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Friday, 9 December 2016

NovogeneAIT, GIS to establish whole genome sequencing centre in Singapore

BEIJING, CHINA/ SINGAPORE: NovogeneAIT Genomics Singapore (NovogeneAIT) and Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) said that it will establish a joint whole genome sequencing (WGS) centre at Biopolis, Singapore.
NovogeneAIT is a joint venture between Novogen, a leading provider of genomic services and solutions with cutting-edge next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics expertise; and AITbiotech Pte Ltd, a Singapore biotechnology company.
The new centre will provide Illumina HiSeq X based whole genome sequencing and bioinformatics analysis of human, plant and animal samples for biomedical and agricultural researchers. The centre will offer a major portion of its sequencing capability to support public research projects and empower super scale sequencing initiatives in Singapore and the region.
Additionally, NovogeneAIT will collaborate with GIS to develop new applications of next-generation sequencing, such as WGS solutions for cancer diagnosis and stratified cancer treatment.
“I am very excited and pleased to announce this significant new initiative with the Genome Institute of Singapore,” stated Dr Ruiqiang Li, CEO of Novogene.
“The centre is the first major project for NovogeneAIT and is an important milestone for our company. We look forward to providing high-quality sequencing services in Singapore and to advancing important research initiatives that can benefit humanity,” added Dr Ruiqiang.
“We are delighted to work with a local biotech company. Such public-private partnerships will prove to be highly beneficial as it leverages the strengths of both parties to advance genomic science and medicine in Singapore, as well as to create successful local biotech companies,” said prof Ng Huck Hui, executive director of GIS.
Read More: NovogeneAIT, GIS to establish whole genome sequencing centre in Singapore

Chevron declares $19.8 billion capital, exploratory budget for 2017

SAN RAMON, US: Chevron Corporation has declared a $19.8 billion capital and exploratory investment program for 2017. Included in the 2017 program are $4.7 billion of planned affiliate expenditures.
The 2017 budget represents a reduction of 42 percent from 2015 outlays and is expected to be at least 15 percent lower than projected 2016 capital investments. 
In the Upstream business, approximately $8.5 billion of planned capital spending relates to base-producing assets, including about $2.5 billion for shale and tight investments, the majority of which is slated for Permian Basin developments in Texas and New Mexico. 
Another $7 billion of the planned upstream program is related to major capital projects currently underway, including approximately $2 billion toward the completion of the Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG projects in Australia and $3 billion of affiliate expenditures associated with the Future Growth Project-Wellhead Pressure Management Project (FGP-WPMP) project at the Tengiz field in Kazakhstan. 
Global exploration funding accounts for approximately $1 billion of the total upstream budget, and the remainder is primarily related to early stage projects supporting potential, future development opportunities.
"Our spending for 2017 targets shorter cycle time, high-return investments and completing major projects under construction. In fact, over 70 percent of our planned upstream investment program is expected to generate production within two years," said John Watson, chairman and CEO of Chevron.
"This is the fourth consecutive year of spending reductions. Construction is nearing completion on several major capital projects, which are now online or expected to come online in the next few quarters. This combination of lower spending and growth in production revenues supports our overall objective of becoming cash balanced in 2017," added Watson.
Read More: Chevron declares $19.8 billion capital, exploratory budget for 2017

Fluor completes EPFC work for Suncor’s ETF project

IRVING, US/CALGARY, CANADA: Fluor Corporation said that it has placed the final module for the Suncor Energy Oil Sands Limited Partnership’s East Tank Farm (ETF) Development project near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.
As part of its engineering, procurement, fabrication and construction scope (EPFC), Fluor managed module fabrication and shipment of the modules, all of which were fabricated by Fluor’s Supreme Modular Fabrication Inc (SMFI) joint venture fabrication yard near Edmonton, Alberta.
Engineering and construction personnel were integrated into the fabrication teams to support construction-driven execution through the phases and the 95 modules were fabricated and shipped in 10 months, aligning to the site setting schedule and on the budget.
The East Tank Farm Development, which will be a Suncor-operated midstream asset, is currently under construction in the Wood Buffalo Region of Alberta. The facility will consist of bitumen storage, blending and cooling facilities and connectivity to third-party pipelines.
“This milestone was achieved on schedule and on the budget using Fluor’s integrated engineering, procurement, fabrication and construction approach to clients’ projects. Fluor worked in collaboration with Suncor – the groups were closely aligned on fabrication priorities and module placement dates,” said Mark Fields, president of Fluor’s energy & chemicals business in the Americas region.
Read More: Fluor completes EPFC work for Suncor’s ETF project

Brazilian antitrust approves sale of Solvay Indupa to Unipar

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: Solvay SA has received clearance from the Brazilian antitrust authority, CADE, for the agreed sale of its 70.59 percent stake in Solvay Indupa to chemical group Unipar Carbocloro.
Unipar Carbocloro is a publicly traded Brazilian chemical company, located in Sao Paulo.
Upon the completion of the transaction, at a total enterprise value of $ 202.2 million as declared in May, is expected to take place in the next weeks. Solvay Indupa produces Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and caustic soda in Brazil and Argentina. 
Read More: Brazilian antitrust approves sale of Solvay Indupa to Unipar

