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Industry News

This section contains information and comments on China´s chemical industry, as posted from January 2024 onwards. Entries are not revised later. For older entries, see separate sections. For daily updates, please join the LinkedIn group "News and Trends in China´s Chemical Industry".---

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Jun 19, 2024: The Economist has an article on China's solar industry titled "China's giant solar industry is in turmoil" (see the link at the end, though it may only be accessible to subscribers)

Comment MCC: The key message is that of an overcapacity issue that keeps worsening. As a consequence, Chinese solar export revenues fell by 6% in 2023 despite rising volumes, and the stock market value of major players has dropped substantially. Similar to the situation in Chinese basic chemicals, major players react not by reducing but by expanding capacity, reckoning that the only way to survive is to reduce marginal costs via economies of scale. The article also points out that state support has contributed to the oversupply. An accompanying chart indicates that China has about 80% of global solar module capacity.

https://www.economist.com/business/2024/06/17/chinas-giant-solar-industr...

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Jun 18, 2024: S&P Global reports that "China's petrochemical market is slated to remain pressured in the first half of 2024, with the country's ailing property market and sluggish economic growth casting a gloom over the demand outlook for Asia's biggest petrochemical consumer."

Comment MCC: Apart from the rather strange phrasing ("casting a gloom over"), nothing new here.

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Jun 17, 2024: China will very likely massively overachieve its target of reaching 1,200 GW of wind and solar power by 2030, probably reaching already reaching this target in 2024 and double the amount by 2030.

Comment MCC: Rather than applauding China's efforts and their contribution to reducing global carbon emissions, Western countries will probably focus on complaining about what this means for global markets for these technologies. A strange world. Mind you - China is still a massive emitter, and some of its policies such as the pursuit of coal chemicals contradict its own stated aims in preventing climate change. Yet, the widespread use of carbon-neutral power generation - and the cheapening of its use - should be applauded.

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Jun 16, 2024: Sika opened a new plant in Liaoning, which will manufacture a full range of products, including mortars, tile adhesives, and waterproofing solutions and from which three northeastern provinces will be supplied.

Comment MCC: Sika already has 34 manufacturing sites in China, and the addition of a site in what is generally considered not to be an economically very attractive part of China indicates how far localization has already become. Of course, this is particularly relevant for low-value products such as mortar.

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Jun 15, 2024: In the first four months of 2024, CATL overtook LG as the top EV battery supplier outside China, reaching 27.4% installed capacity (from 26.9% a year earlier) while the LG share decreased to 25.7%.

Comment MCC: It seems that China's dominance in all things EV-related is unstoppable - that is, unless tariffs and other trade barriers are utilized to reduce the dominance.

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Jun 14, 2024: The EU will impose tariffs of up to 48% on electric cars from China starting in July

Comment MCC: Similar to the US, the EU now favors protecting the local industry over fighting climate change. Overall, I am quite puzzled - China providing incentives for companies in areas such as EVs and solar panels has certainly accelerated decarbonization and is probably what other countries should have done as well. But now, the country gets punished for it. Of course, this will also have an impact on the chemical companies providing much of the input for EVs.

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Jun 13, 2024: A paper by Chinese researchers compares the production of propylene via two different routes, propane dehydrogenation and coal-to-propylene, with regard to their carbon dioxide emissions.

Comment MCC: The study identifies a range of optimal carbon tax rates that can enhance the economic competitiveness of low-carbon propylene routes PDH and discourage the expansion of coal-fed CTO propylene routes. These tax rates correspond to 1-10% of the typical propylene price in the Chinese market. Implementation of such a tax could thus shift the economics of the two different routes.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652624022820

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Jun 12, 2024: China's imports of crude oil fell by 8.7% in May 2024 compared to one year earlier.

Comment MCC: One of the likely reasons is the growing share of electric vehicles. This will also lead to an increasing share of crude oil being turned into chemical products rather than into fuel.

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Jun 11, 2024: China's exports of PP more than doubled in the period from Jan-Apr 2024 compared to the same period in 2023 (ICIS).

Comment MCC: This is likely a consequence of increased domestic capacity and slow domestic demand. Interestingly, the share of exports to Vietnam increased from 13% to 16%, indicating a potential shift of goods manufacturing to that country - often even in Chinese-run factories.

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Jun 10, 2024: BASF Greater China revenue in 2023 accounted for 13.6% of global revenue. The company reduced its greenhouse emissions by 10.7% compared to 2022.

