Barge delays at Algiers lock near New Orleans

  • : Agriculture, Chemicals, Coal, Coking coal, Crude oil, Metals, Petroleum coke
  • 24/04/24

Barges are facing lengthy delays at the Algiers lock near New Orleans as vessels reroute around closures at the Port Allen lock and the Algiers Canal.

Delays at the Algiers Lock —at the interconnection of the Mississippi River and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway— have reached around 37 hours in the past day, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers' lock report. Around 50 vessels are waiting to cross the Algiers lock.

Another 70 vessels were waiting at the nearby Harvey lock with a six-hour wait in the past day.

The closure at Port Allen lock has spurred the delays, causing vessels to reroute through the Algiers lock. The Port Allen lock is expected to reopen on 28 April, which should relieve pressure on the Algiers lock.

Some traffic has been rerouted through the nearby Harvey lock since the Algiers Canal was closed by a collapsed powerline, the US Coast Guard said. The powerline fell on two barges, but no injuries or damages were reported. The wire is being removed by energy company Entergy.

The canal is anticipated to reopen at midnight on 25 April.


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24/05/23

Richmond City Council proposes Chevron refinery tax

Richmond City Council proposes Chevron refinery tax

Houston, 23 May (Argus) — The Richmond City Council in California's Bay Area has paved the way for a tax on Chevron's 245,000 b/d refinery, voting unanimously at a 21 May meeting for the city's attorney to prepare a ballot initiative. The newly proposed excise tax would be based on the Richmond refinery's feedstock throughputs, according to a presentation given by Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) at the meeting. It is a "…legally defensible strategy to generate new revenue for the city," CBE attorney Kerry Guerin said. The city has previously looked to tax the refinery, with voters passing ‘Measure T' in 2008 before it was struck down in court in 2009. This led to a 15-year settlement agreement freezing any new taxes on Chevron's refinery, but the agreement expires on 30 June 2025. The city is projecting a $34mn budget shortfall for the 2024 to 2025 fiscal year and is seeking to shore up its finances with additional revenue. Ballot initiatives allow Californian citizens to bring laws to a vote without the support of the state's governor or legislature, and the tax proposal could go to voters as early as November this year, according to CBE's Guerin. "Richmond has been the refinery town for more than 100 years, but it won't be 100 years from now," Richmond Mayor Eduardo Martinez said during the meeting. Chevron reiterates risk to renewables A tax on the refinery is the "wrong approach to encourage investment in our facility and in the city that could lead to new energy solutions and reductions in emissions from the refinery," Chevron senior public affairs representative Brian Hubinger said during the meeting's public comments. Hubinger's comment echoes prior warnings from Chevron that a potential cap on California refining profit in the process of being implemented by the California Energy Commission (CEC) would make the company less willing to investment in renewable energy . "An additional punitive tax burden reduces our ability to make investments in our facility to provide the affordable, reliable and ever-cleaner energy our community depends on every day, along with the job opportunities and emission reductions that go with these investments," Chevron said in an emailed statement. The Richmond refinery tax is a "hasty proposal, brought forward by activist interests," the company said. The company last year finished converting a hydrotreating unit at its 269,000 b/d El Segundo, California, refinery to process both renewable and crude feedstocks. The facility was processing 2,000 b/d of bio feedstock to produce renewable diesel (RD) and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and said it expected to up production to 10,000 b/d last year. But Chevron has so far lagged its California refining peers in terms of RD volumes with Marathon's Martinez plant running at about 24,000 b/d in the first quarter — half of its nameplate capacity — and Phillips 66's Rodeo refinery producing 30,000 b/d with plans to up runs to over 50,000 b/d by the end of the second quarter . Chevron did not immediately respond to a request for current RD volumes at its California refineries. By Nathan Risser Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

