of the starting raw materials.  Global annual consumption of urea is estimated to be around 180 million metric tons.

Ammonia nitrate.  Ammonia nitrate is made by reacting ammonia with nitric acid. Demand for ammonium nitrate as a fertilizer has been declining compared to other fertilizers.   Approximately 65% of ammonia nitrate is used as a fertilizer and 35% in other applications.   Ammonium nitrate as an explosive accounts for most of the other use.  Current annual consumption of ammonia nitrate is estimated at about 30 million metric tons. Estimated annual growth rates are in the 2 to 3% range.

Ammonium refrigerant.  Approximately 2% of ammonia produced is used as a refrigerant (about 3 to 4 million metric tons are used as a refrigerant).  Industrial refrigeration systems are where most of this ammonia is used.  Use of ammonia as a refrigerant is increasing because of its cost, relative environmentally friendliness, and other reasons.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert – April 2017

The purpose of this blog is to identify chemical and metal shortages reported on the Internet.  The sources of the information reported here are primarily news releases issued on the Internet.  The issue period of the news releases is April 2017.

Section I below lists those chemicals and metals that were on the previous month’s Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert list and continue to have news releases indicating they are in short supply. Click here to read the March 2017 Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert list.

Section II lists the new chemicals and metals (not on the March alert).  Also provided is some explanation for the shortage and geographical information.  This blog attempts to list only actual shortage situations – those shortages that are being experienced during the period covered by the news releases.  Chemicals and metals identified in news releases as only being in danger of being in short supply status are not listed.

Section I.   Cobalt: global; mining not keeping up with demand
      
Section II.   Shortages Reported in April not found on the Previous Month’s List

Sand/gravel/cement:  India; government regulations

Reasons for Section II shortages can be broadly categorized as: 

1.  Mining not keeping up with demand: none
2.  Production not keeping up with demand:  none
3.  Government regulations: sand/gravel/cement
4.  Sources no longer available: none
5.  Insufficient imports:  none

6.  Supply not keeping up with demand:  none

Friday, April 7, 2017

Natural Gas Prices

In the January-February 2014 time frame in the United States (US), the natural gas (NG) price spiked above $5 per thousand cubic feet (MCF).   Both for a long-term period (months) before and after this January-February 2014 US NG price spike, prices trended in a range significantly below $5 per MCF.  The reason for this price spike was an extremely cold period across the US caused by a southward shift of the North Polar Vortex.  Record-low temperatures were recorded in many parts of the US during this period.  More than 200 million people were affected. With this unexpected cold increase, NG demand for heating greatly increased, without a corresponding increase in NG supply, resulting in the price spike.

This cold weather affect on the price of NG prices is an example of one of the most common of determinants affecting NG prices – the weather.   The tables below identify and explain the results of several determinants (factors) that affect NG demand or supply, which in turn affect the NG price.

demand determinant table (all change over time)

determinant
explanation
weather
e.g., colder and warmer weather increase demand
fuel competition
e.g.,  cheaper NG can move energy users from more expense energy
demographics
higher populations increased demand
income
more income means more energy use, such as NG
NG price increase/decrease
lower prices can increase energy use
exports
foreign demand

supply determinant table (all change over time)

determinant
explanation
weather
interfere with production
NG storage levels
higher levels, higher supplies
pipeline-transport improvements
improvements lead to greater supplies at customer locations
gas drilling-production rates
increases supplies
improved technology
increases supplies
adverse issues at production
decreases supplies
NG price/decrease changes
higher prices incentivize for more supply
imports
increases supplies

The above tables indicate than many determinants affect NG price.  NG price is, in fact, primarily a result of the affects of these determinants on demand and supply

For example, fracking in shale gas fields (a supply gas drilling-production rates determinant) has greatly increased NG supply in the US compared to supply in the rest of the world.  This increased supply has resulted in a significant decrease in price compare to other areas in the world.  This increase in supply is reflected on the demand-supply curve graph by a shift of the supply curve to the right.

As the US NG price significantly decreased, NG became much less costly than competitive energy sources (a demand determinant – fuel competition) and, as a result, electricity providers moved to the use of NG as an energy source.  This greatly increased US NG demand and interactions between demanders and suppliers, affected the price offered by the NG suppliers.  The settled prices between the demanders (the electricity providers) and suppliers (those holding NG supplies) will initial be in a non-equilibrium state over a short time, but fairly soon with many (large) market participants negotiating prices, the price will stabilize to a market equilibrium (clearing) price. Now with greater demand, the demand curve shifts to the right.  The eventual market-determined price (and quantity supplied and demanded) will be shown on the demand-supply curve graph as the new point of intersection of the two curves. An important suggestion in this analysis is that usually the supply is the predominant determinate of changes in demand-supply equilibrium prices.

One conclusion I have reached from considering the many price determinants given in the tables above is that several determinants can be present at any one time making confidently predicting an equilibrium price very difficult.  This is especially true, it seems to me, over the short term, e.g., over a several-month period.  So, a prediction of future price trend will be limited to how US NG price will change, not over the short-term, but over a long-term, e.g., over the next five years.

I will use four demand determinants (weather; demographics; income; and exports).  And I will use two supply determinates (gas drilling-production; pipeline-transportation) and expectations in changes of these determinates in forecasting a future US NG price. 