Comment MCC: These figures are fairly impressive. Another figure in the BASF 2023 Greater China report is less so - the company spent "more than €0.34 million on societal engagement programs in Greater China in 2023", or below 0.004%. Might have been better not to provide this figure at all.

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Jun 09, 2024: According to a paper in Nature, chemistry and physical sciences are clear areas of focus for China, accounting for 85% of the country's total Share in the Nature Index in 2023

Comment MCC: This should indicate good prospects for the innovation capacity of China's chemical industry.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-024-01600-9

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Jun 08, 2024: According to a report by the Centre for European Reform, large German companies only pay lip service to de-risking in China.

Comment MCC: Here is a direct quote from the report: " The big chemical and car companies have doubled down on their investments in China - though some of the smaller firms of the Mittelstand have reduced their exposure."

https://www.cer.eu/insights/china-and-west-gap-set-grow

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Jun 07, 2024: The American Chemistry Council criticizes the US trend toward protectionism (ICIS)

Comment MCC: For example, the CEO of the ACC stated "For the chemical industry, the concern is that we're a big winner in global trade. We have a $25 billion trade surplus, and so we are a target for retaliation when we target countries, including China"

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Jun 06, 2024: Chinese recycled polymer producer Zhenjiang Ceville has started building a recycled plastic plant in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu. It includes waste bottle washing, shredding, pelleting units and PET chemical recycling to produce 100 kt/a of mechanically recycled food-grade or multi-purpose recycled PET pellets, 40 kt/a of mechanically recycled food-grade recycled PE/PP and 10 kt/a chemically recycled PET pellets.

Comment MCC: Hopefully, those aiming to procure recycled plastics will buy from such real plants rather than falling for the increasing offers of fake recycled material (virgin plastics sold as recycled to fetch a higher price).

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Jun 05, 2024: A paper by Chinese scientists examines lithium pollution and the resulting health risks in a large lithium extraction area in China

Comment MCC: The study found that indeed substantial amounts of lithium are being found in a local river, and that local residents were suffering potential chronic noncarcinogenic health risks primarily from consuming contaminated water and vegetables. Given the growing importance of lithium mining globally, these results are likely to also apply to other locations.

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.4c00225

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Jun 04, 2024: BASF inaugurated its second polymer dispersions production line in Huizhou, China.

Comment MCC: Among the reasons provided for the expansion are growing local demand for high-quality dispersions from customer segments such as coatings and batteries, and shortening of lead times due to a plant location near raw materials suppliers

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Jun 03, 2024: The director general of CEFIC stated that while the European industry is out of recession, it does not show much growth either, limiting the prospects of the chemical industry.

Comment MCC: In addition, he also stated that strong Chinese chemical exports are a challenge to the European industry.

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Jun 02, 2024: A team of Chinese scientists utilized machine learning to find and identify unknown perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment (SCMP)

Comment MCC: This will help identify risks coming from PFAS that are so far unknown - and has the nice side effect of associating the scientists involved with something as fashionable as AI

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/science/article/3264016/forever-chemical...

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Jun 01, 2024: The Gulf Petrochemicals & Chemicals Association published an interesting paper discussing the impact of a Free Trade Agreement between the gulf countries of the GCC and China on the chemical industry of the GCC.

Comment MCC: The paper states that China is the biggest export destination for chemical exports from the GCC, accounting for 19% of total chemical exports in 2022, though this is down from a peak of 28% in 2019. In contrast, the GCC countries are only a relatively minor source of chemical imports from the Chinese perspective, accounting for about 5% of total imports. These imports are mainly plastics (50%) and organic chemicals (46%). Overall, the paper argues that a Free Trade Agreement could be beneficial for the chemical industry of the GCC but also warns of overreliance on a single export destination such as China, particularly in the face of China's drive toward self-sufficiency. To me, the latter point should be particularly relevant as the ongoing increase in refinery capacity in China will likely mean the country will import fewer chemicals and plastics while continuing to import crude oil.

https://www.gpca.org.ae/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/V4_Trade-position-pap...

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May 31, 2024: Sinopec released three industry reports on the future of China's petrochemical sector, "China Energy Outlook 2060 (2024 Edition)," "China Hydrogen Energy Industry Outlook," and "2024 China Energy and Chemical Industry Development Report."