RE monazite demand shifts mineral sands supply chain


24/05/23
24/05/23

RE monazite demand shifts mineral sands supply chain

London, 23 May (Argus) — Interest in monazite as a feedstock for rare earth (RE) processing is rising as producers look for sources outside China, bringing mineral sands projects into the RE supply chain. Deposits of RE elements are typically found in rock formations including carbonatites and granites, in calc-silicate sequences and ionic adsorption clay deposits — primarily in China and surrounding countries. But as downstream consumers and governments increasingly look to diversify their supply chains, monazite is becoming attractive as an alternative source. Monazite is a phosphate mineral that contains about 55-60pc RE oxides. It contains 17 RE elements, including cerium, neodymium, lanthanum, thorium and yttrium. Reflecting this, US-based uranium and rare earths producer Energy Fuels is acquiring Australia-based mineral sands developer Base Resources to gain access to the monazite stream from its Toliara project in Africa as an RE feedstock. The Toliara heavy mineral sands project in Madagascar plans to produce monazite as a by-product of its primary titanium and zirconium output. The acquisition marks Energy Fuels' entry into the mineral sands business as it invests in operations in Australia, Brazil and Madagascar to supply RE concentrate. Toliara's monazite stream will provide the feedstock Energy Fuels needs for RE oxide production at its White Mesa uranium and vanadium mill in Utah. The facility will also process the uranium content from the feed and if needed, it can recover thorium. The mill has been processing monazite to produce a mixed RE carbonate, which it has been selling commercially since 2021. "We're putting together two pieces of the puzzle that nobody has put together," Energy Fuels president and chief executive Mark Chalmers said at the recent Metal Events Rare Earths conference in Singapore. "We're putting together the physical metallurgy and the hydrometallurgy." White Mesa has been processing monazite supplied by US titanium dioxide producer Chemours. But its output has been limited as there is not enough monazite in the feed, Chalmers said, whereas Toliara contains more than 1mn t of monazite and has about 1.5mn t of existing tailings capacity. Energy Fuels is in the process of commissioning its Phase 1 neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) separation facility, which is scheduled to start production by the end of the first half of 2024. It plans to produce 35t of NdPr oxalate in 2024. Phase 1 will have the capacity to process 8,000-10,000 t/yr of monazite to produce up to 800-1,000 t/yr of NdPr oxide. The company plans to increase its NdPr capacity to 3,000 t/yr in 2026-27 and add heavy RE processing in 2027-28. It is starting to pilot heavy RE separation and is exploring moving downstream into metal and alloy production. The first stage of Base's Toliara project, scheduled for September 2027, aims to produce an average of 17,400 t/yr of monazite. The second stage would ramp up to 26,100 t/yr. Energy Fuels also owns the Bahia project in Brazil, which could supply 4,000-5,000 t/yr of monazite to White Mesa Mill to produce 400-500 t/yr of NdPr oxide and 20-25 t/yr of dysprosium and terbium oxides. Energy Fuels has the potential to produce 4,000-6,000 t/yr of NdPr oxide, 150-225 t/yr of dysprosium oxide and 50-75 t/yr of terbium oxide, which would supply enough magnetic RE oxides to supply 3mn-6mn electric vehicles (EVs) per year. RE oxides are in demand from US, European and Asian EV, wind energy and other clean energy manufacturers, as well as emerging commercial metal-making, alloying and magnet-making facilities that are under development in the US. The US defence industry could include offtake of other non-magnetic oxides contained in monazite. Developments at other mineral sands producers outside China also indicate that demand for concentrate for its monazite content rather than zircon or titanium is on the rise. Indonesia-focused zircon producer PYX Resources said last week that it has made its first shipment of monazite-rich zircon concentrate to a customer in Hainan, China, exporting 750t. PYX expects to report further exports in the future. Mineral sands producer Iluka is also moving into the RE market using its monazite by-product. The company has stockpiled monazite since the 1990s at its Narngulu Mineral Separation Plant in Eneabba, Western Australia. Iluka is now developing RE production at Eneabba, commissioning a concentrator plant to process the stockpiled material. It will separate the monazite and additional zircon to produce a 90pc concentrate to feed its RE refinery. The company aims to produce neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium oxides from 2026. It holds other mineral sands deposits that could feed the RE refinery, and it will be able to handle third-party deposits if it requires additional feedstock. Companies had stopped processing monazite owing to the high cost of disposing radioactive thorium. But thorium is now becoming attractive for advanced nuclear reactor design and medical isotopes, which could drive offtake. By Nicole Willing Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Record-high EU antimony prices in 'uncharted territory'


24/05/23
24/05/23

Record-high EU antimony prices in 'uncharted territory'