New discovery may lead to development of gasoline

ILLINOIS, US: In opposing a theory that’s been the standard for over eighty years, a group of University of Illinois researchers have made a discovery holding major promise for the petroleum industry.
Led by Yang Zhang, assistant professor of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering and Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the researchers has revealed that in the foreseeable future products such as crude oil and gasoline could be transported across country 30 times faster, and the several minutes it takes to fill a tank of gas could be reduced to mere seconds.
Over the past year, using high flux neutron sources at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Zhang’s group has been able to videotape the molecular movement of alkanes, the major component of petroleum and natural gas. The group has learned that the thickness of liquid alkanes can be significantly reduced, allowing for a marked increase in the substance’s rate of flow.
“Alkane is basically a chain of carbon atoms,” Zhang said. “By changing one carbon atom in the backbone of an alkane molecule, we can make it flow 30 times faster.”
The discovery of Zhang, his graduate students Ke Yang, Zhikun Cai, and Abhishek Jaiswal, and collaborators Dr Madhusudan Tyagi at NIST and Jeffrey Moore, interim director of the Beckman Institute and HHMI Professor of Chemistry at Illinois, disproves a well-known theory that Princeton University Profs. Walter Kauzmann and Henry Eyring formed in the late 1940s. They had predicted that all alkanes have a universal viscosity near their melting points. Zhang said the theory had been cited over 3,000 times.
However, a rather distinct odd-even effect of the liquid alkane dynamics was discovered. The odd-even effect in solid alkanes is taught in almost every introductory organic chemistry textbook, i.e., the difference in the periodic packing of odd- and even-numbered alkane solids results in odd-even variation of their densities and melting points. However, the same effect was not expected in liquid alkanes because of the lack of periodic structures in liquids.
The research is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
“We would have thought that no structural memory may carry over from the solids to the liquids. But clearly, the cooler liquid already has the origins of the odd-even effect built into its diffusion,” said Prof Martin Gruebele, the James Eiszner chair professor in Chemistry.
“The classical Kauzmann-Eyring theory of molecular viscous flow is over simplified,” Zhang said. “It seems some chemistry textbooks may need revisions.”
The Illinois scientists had the technological advantage of super high-speed (at the pico-second, 1 trillionth of a second) and super high-resolution (at the nanometer, 1 billionth of a meter) “video cameras” making use of neutrons to take movies of the molecules.
“A neutron ‘microscope’ is the major breakthrough in materials research and we use it to look at everything. There are things we’ve never seen before,” Zhang said.
This research discovery is fundamental to understand and improve a wide spectrum of chemical processes, such as lubrication, diffusion through porous media, and heat transfer.
Zhang conducted the research after being selected in fall 2015 for an American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund Doctoral New Investigator Award. The first author of the paper, Ke Yang, graduated in summer 2016 and now works at the Dow Chemical Company.
Read More: New discovery may lead to development of gasoline

Total, Suez to recycle cooking oil into biofuel

PARIS, FRANCE: Total SA and Suez Environnement SA join forces to collect and recycle used cooking oil in France. As part of their 10-year partnership, Suez will supply 20,000 metric tonnes of used cooking oil a year to Total. Collected throughout France, the oil will be processed into biofuel at Total’s La Mede biorefinery.
In response to growing demand for biofuel, Total is transforming its La Mede site into France’s first biorefinery, one of the largest in Europe. The facility will produce biodiesel by refining used cooking oil, residual oil and vegetable oil. The high-quality biodiesel (HVO) will be easily blended into regular diesel in any proportion, with no adverse impact on fuel quality or engines.
At present, 45,000 metric tonnes a year of used cooking oil are collected in France, out of an estimated total of more than 100,000 metric tonnes. The corporation between both companies will increase the amount of used oil collected by more than 20 percent and improve its conversion through a short energy production loop beneficial for the environment.
Suez will deploy a France-wide oil collection and recycling system suitable for all types of producers, from consumers to the leading agri-food businesses. The oil will be transported to La Mede for preliminary treatment in a filtration unit built by Suez. The new unit will create around 50 local jobs.
“This industrial cooperation will allow us to establish a sustainable country-wide industry to recycle used cooking oil to produce biofuels. The partnership helps Total meet its ambition of being the responsible energy major. Renewable energies, especially biomass, are a critical adjunct to oil and gas in order to meet demand for transportation fuel while managing carbon emissions,” said Michel Charton, senior VP refining & base chemicals Europe of Total.
By helping to transform the La Mede industrial site, Suez is supporting Total’s ambitious environmental goals — which we share. As a partner of leading manufacturers in Europe and worldwide, we develop tailored solutions to make industrial ecology a reality by optimising the use of resources. Our collaboration with Total to a process used cooking oil into biofuel is a successful illustration of the circular economy,” added Jean-Marc Boursier, senior executive VP of Suez.
Read More: Total, Suez to recycle cooking oil into biofuel