Comment MCC: Highlights of the three reports are as follows: The China Energy Outlook 2060 shows a downward trend in energy consumption and carbon emissions in China, forecasting that China's coal consumption will stop growing around 2025, and oil demand will peak before 2027. The China Hydrogen Energy Industry Outlook report predicts that by 2060, China's hydrogen energy consumption will be nearing 86 million tons, and non-fossil fuel as an energy source used for making hydrogen will jump to 93 percent. The 2024 China Energy and Chemical Industry Development Report stresses the need to prioritize the conservation, intensification, and high-efficiency recycling of resources in the petrochemical industry

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May 30, 2024: Children's clothes sold by Chinese online store Shein contained toxic substances in amounts hundreds of times above acceptable levels, according to South Korean officials (SCMP)

Comment MCC: In particular, the levels of phthalates were very high - one pair of shoes contained 428 times the permitted levels of phthalates.

https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/3264440/childrens-produ...

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May 29, 2024: China National Chemical Engineering group will build a refinery for the Iraq Southern Refinery Company, with an initial capacity of 300,000 barrels per day.

Comment MCC: Probably the USA had other ideas about the economic development of Iraq rather than it being a target market for Chinese engineering companies.

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May 28, 2024: BASF will invest in the expansion of its advanced additives plant at its Nanjing site.

Comment MCC: This includes Controlled Free Radical Polymerization (CFRP) dispersants and continues BASF's policy of substantial investment in China.

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May 27, 2024: AstraZeneca will build a separate Chinese supply chain to try to circumvent increased US-China tensions. To that end, the company has built a plant in Qingdao which will only serve China.

Comment MCC: This is despite drugs currently not being affected by tariffs - but it seems AstraZeneca is planning for a worst-case scenario.

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May 26, 2024: Fitch downgraded the rating of Indian agrochemicals company UPL and gave it a negative outlook

Comment MCC: The rationale provided strongly focuses on China: "Persistent oversupply from China could delay UPL's deleveraging and sustain pressure on its financial profile", "UPL's EBITDA ... has also been hit by manufacturing overcapacity in China. The chemical capacity build-up in China in the last few years has resulted in a surge in global product supply."

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May 25, 2024: China's chipmakers are aiming to localize the supply of key chip materials and chemicals to counter U.S. export controls (Nikkei)

Comment MCC: This is of course in line with the national policy of reducing the dependency on imports, particularly from the US. However, it will require substantial efforts from chipmakers and may pose a risk to the output quality, at least initially.

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May 24, 2024: An analysis of different Chinese wines by several methods including LC and GC/MS allowed the identification of 5 mineral elements, 13 volatile components, and 51 metabolites and allowed the exact determination of the origin (location) of each wine.

Comment MCC: To quote Max Goldberg, wine is what you drink when you have run out of beer.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590157524002992

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May 23, 2024: An article in China Daily quotes several international experts praising China's battle against pollutants. For example, Rolph Payet, executive secretary of the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, states "China's pivotal role in global chemical management cannot be overstated ... From ratifying amendments to implementing its national plans, China has exemplified dedication in tackling persistent organic pollutants."

Comment MCC: On the other hand, given that the source is China Daily, such praise is to be expected and does not mean there is no criticism (it would simply not have been reported in the paper). For example, Andersen is also quoted as having stated that China has phased out 29 out of 34 types of pollutants - so, 5 types of pollutants apparently have not been phased out yet.

https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202405/18/WS6647efeca31082fc043c7c4a.html

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May 22, 2024: China has launched an anti-dumping investigation into Polyoxymethylene copolymer imports coming from the US, the EU, Taiwan and Japan

Comment MCC: This seems to be a response to trade barriers imposed by other countries, particularly the US. Overall, this cycle of tarriffs will hurt the global economy, though China is hardly the only country to blame. Remember Smoot-Hawley?

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May 21, 2024: A paper in Nature quantifies the amount of fossil fuels used by China's chemical industry (as a share of total Chinese consumption). In 2017, this was 5% for coal, 15% for oil and 7% for natural gas.

Comment MCC: Some of these shares are likely to be much higher now. In any case, these percentages indicate a substantial role of China's chemical industry in carbon dioxide emissions.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-024-47930-0

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May 20, 2024: China's Ministry of Commerce launched an anti-dumping investigation into imports of cypermethrin, a chemical used for the production of insecticides

Comment MCC: This may partly be a reaction to the many anti-dumping investigations from the Indian side on Chinese companies.

