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Baltimore bridge collapse could slow US caustic transit

  • Market: Chemicals
  • 27/03/24

The collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge could slow movement of caustic soda in the northeastern US at a time when tank supplies in the region were already tight.

Caustic soda distributors have tanks in Baltimore where material can be sourced from both domestic and European producers by truck, rail or ship. In the past US producers have moved caustic soda by ship up the east coast to meet demand in the region, particularly when European producers have had fewer cargoes available.

Any threat to supply flow through Baltimore by ship is lessened by the presence of other tanks in the region, including nearby Philadelphia, that can be supplied by overland methods. But even modest complications to logistics for a couple of weeks could put pressure on pricing in the area.

The Port of Baltimore closure comes as European chlor-alkali rates have risen to meet greater chlorine demand on the continent, producing more by-product caustic soda as a result that could be sold to the US east coast.

Distributors and caustic soda buyers in the northeastern US have warned that inventory levels in the tanks at various sites were getting severely tight during the first quarter before seeing some slight improvement in recent weeks.

This dynamic allowed for price increases from distributors to be implemented in the northeast more consistently in the first quarter compared to other parts of the country, where supply and logistics were better. Argus assessed Northeast US prices in March flat between $1,060-1,110/dst ex-tank after prices had risen $25/dst over the previous two months.

US caustic soda producers have announced price increases for April and second quarter contracts between $35-75/dst.


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10/07/24

Olin declares Freeport chlor-alkali FM from hurricane

Olin declares Freeport chlor-alkali FM from hurricane

Houston, 10 July (Argus) — US-based chlor-alkali producer Olin declared a force majeure (FM) on 10 July for its Freeport, Texas, plant after Hurricane Beryl caused significant damage. The company said the force majeure was for all its chlor-alkali and derivative vinyl products produced at the site. Olin said it was having difficulty accessing power, raw materials, feedstocks, and other crucial services which made managing logistics and production challenging. The company was conducting a comprehensive inspection and assessment of its facility, but there was no timeline for an end to the outage. In addition to caustic soda and chlorine, the site produces several other derivative products. The company sells spot ethylene dichloride (EDC) from Freeport to overseas vinyl producers, epoxy resin, and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) that it supplies to Shintech by direct pipeline. Shintech buys VCM from Olin under contract to support its own polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plant in Freeport, which produces roughly 1.45mn tons of PVC per year. Shintech indicated earlier in the week it did not see any significant damage to its facility after the storm and was intending to restart its operations in short order. The Olin force majeure could hinder Shintech's Freeport operations, but Shintech has not provided a timeline for its own restart and did not respond to a request for comment. Olin also supplies Dow Chemical with chlorine by direct pipeline to run Dow's isocyanate plant in Freeport. By Aaron May Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

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News

Flooding closes upper Mississippi locks


08/07/24
News
08/07/24

Flooding closes upper Mississippi locks

Houston, 8 July (Argus) — High water levels in the Mississippi River have caused all lock and dams to close between Bellevue, Iowa, and Gladstone, Illinois, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). Lock and Dams (L&D) 12-18 are closed as of 8 July, the Corps said. Water levels have reached the top of L&D 12 in Bellevue and L&D 11 in Dubuque, according to the National Weather Service. The outflow at L&D 16 was at 255,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) as of 8 July, about 68pc more than the average of 80,000cfs this time of year, the Corps said. It will be another two weeks until L&D 20 reopens, but L&Ds 11-15 could reopen as early as this weekend, the Corps said. About 15 inches of rain fell in Dubuque over the past week, bringing the expected forecast up to 22.1ft, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Flooding at Dubuque and other locations along the river are expected to drop from major to moderate levels this week. L&D 19 reopened on 8 July as it fellow flood stage at 16ft, the Corps said. L&Ds 19, 21, and 22 are expected to remain open. The river widens around the locks, allowing for a greater outflow at higher water levels. By Trajan Greenwell Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

