Surveying The Scene

Excerpt: A*STAR, US EPA to develop more innovative chemical safety testing methods. Covestro eyes coatings industry to grow PU materials business in India.

A*STAR, US EPA to develop more innovative chemical safety testing methods

SINGAPORE'S Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are partnering to develop new approaches to identify chemicals that could pose a risk to human health.

    Chemical safety testing has been performed mainly on laboratory animals for almost a century. There is growing scientific agreement, however, that animal testing may result in poor prediction of human toxicity due to inter- species differences. Animal testing for cosmetics products and ingredients has been banned in regions such as the European Union (EU) due to ethical concerns.

"Chemicals are essential to modern life. If we can identify reliably and efficiently specific chemicals that pose a risk to human health, this should enable industry to predict the safety of their products in development, and ultimately benefit consumers and society,” said Dr. Kenneth Lee, Senior Director of A*STAR's Biomedical Research Council (BMRC).

Scientists from A*STAR's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), Bioinformatics Institute (BII), and Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), and researchers from the EPA's National Center for Computational Toxicology are interested in collaborating on three areas of research: Kidney toxicity - This project will use the first and only predictive kidney technologies that were developed by IBN and BII to predict the effects of environmental toxicants on the human kidney efficiently and accurately. Liver toxicity - This project will use 3D liver models developed at IBN and computational tools at the NCCT to identify novel predictive biomarkers of human liver toxicity to overcome limitations in existing 2D model tests, which limit their sensitivity, especially over extended periods. Developmental toxicity - This project aims to investigate the potential of certain chemicals to disrupt the development of blood vessels and the blood-brain-barrier during prenatal development - a key process during one of the most important life stages.

A*STAR said it will draw on its multidisciplinary capabilities in stem cell research and tissue models, genomics, high throughput bioimaging, and c o m p u t a t i o n a l s c i e n c e s . T h e collaboration will also build on EPA's ToxCast program which has generated high-throughput screening data on over 1,800 chemicals.

Covestro eyes coatings industry to grow PU materials business in India

COVESTRO , formerly Bayer MaterialScience, is eyeing industrial coatings market as growth drivers for its Coatings, Adhesives & Specialties (CAS) business unit in India. The unit offers polyurethane (PU) raw materials, which are used as building blocks in coatings and are versatile as they can be used on any substrate – metal or composite. India is viewed as one of the bright spots in otherwise gloomy global marketplace. This has also brighten the prospects of Covestro's CAS business which supplies raw materials to industries such as coatings, automotive, footwear, electronics, etc.

“India is one of the fastest growing economies at present. While other emerging markets are slowing down, India is showing health growth rate of 7.5-8 percent. We see India as a big potential market for polyurethane based products as the penetration of these products are too low in the country. With end-user industries such as automotive, wood furniture, construction, etc, upgrading to new technology, the demand for PU-based material will increase, opening up huge opportunity for us. Over the years, we have invested in manufacturing facility (at Ankleshwar, Gujarat) and application centre (at Vikhroli, Mumbai) in India to support the local customer,” said Xiaobin Zhong, senior VP, CAS, APAC, Covestro, who was recently in India.

Globally, coating accounts for roughly 70 percent of CAS sale revenues, but in India, it accounts for about 50 percent. In order to expand its user base, Covestro is aiming to make major inroads into automotive sector for PU-based materials.

   “Globally, auto OEMs is the biggest market for Covestro, but in India it is not as auto makers do not use PU-based coatings due to lack of awareness about the product. We are trying to change this by working closely with end-users and educating them about the benefits of PU over other conventionally used materials. As the users see value in PU- based products, we are sure there will be manifold increase in demand,” informed Dr Kumar Iyer, Head, CAS at Covestro India Pvt Ltd.

   In addition to top end customers, Covestro is banking on medium scale coating manufacturers to push the demand for its products. To suit these customers, Covestro offers small size packs. “Only in India, we offer 20-kilo pack to customers as against 225-kilo drum which is used globally. This is helpful, especially in case of first time users, as the customer can witness the advantage of PU and then make a switch to new technology,” added Dr Iyer.