Demand Determinants:

1.      Weather.  Reliable climate scientists predict global temperatures over the next several years will increase. Because of this, less energy should be needed, since less energy is required for cooling than for heating.  Raising temperatures suggest a decline in NG demand.

2.      Demographics.  Populations are expected to greatly increase globally, but not much in the more developed countries.  So a small population increase in the US likely will have little effect on NG demand.

3.      Income.  Incomes are increasing significantly globally but not so much in the US.  Income changes in the US will likely have little effect on NG demand and price.

4.      Exports.  With increasing capabilities of transporting NG by sea and across borders and because of lower US NG prices due to supply, export demand should greatly increase.

Supply Determinants:

1.      Pipeline-transportation advances.  Increases in pipeline capacities and capabilities are being made and this likely will result in more NG supply to meet new demand.

2.      Gas drilling-production rates.   Existing US fields are likely to have been mostly discovered and drilling rates not likely to greatly increase.  Therefore, a significant increase in US NG supply from this determinant is not likely over the next five years.

My conclusion from the above determinant analysis is that supply will show increase long-term over the next five years but the increase is limited.    The likely demand determinant potentially affecting price significantly over the long-term is exports.   Therefore, I would expect to see some movement of both the supply and demand curves to the right, resulting in limited price increases over the next five years.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert – March 2017

The purpose of this blog is to identify chemical and metal shortages reported on the Internet.  The sources of the information reported here are primarily news releases issued on the Internet.  The issue period of the news releases is March 2017.

Section I below lists those chemicals and metals that were on the previous month’s Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert list and continue to have news releases indicating they are in short supply.  Click here to read the February 2017 Chemical and Metal Shortage Alert list.

Section II lists the new chemicals and metals (not on the February alert).  Also provided is some explanation for the shortage and geographical information.  This blog attempts to list only actual shortage situations – those shortages that are being experienced during the period covered by the news releases.  Chemicals and metals identified in news releases as only being in danger of being in short supply status are not listed.

Section I.   none
      
Section II.   Shortages Reported in March not found on the Previous Month’s List

Cobalt: global; mining not keeping up with demand
Copper concentrate: China; mining not keeping up with demand
Ferrous scrap: Taiwan; insufficient imports
Titanium dioxide: global; production not keeping up with demand
Waste paper: India; insufficient imports

Reasons for Section II shortages can be broadly categorized as: 

1.  Mining not keeping up with demand: cobalt; copper concentrate
2.  Production not keeping up with demand:  titanium dioxide
3.  Government regulations: none
4.  Sources no longer available: none
5.  Insufficient imports:  ferrous scrap; waste paper

6.  Supply not keeping up with demand:  none

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Relative Market Values for Two Adjacent Periodic Table Groups

Total 2015 sales and weight of sales, along with unit sales prices, for elements in two periodic table groups, Group 4 and 5, were searched for on the Internet.  The found data was compiled and analyzed to come up with what is shown in the following tables:

Group 4
 sales
weight in metric tons (mt)
average mt sales price
titanium
 $      3,900,000,000
275,000
 $        14,182
zirconium
 $      4,000,000,000
200,000
 $        20,000
hafnium
 $            45,000,000
75
 $      600,000
cerium
 $          350,000,000
50,000
 $          7,000
totals
 $      8,295,000,000
525,075

Group 5
 sales
weight in metric tons (mt)
average mt sales price
vanadium
 $          824,500,000
85,000
 $          9,700
niobium
 $      2,100,000,000
50,000
 $        42,000
tantalum
 $          342,000,000
1,800
 $      190,000
praseodymium
 $          450,000,000
9,000
 $        50,000
totals
 $      2,892,000,000
60,800



This was done to gain knowledge on the relative economic value of elements in a group compared to another group.   Such knowledge might be useful in decision-making about investments.  For example, the tables above show zirconium and niobium with the highest sales in their groups, while also being next to one another in the same periodic row of elements.   Also, from the tables, Group 4 elements recently have had much higher economic value than Group 5 elements ($8.3 billion compared to $2.9 billion).


The values in the tables are approximate.  The variations in the reported sales and weight of sales found on the Internet suggests that uncertainty exists in the amounts reported and therefore amounts such as those given in the tables above should be considered approximate.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Relative Sales Performance Data for Some Pigment Classes


The following table presents recent (2015) sales and weight data for five pigment classes:

pigment class
 sales
weight in metric tons (mt)
average unit sales price
specialty
 $    4,500,000,000
175,000
 $ 25,714
dyes & organics
 $  15,000,000,000
2,100,000
 $    7,143
titanium oxide
 $  14,000,000,000
7,000,000
 $    2,000
iron oxide
 $    2,000,000,000
2,000,000
 $    1,000
carbon black
 $    1,200,000,000
1,200,000
 $    1,000
totals
 $  36,700,000,000
12,475,000
 $    2,942

The sales and weight data are approximate (best estimated) amounts based on various sales and weight data associated with market and other reports on pigments found on the Internet.

Assuming the sales and weight data are approximately correct, I computed an average unit sales price ($ per mt) for each class.  The relative average unit sales prices, it seems to me, can be an indicator of technological and other challenges of bringing the classes to a demanding market.   And along with this, the relative average unit sales prices indicate the classes with expected higher gross profit margins (the higher the average unit sales price, the higher the expected gross profit margin).