US adds 206,000 jobs in June, jobless rate ticks up


05/07/24
News
05/07/24

US adds 206,000 jobs in June, jobless rate ticks up

Houston, 5 July (Argus) — The US added a solid 206,000 jobs in June while job gains in the prior two months were revised downward and wage gains cooled. The job gains, which beat analyst estimates, followed downwardly revised 218,000 job gains in May and 108,000 gains in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said today, for a combined downward revision of 111,000 for the prior two months. The US generated a monthly average of 220,000 jobs in the 12 months through May. Economists expected gains of about 190,000 in June, according to a survey by Trading Economics. The jobless rate ticked up to 4.1pc, the highest in more than two years, from 4pc. Still, the unemployment rate remains near five-decade lows. Construction added 27,000 jobs, while manufacturing lost 8,000 jobs. Gains also occurred in government, health care and social assistance. Average hourly earnings rose by 3.9pc from a year earlier, down from a 4.1pc annual gain in the prior month and the lowest in three years. Futures markets after the jobs report indicated a 71.8pc chance the Fed will cut its target rate by a quarter point from a 23-year high in September, up from 68.4pc odds on Wednesday. The Federal Reserve, after its last policy meeting in mid-June, had penciled in one likely quarter point rate cut was likely this year, paring that from a likely three cuts shown in March. Still, it also said it needs to see evidence that inflation is "sustainably" slowing towards its 2pc target before beginning to cut rates from 23-year highs. By Bob Willis Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Upper Mississippi locks closed by high water


03/07/24
News
03/07/24

Upper Mississippi locks closed by high water

Houston, 3 July (Argus) — High water levels on the upper Mississippi River have caused several lock closures and spurred delays for barge carriers. Lock and Dams (L&D) 12, 16 and 17 on the upper Mississippi River closed 2 July and are expected to remain closed through the rest of this week and possibly into the next, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers. Locks 11, 13, 18 and 20 are expected to close on 4 July. The Corps will likely close locks 14 and 22 on 5 July, while lock 15 is expected to close 6 July. The Corps said the duration of the July 4-5 closures is unclear. Another 2-5 inches of rain fell along the western Corn Belt in the past week, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. High river conditions led to major flood status at Dubuque, Iowa, while other locations along the river are at moderate flooding levels. Water levels are 4-5ft below record highs on the upper Mississippi River. The outdraft at lock and dam 16 was at 211,444 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Tuesday, compared with typical flow of 41,100cfs. Major barge carrier American Commercial Barge Line anticipates 7-10 days of disruption followed by a 2-3 week catch-up. By Meghan Yoyotte Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

US House panel advances waterways’ projects bill


27/06/24
News
27/06/24

US House panel advances waterways’ projects bill

Houston, 27 June (Argus) — A Congressional committee on Wednesday advanced a bill to authorize a bundle of US port and river infrastructure projects for the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) biennially authorizes projects handled by the Corps' civil works program aimed at improving shipping operations at the nation's ports and harbors, and along the inland waterway system. The traditionally bipartisan legislation also approves flood and storm programs, and work on other aspects of water resources infrastructure. The House of Representatives' Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday passed the bill by a 61-2 vote. The Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works passed its own version of the bill on 22 May by a 19-0 vote. Neither the full Senate nor House have yet voted on the bills, which will need a conference committee to sort out different versions. A key difference is that the House bill did not include an adjustment to the cost-sharing structure for lock and dam construction and major rehabilitation projects. The Senate measure adjusted the funding mechanism so that 75pc of costs would be paid for by the US Treasury Department's general fund, with the rest coming from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. The 2022 version of the bill made permanent an increase to 65pc from the general fund and 35pc from the trust fund, which is funded by a barge diesel fuel tax. The House committee's decision not to include the funding change drew disappointment from shipping interests. The Waterways Council was "disappointed that the House did not include a provision to modernize the inland waterways system", but was hopeful that conference negotiations would result in its inclusion, Tracy Zea, chief executive of the group, said. The latest House version of the bill authorizes 12 projects and 160 new feasibility studies. Among the projects receiving approval were modifications to the Seagirt Loop Channel near the Baltimore Harbor in Maryland. The federal government would pay $47.9mn towards an estimate $63.9mn project to widen the channel, which would help meet future demand for capacity within the Port of Baltimore. That would include increased container volume at the Seagirt Marine Terminal. The project was in the works before the 26 March collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge temporarily diverted freight from Seagirt and many other port terminals. The committee also authorized $314.25mn towards a resiliency study of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The study would consider hurricane and storm damage and identify ways to improve navigation, reduce the maintenance requirements, and provide resiliency. The waterway connects ports along the Gulf of Mexico from St Marks, Florida, to Brownsville, Texas. The House version of the bill also includes provisions to strengthen flood control, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. "Critically, WRDA 2024 will help communities increase resiliency in the face of climate change," representative Rick Larsen (D-WA) said. By Abby Caplan and Meghan Yoyotte Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

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