While PU-based coatings account for 60 percent market of Chinese wood finishing market, it is just 15 percent in India. Similarly, in China and some other Southeast Asian countries PU-based coatings are majorly used in two & three wheelers, while in India, it is still in the nascent stage.

Covestro expects India to follow global trend towards eco-friendly coating systems. This change is clearly visible in footwear industry, one of the major markets for Covestro's PU-based materials. Footwear manufacturers, who were using rubber-based adhesives, now apply water-based adhesives in their products. While global players like Adidas, Nike, etc use only new-age adhesives, even Indian companies like Bata have made commitments to completely switch to water-based adhesives.

As environment awareness increases, Covestro believe India can also be a potential market for bio-based PU coatings. “We introduced bio-based polyurethane for coatings in Europe last year and the product is expected to be commercially launched globally next year. Though in India there is no market for bio-based PU in coatings industry at present, Covestro is hopeful the demand will ultimately come with tighter regulatory norms and need for sustainability among the end users,” commented Zhong.

India to probe dumping of chemical from Pakistan, other nations

INDIA has started a probe into alleged dumping of a chemical, used as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent, from Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries.

Acting on a joint complaint by National Peroxide Ltd and state-owned Hindustan Organic Chemicals, the Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD) has started a probe into imports of 'Hydrogen Peroxide' originating in or exported from Bangladesh, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, Pakistan and Thailand. The move is aimed at protecting domestic players in the automobile sector against cheap imports.

In a notification, the DGAD said there was sufficient prima facie evidence of the 'injury' being suffered by the domestic industry caused by dumped imports from the countries to "justify" initiation of an anti-dumping investigation. " .... the Authority (DGAD) hereby initiates an investigation into the alleged dumping, and consequent injury to the domestic determine the existence, degree and effect of alleged dumping and to recommend the amount of anti-dumping duty, which if levied, would be adequate to remove the 'injury' to the domestic industry," it said.

The period of investigation (POI) for is from April 2014 to June 2015 (15 months). After the probe, DGAD, if needed, would recommend to the Finance Ministry for imposition of the duty.

Hydrogen peroxide has strong oxidising properties and is therefore a powerful bleaching agent that has found use as a disinfectant, as an oxidiser, and in rocketry and in bipropellant systems. It also finds application in odour control, corrosion control, disinfection/ bio- control, paper and pulp bleaching, therapeutic uses as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent, among others. The anti-dumping duty is aimed at ensuring fair trading practices and creating a level- playing field for domestic producers vis- a-vis foreign producers and exporters resorting to dumping of goods at below- cost rates. Commercially, the product is produced and sold in 35 per cent, 50 per cent, 60 per cent and 70 per cent concentration.

Applicants, the DGAD said have submitted that 90 per cent concentration of the product is used by ISRO and the product is not produced by the domestic industry and hence the scope of product under consideration should be restricted and defined as 'Hydrogen Peroxide (H O ) below 90 per cent concentration'. 2 2 The DGAD said the request of the applicant for restricting the product to 90 per cent concentration could be examined during the course of the investigation and considered at the stage of final finding.

Saudi King opens petroleum research & study center

CUSTODIAN of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Chinese President Xi Jinping remotely inaugurated the Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining Company (YASREF) located in Yanbu recently. The King also inaugurated in Riyadh the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC), a non- profit economics and policy research institute dedicated to finding solutions for the most effective and productive use of energy to enable economic and social progress across the globe.

The Chinese president joined the King in the inauguration ceremony of KAPSARC. King Salman was seen briefing President Xi on KAPSARC and its vision. The inauguration ceremony of YASREF, which has a refining capacity of 400,000 barrels per day, took place in Riyadh in conjunction with President Xi Jinping's official visit to the Kingdom.

   In a unique expression of solidarity and mutual cooperation, a Chinese engineer at YASREF welcomed King Salman in Arabic while a Saudi engineer welcomed President Xi in Chinese. Later the King and the Chinese president jointly pressed a button marking the formal opening of the refinery.

Though formally inaugurated, YASREF which was established on Jan. 14, 2012, came on stream in 2014 and shipped its first consignment of 300,000 barrels of clean diesel in January 2015.