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May 19, 2024: ICIS has a podcast covering the global oversupply of chemicals driven by China, stating that the oversupply is forecast to reach over 200 million tonnes/year by 2028

Comment MCC: Link to the podcast: https://podomatic.com/embed/html5/episode/10738800

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May 18, 2024: Shin-Etsu will build a new silicone factory in Zhejiang province, expanding its silicone business in China.

Comment MCC: The new plant will have an area twice the size of the current one, hinting at the expansion of business. This is despite the press release stating "Demand for silicones in China is currently in an adjustment phase ..." (presumably a euphemism or even a decline in business, not surprising given the slowdown of the construction business) but continues optimistically with "... but is expected to grow further in the medium to long term."

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May 17, 2024: US President Biden will substantially increase some tariffs on imports from China, including on EVs, semiconductors, and solar cells, all materials with strong input from the chemical industry.

Comment MCC: It is election season in the USA, and China-bashing is popular.

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May 16, 2024: According to CEFIC, China's global share of chemical exports increased from 4% in 2002 to 14.4% in 2022 while in the same period, the EU share dropped from 25% to 17%.

Comment MCC: However, Europe is still the leader in the global chemical export market - for now.

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May 15, 2024: Indian fluorochemicals maker SRF Ltd on May 7 reported that its specialty chemicals division has faced challenges

Comment MCC: Factors quoted include both dumping and intense competition from Chinese manufacturers, which lead SRF to suffer from price pressure and decreasing sales volumes.

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May 14, 2024: Three people died after an explosion at a nitrocellulose production workshop of a chemical company in Laohekou, Hubei province, China Central Television reported on Sunday.

Comment MCC: Apparently, the cause of the accident was the decrease in water level in the boiling and washing pot of the workshop, so some nitrocellulose lacked water. In other words, exactly the kind of accident that would not happen in a fully automated process, something that the Chinese authorities are pushing for.

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May 13, 2024: South Korea's SK Hynix will sell its foundry unit based in China to a Chinese state-owned enterprise

Comment MCC: Another example from the partial withdrawal of South Korean chemical companies from China.

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May 12, 2024: A study on the use of coal chemical waste salt for electrodialysis found that this is indeed possible if thermal pretreatment at 850 °C for 180 min is used as this completely removes organics from the waste salt, resulting in efficient control of membrane fouling

Comment MCC: Given the amount of coal chemicals produced in China, this could be a relevant finding.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0011916424002649

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May 11, 2024: An article by the GTAI (in German) lists a number of challenges to China's chemical industry, including the weakness of the property segment, the weak overall economy, price competition due to overcapacities, and rising demand for climate-friendly products

Comment MCC: In particular, according to the article, producers of basic chemicals suffer from overcapacity, low demand, and rising costs.

https://www.gtai.de/de/trade/china/branchen/herausforderungen-fuer-china...

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May 10, 2024: According to ICIS, China's demand growth for PVC averaged 10% per year between 1992 and 2023 but will only be 3% per year between 2024 and 2030.

Comment MCC: ICIS cites factors such as lower demand from the property sector as well as lower domestic consumption growth as factors.

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May 09, 2024: DOMO Chemicals inaugurated a new polyamide plant in Haiyan, Jiaxing, Zhejiang

Comment MCC: Customer industries mentioned include automotive, electronics, and energy. The new investment is based on a claimed 20% growth in annual sales.

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May 08, 2024: According to an article in the Indian Express, anti-dumping duties imposed by India seem to focus heavily on chemicals from China.

Comment MCC: While the article quotes officials stating that those anti-dumping duties hurt Indian buyers of the chemicals ("It is a rather tough call"), in reality, the government seems to be much more on the side of the domestic companies, having massively increased the percentage of cases in which anti-dumping duties are imposed.

https://indianexpress.com/article/business/economy/govt-clamps-down-on-d...

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May 07, 2024: Several Chinese-operated gold mines in Niger were temporarily closed after dozens of cattle died from drinking wastewater

Comment MCC: The deaths are believed to be due to the use of chemicals used in the mining process.

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May 06, 2024: According to a recent paper ("Analysis on application status of CCUS technology in emission reduction of modern coal chemical project in chemical industry") on carbon dioxide emission of the modern coal chemical industry, it accounted for about 23% of total emissions of China's chemical industry in 2020.