London, 23 May (Argus) — European antimony prices hit fresh record highs this week after a prolonged period of supply constraints, and the latest hikes are drawing concern from even the most experienced traders as they navigate an increasingly opaque and speculative spot market. Prices for regulus grade II and trioxide in Europe were assessed at $18,500-19,500/t today, up by 14pc from a week ago and 55pc higher than this time last year, when prices were $12,000-12,400/t. Higher price indications are emerging daily, with some offers heard as high as $20,000/t in Rotterdam this week. The upswing has gathered pace significantly since 9 April, underpinned by depleting domestic resources in China and limited concentrate coming into Europe from various parts of the world. The continuing war in Myanmar (Burma) — a major source of antimony ore, most of which is exported to China — is exacerbating the supply tightness. Meanwhile, Oman-based strategic and precious metals firm SPMP suspended production at its Oman Antimony Roaster plant at the start of 2024 and is still not offering material, chief executive Joel Montgomery told Argus this week. The reasons for the suspension have not been disclosed. The status of Russian producer Polyus remains unclear, but the firm is not delivering as much raw material as in the past, Argus understands. And Tajikstan is currently producing more antimony ingot and selling less ore, according to market participants. "The market is becoming more opaque, with less information on the largest players," consultancy firm Hallgarten's principal and mining strategist, Christopher Ecclestone, told Argus . He added that supply of ore — or concentrate — is inelastic, as artisanal producers are currently operating at maximum capacity. On the demand side, China is directing significant volumes of antimony trioxide and antimony selenide toward its manufacturers of solar photovoltaic glass. With a container to Europe now costing around half a million dollars, traders have largely stepped back from the spot market, waiting for the current volatility to ease, and minimal stocks are available in Rotterdam for spot bookings. A significant volume of antimony arrived in Rotterdam recently and has already been locked into long-term contracts, but this has not stunted the rally, a market source told Argus . "Antimony is becoming a crazy dangerous market," a trader told Argus . It is hurting the industry, causing irreparable damage," he added, noting that consumers are getting hit by the higher prices and reduced availability. Antimony is largely used as a flame retardant in electrical and electronic equipment and textiles, alloys (lead-acid batteries), wires and cables, ceramics, and glass. With prices at record highs, market participants are looking for ways to ease the supply crunch or their consumption rates, but there are no easy options available. On the supply side, recycling streams are already heavily utilised after a major push in 2011, when prices hit their previous record high of around $17,100/t. Around a quarter of global antimony supply is currently produced through the recycling of antimony-bearing metal alloys. On the consumption side, demand from the flame-retardant sector fell by around 20pc in 2023 because of the weak macroeconomic environment, according to one buyer. It is difficult to develop alternative materials that can act as a substitute. Zinc borates and zinc stannates can sometimes substitute antimony trioxide, but only in specific formulations. Antimony substitutes can run into performance issues in various applications, especially in flame retardants because of the weakening of the polymer, sources said. "Antimony could be replaced in solar uses, but that is still a small portion of the market, even though it is growing," Ecclestone said. For now, speculation remains rife as to how high prices are likely to go before hitting a ceiling. "When the increase is supply driven, there is a moment when it falls [...] It cannot stick for too much longer," a trader said. Some sources expect the price rally to run out of steam in July-August because of the summer demand lull. Producers of flame-retardant products typically pause operations in June-July, and there could be a two-week period of maintenance, Argus understands. "The bubble is going to burst once it reaches $20,000/t," another trader estimated. By Cristina Belda Antimony trioxide Europe vs China $/t Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Indonesia’s nickel mining quotas fall short of demand


24/05/23
24/05/23

Indonesia’s nickel mining quotas fall short of demand

Singapore, 23 May (Argus) — Indonesia's ministry of energy and mineral resources has approved 204 nickel mining work plans for exploration and production, according to market participants, with a combined quota of 220.7mn t. The approved quotas, also known as RKAB work plans, allocated to the production segment is unknown. But participants said that the quotas may not be enough to meet expected demand this year because more than 90pc of the production RKABs are expected to have been approved. Nickel ore demand is forecast to reach 220mn t in 2024 based on projected nickel output, according to data compiled by Argus. Indonesia's nickel ore output was 175.6mn t in 2023. A large portion of the approvals was granted to the Morowali region, participants said, while the approval rates for RKABs in other regions, such as Sulawesi and Weda Bay, were significantly lower. This could potentially lead to a regional shortage of nickel ore. Nickel consumption is trending higher with an influx of overseas investment into Indonesia. Indian steel producer Jindal Stainless is planning a 1.2mn t/yr stainless steel melt shop , while Chinese battery metals and materials manufacturer Green Eco-Manufacture is building a 30,000 t/yr battery cathode precursor plant . But nickel intermediate supplies have been tight, dampened by tighter spot availability and lower term-contracted availability from Indonesia-based plants with a bearish nickel-cobalt-manganese battery precursor market. Civil unrest in New Caledonia has sparked concerns of a further tightening of supplies, pushing London Metal Exchange nickel prices on 20 May to their highest level in nine months at $21,625/t. Several businesses in the French-controlled territory's nickel value chain were disrupted during the riots, affecting production and transportation. Nickel prices will likely remain volatile in the coming months, depending on the approval rates of new RKABs, availability from swing suppliers such as New Caledonia and the growth rate of Chinese stainless steel and electric vehicle demand. By Sheih Li Wong Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Avian flu threatens Australian cattle markets


24/05/23
24/05/23

Avian flu threatens Australian cattle markets

Sydney, 23 May (Argus) — Victorian state agriculture body Agriculture Victoria has detected avian influenza while investigating poultry deaths at a farm, prompting concerns that it could affect Australian cattle markets as it has in the US. Avian flu cases are spreading globally and can spread from birds to livestock and humans, although transmission is rare. Avian flu has been detected in livestock in the US since March 2024. Over 50 dairy herds in nine states have confirmed cases of avian influenza and two dairy workers were infected. Infected cows have symptoms of lower lactation and appetite but recover with little to no mortality, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not anticipate the virus will affect beef production, although the outbreak possibly weighed on US cattle futures despite avian flu not yet being detected in any commercial beef herds. The Australian market is still digesting the news of avian flu in Victoria state, with the Argus Northern feeder steer price unchanged this week from the previous week at A$3.34/kg. Agriculture Victoria said further tests were being done at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness to determine the type of virus. Avian influence strains can be low pathogenicity avian influenza or high pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI). HPAI strains are lethal to infected poultry and can kill entire flocks within days, according to the USDA. Preliminary results indicate the virus strain is not the same as that reported in the US and Antarctica, according to Australia's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The Victorian property with avian flu has been being quarantined. Poultry farmers and bird owners are encouraged to report any unexplained bird deaths. By Edward Dunlop Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

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