Global chemical industry stock outlook - Dec 2016

The chemical industry is in the process of gradual healing after being badly shaken by the Great Recession. Aside from a flurry of challenges, the industry put up a decent performance in the first three-quarters of 2016, benefiting from healthy demand across automotive and housing sectors- two major end-use markets for chemicals.
In a still-difficult global economic backdrop, chemical makers are gradually looking for cost synergy opportunities and greater operational scale through consolidations. These companies are also increasingly switching their focus on high-growth markets in a bid to whittle down their exposure to businesses that are struggling with depressed demand. Strategic actions including cost management and productivity improvement remain the prime focus of these companies.
However, the highly cyclical industry, chemical makers are still feeling the pinch of depressed demand across agriculture and energy markets. A strong dollar is also hurting US chemical exports, reducing their attractiveness in overseas markets. The Eurozone’s tepid recovery and concerns over China’s future growth also remain sources of near-term uncertainties for the chemical industry.
Nagging weakness in China is expected to remain as an overhang on the chemical industry in the short haul. Persistent overcapacity, weak private investment and high levels of corporate debt are hurting the world’s second-largest economy. Moreover, the European chemical industry remains in the midpoint, limited by lower prices, shrinking production and weak R&D investments.
The outlook for the fertilizer and agricultural chemicals space also remains unclear due to continued weakness in crop commodity prices and slow economic conditions in certain developing markets, particularly Brazil.
Despite these challenges, the industry’s recovery is expected to continue heading into 2017, supported by continued strength in the light vehicles market, positive trends in the construction space and significant shale-linked capital investment.
US outlook users hope
The US chemical industry remains on course for growth this year and the next despite several challenges including a strong dollar and a low oil price environment.
According to the American Chemistry Council (ACC), an industry trade group, US chemical production will rise 1.6 percent in 2016 and 3.7 percent in 2017. Barring production of the pharmaceuticals segment, the output is expected to go up 2.7 percent this year and 4.1 percent in 2017.
Particularly, the trade group expects basic chemicals production to expand 3.1 percent in 2016 and 4.9 percent in 2017. Chemical production is also expected to increase across all regions of the country this year.
The ACC predicts the US chemical industry to continue to gather momentum over the next several years on the heels of new capital investments, capacity additions and feedstock cost advantage, and even transcend the nation’s overall economic growth in the long term.
The shale gas abundance and ample supply of natural gas liquids have been a huge driving force behind chemical investment on plants and equipment in the US and have provided domestic petrochemicals producers with a compelling cost advantage over their global counterparts. The ACC expects this competitiveness to drive export demand and new capital investment in the country.
The shale revolution has made the US an attractive investment hotspot. Chemical companies including Dow Chemical, BASF, LyondellBasell Industries, Eastman Chemical, Celanese and Westlake Chemical are investing heavily on shale gas-linked projects to take advantage of abundant natural gas supplies which are expected to boost capacity and export over the next several years. The ACC assumes domestic chemical industry capital spending to increase 10.4 percent in 2016 and 7.8 percent in 2017.
EU still limping along
The outlook for the European chemical industry looks dull given sustained apathy in the region. The Eurozone economy remains stuck in an insipid recovery, manifested by a tepid growth of 0.3 percent in the 3rd-quarter of 2016. Eurozone’s growth prospects, in the short run, are likely to be hindered by Brexit-induced political and economic uncertainties.
Moreover, concerns about the impact of US President-elect Donald Trump's economic policies could hurt sentiment in the region. The European Central Bank has warned that potential protective policies under Trump administration could trigger financial instability and hurt EU’s trade with the US as well as global growth.
Chemical makers in the EU remain affected by lower prices and a challenging regulatory landscape.
According to the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), chemical output in the EU contracted 0.3 percent year over year in the first eight months of 2016 with chemical prices falling 4.8 percent for the period. Lower pricing and output also hurt chemical sales which slipped 4.4 percent during this period.
CEFIC expects a modest growth of roughly 1 percent in chemical output in both 2016 and 2017. Healthy domestic demand coupled with tailwinds from a strong construction end-use market are expected to be offset by sluggish demand for European chemical exports due to a challenging global environment.
Sector level earnings trends
Looking at the overall results of the Basic Materials sector, earnings for the sector participants on the S&P 500 index for third-quarter 2016 rose 4.7 percent from the same period last year. The sector racked up a decent beat ratio (percentage of companies coming out with positive surprises) of 65 percent for earnings in the quarter. However, total revenues for these companies were down 3 percent in the third quarter.
For fourth-quarter 2016, earnings are expected to show a measly 0.3 percent increase. Revenues are forecast to fall 3.2 percent in the quarter. For first-quarter 2017, earnings are expected to accelerate to a 10.2 percent rise while revenues are forecast to dip 2.3 percent.
The road ahead
The chemical industry is still hamstrung by a number of challenges including a weak agriculture market, depressed demand in the energy space, a slowdown in China and a choppy Europe. Nevertheless, sustained healthy momentum in the automotive space and an upswing in the housing market are expected to keep the industry on the road to recovery moving into 2017.
Read More: Global chemical industry stock outlook - Dec 2016

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