YASREF is a joint venture between Saudi Aramco, which holds a 62.5 percent share, and China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (“Sinopec”), which holds a 37.5 percent share. YASREF represents both companies' focus on driving downstream growth across the entire hydrocarbon chain.

On the sidelines of the inauguration ceremony, the YASREF joint venture partners — Saudi Aramco and Sinopec — signed a “Framework Agreement for Strategic Cooperation” to enhance the competitiveness of the crude oil supplied by Saudi Aramco to Sinopec and to actively explore cooperation opportunities in key areas including oil and gas services, refinery, chemicals, crude oil supply, sales, petroleum services, petrochemical services, technology development and promotion, and new energy.

Amin H. Nasser, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, said: “YASREF is a win- win partnership with Sinopec and a key element of Saudi Aramco's strategy of driving value across the hydrocarbons value-chain to maintain our position as the world's most reliable energy supplier.

“YASREF converts Arabian heavy crude oil into high-value products for international markets. The facility, which embeds world-class technical standards, increases Saudi Aramco refining capacity and is an important step in our strategy to become the world's leading integrated energy enterprise.

“ Today's  inauguration  and cooperation agreement signing reflect shared confidence in our long-term partnership with Sinopec and in the potential opportunities we can create together through deeper, long-term collaboration.”

Dr. Wang Yupu, Sinopec chairman, said: “The inauguration of YASREF is a great achievement for Sinopec and Saudi Aramco. As a result of our newly signed agreement, Sinopec will further strengthen its relationship with Saudi Aramco through exploring new opportunities in the oil and gas sector.

“Sinopec will leverage its strengths in refinery and chemical technology to support Saudi Arabia's strategic decision to transform the oil industry from upstream focused to providing value across the entire supply chain.”

Mohammad S. Alshammari, YASREF president & CEO, said: “The official inauguration of YASREF marks a proud accomplishment for YASREF, Saudi Aramco and Sinopec. YASREF is a global refinery leader that is helping global customers to meet their energy demands.”

Sinopec is now Saudi Aramco's largest crude oil trading partner and onshore drilling service provider. The newly signed agreement will enable the two companies to further enhance their relationship and jointly provide advanced, high quality products and services along the hydrocarbon industry chain.Later Khalid Al-Falih, chairman of the board of directors of Saudi Aramco, presented a memento to the visiting Chinese president.

Amin H. Nasser, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, said: “Energy is the main pillar of Saudi Arabia's economy and the cornerstone of development and prosperity of economies around the world. With the increased complexity of global energy, it is important to continuously expand the boundaries of knowledge through collaboration and research.

“Saudi Aramco is honored to have helped establish KAPSARC which is a state of the art research center that brings together the brightest people from Saudi Arabia and around the world to tackle energy challenges. The Centre is characterized by its innovative design that integrates the highest standards of environmental conservation and Saudi Aramco will continue to support KAPSARC to achieve its mission and goals.”

Samer Al-Ashgar, president of KAPSARC, said: “KAPSARC is all about improving the welfare of societies through a better understanding of the value that energy provides. We aim to develop frameworks for sustainable, value-added energy production and consumption in Saudi Arabia and around the world. Our mission proudly reflects the late King Abdullah's vision, as we seek to make Saudi Arabia a leading source of energy insight in global discussions.”

In 2015, KAPSARC moved to its Riyadh headquarters, constructed by Saudi Aramco and designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid. The Center now comprises a diverse team of over 15 nationalities. The Center has established a global footprint of collaborative partnerships, including institutions from China, India, Japan, East Africa, Europe and the Americas.

$28 billion boost for Saudi Arabia's downstream petrochem industry

    THE downstream industry in Saudi Arabia is set to receive a boost as nearly US$28 billion worth of petrochemicals plants come online this year, creating thousands of jobs and diversifying income away from oil, Saudi officials said recently. .

The state-owned Saudi Aramco's efforts are part of a government strategy to turn the spotlight on petrochemicals production as it invests more than $100bn over the next decade in the downstream sector.

Krupali Shetty

Krupali Shetty

Punit Krishna

The process of making H-Acid generates a lot of effluent. There should be checks to see that it is being made by zero discharge manufacturing units or by units whose pollution control measures are in good shape. The increased price realisations of the product should increase compliance.




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