Comment MCC: It is thus an important contributor to overall emissions. On the other hand, value creation per unit of carbon dioxide released is 2-3 times higher than if the coal is used for thermal energy production.

https://www.e3s-conferences.org/articles/e3sconf/pdf/2024/50/e3sconf_ice...

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May 05, 2024: ICIS suggests that the full-year operating rate of China's PP production may only reach 75% based on extrapolating Jan-Mar production compared to the long-term average of 87%

Comment MCC: While this may turn out to be true given the buildup of overcapacities, the estimate seems risky as it includes the Chinese New Year period, which may see lower demand and/or lower production than the annual average.

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May 04, 2024: According to a recent study, China's online food delivery service creates about 847 kt of plastic waste per year, or about 1.1 kg per inhabitant in big cities and 0.4 kg elsewhere.

Comment MCC: This means large amounts of additives such as antioxidants, phthalates, and Bisphenol A are either incinerated (51 tons per year) or landfilled (another 51 tons). The study concludes "Takeout food may increase the dietary intake of phthalates and BPA by 30% to 50% and raise concerns about considerable exposure to antioxidant transformation products."

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.3c06345

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May 03, 2024: A paper in Outlookbusiness states that India's chemical industry failed to grasp opportunities to take away market share from China. Instead, massive capacity additions in China threaten even the existing business of Indian players, for example in agrochemicals.

Comment MCC: Among the reasons given are Chinese capacity additions, India's lack of chemical parks (though the paper wrongly states that China has 250 of them - in reality, there are about 600), lack of infrastructure, lack of economies of scale, and a focus on bulk chemicals rather than on specialties.

https://www.outlookbusiness.com/enterprise-3/feature/fault-in-the-formul...

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May 02, 2024: S&P Global Commodity Insights predicts that several crackers in Europe will have to be closed down as they are cost-competitive with others, including Chinese ones.

Comment MCC: The European crackers are on average only 25-40% of what is current word scale, and most operate on naphtha rather than on cheaper ethane. As China massively expands cracker capacity in the next few years, these European crackers will be driven out of the market.

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May 01, 2024: Sinopecs profit declined by 9% in Q1 2024, mainly due to weak performance of its petrochemicals business

Comment MCC: In particular, ethylene production declined by 2%, and the company indicated increasing competition in petrochemicals due to increased overall capacity.

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Apr 30, 2024: The NDRC is promoting the construction of decentralized rural wind power projects.

Comment MCC: This could be an interesting market for producers of materials for such projects - the market currently is more or less nonexistent but could take off given its government support.

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Apr 29, 2024: A recent paper examines how the co-production of steel and chemicals can reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions and states that it can indeed reduce emissions substantially.

Comment MCC: The paper uses modeling based on the assumption of extracting H2 and CO from steelmaking off-gas for chemical production in China.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s44286-024-00061-1

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Apr 28, 2024: According to a recent BASF analyst call, global chemical production grew by 5.4% in Q1 2024 compared to Q1 2023. The main driver was China with a growth of 9.6%

Comment MCC: This data seems to justify BASF's continuous focus on China, though the fact that chemical growth is much faster than the growth of global industrial production (+0.9%) may indicate that such a high growth rate will not continue for long.

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Apr 27, 2024: According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China's plastic products output reached 74.89 million tons in 2023, an increase of 3 percent year-on-year.

Comment MCC: These are growth rates that may be maintained for a few more years, rather than the past rates of at least twice as much.

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Apr 26, 2024: Uzbekistan's largest private oil and gas company, Saneg, and Sinopec plan to establish the world's first methanol-to-olefin gas chemical plant outside China (Nikkei)

Comment MCC: Part of the output of about 1.1 million tons of polymer per year is to be exported to Turkey and China.

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Apr 25, 2024: According to Businesstimes, Saudi Aramco is considering buying a 10% stake in Hengli Petrochemical.

Comment MCC: Given the right price, this looks like a win-win deal, with Aramco accelerating its shift into chemicals and Hengli potentially securing raw materials.

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/companies-markets/energy-commodities/sa...

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Apr 24, 2024: Polymerupdates reports that in 2024, 81% of global new chemical capacity (by volume) will be in built in China.

Comment MCC: I am not sure how reliable the figure is, and of course by value the addition would be much lower, but as a trend statements this sounds right.

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Apr 23, 2024: A study by ITIF titled "How Innovative Is China in the Chemicals Industry?" finds that "China is leading in chemical production, especially basic chemicals. And while it is currently lagging behind on innovation-especially in more complex fine chemicals-all signs suggest it will catch up with the global leaders within the next decade or two"

Comment MCC: It also provides some interesting data on indicators such as producer share and patents by country over time. More importantly, it also cites a certain Kai Pflug: "A good summary of the Chinese position and trends is from Chinese chemical industry expert Kai Pflug, who wrote: ‘In the past, Chinese pressure on the Western chemical industry came from below-China captured more and more of the market segments with limited innovation and complexity. What is new about the current wave of Chinese domestic investments in chemicals is that these now target precisely the chemical segments that are the most innovative, which tend to also be the fastest growing ones. So far, Western chemical companies survived by out-innovating the Chinese-the latest developments show that this approach is far from certain to work in the future. In a worst-case scenario, this would only leave Western companies with smaller-volume chemicals, in which the scale-oriented Chinese players typically are less interested.'"

https://itif.org/publications/2024/04/15/how-innovative-is-china-in-the-...

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Apr 22, 2024: According to a study by Econpol, while generally fewer companies in Germany are dependent on intermediate products from China than 2 years ago, chemical companies are an exception. For chemical companies, 46 percent stated that they were dependent on inputs from China, an increase of 5 percentage points from 2022.

Comment MCC: One reason may be that Germany's chemical industry has been hit particularly hard by the increased gas prices after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, increasing demand for imports from China.

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Apr 21, 2024: A US congressional committee accused China of Tuesday of subsidizing the manufacture and export of ingredients used to make fentanyl through tax rebates

Comment MCC: This seems to be another example of China-bashing, as of course the tax rebates do not specifically cover fentanyl raw materials. Other accusations such as China notifying companies of US investigations and leaving online export-oriented content uncensored sound more serious.

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Apr 20, 2024: ICIS has a podcast on increasing anti-dumping duties on chemicals produced in China

Comment MCC: Leaders of these activities are the EU, US, India, Brazil, and South Korea, whose chemical industries struggle to compete with low-priced Chinese exports.

https://www.icis.com/explore/resources/news/2024/04/10/10988933/podcast-...

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Apr 19, 2024: According to Reuters and Xinhua, two people were killed and four injured in an explosion at a chemical plant in northwest China's Ningxia region

Comment MCC: The explosion highlights the presence of the production of chemicals from coal in remote but coal-rich regions such as Ningxia.

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Apr 18, 2024: Celanese will invest in Nanjing, including the startup of a new vinyl acetate ethylene unit and some debottlenecking for redispersible polymer powders.

Comment MCC: A US company apparently fully prepared to stay in China, and presumably competitive with Chinese competitors

https://www.chemengonline.com/celanese-announces-several-plant-startups-...

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Apr 17, 2024: The CEO of Lanxess highlighted the importance of China for the company: "The Chinese market is not just another market for Lanxess. It holds strategic significance for our global operations"

Comment MCC: Other statements emphasizing China's role include the following, which stresses the "In China for China" strategy taken by several global chemical companies: "China's role in the chemical market has evolved from being primarily a manufacturing hub to a significant consumer market. It accounts for 40 percent of global chemical sales, which is expected to approach 50 percent by 2030 ... This market shift has led Lanxess to localize products to meet the demands of China's growing middle-income group."

https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202404/09/WS66149943a31082fc043c0e6b.html

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Apr 16, 2024: TotalEnergies has signed an agreement with Sinopec to produce sustainable aviation fuel in China, to be made from local waste or cooking oils and animal fats

Comment MCC: This follows recent praise in the Economist for Total as a company "that balances growth and greenery" (title of the Economist article)

https://www.economist.com/business/2024/04/04/meet-the-french-oil-major-...

https://www.ofimagazine.com/news/total-energies-and-sinopec-team-up-to-p...

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Apr 15, 2024: According to C&EN, Japanese companies continue to close plants in Japan and China due to heavy competition from Chinese players.

Comment MCC: Examples include the closure of Mitsui's phenol plant in Japan in 2026, the closure of Mitsui plants for PTA and PP in Japan in 2023, the downsizing of Mitsui's TDI plant in Japan, Sanyo's closure of a superabsorbent polymer plant in China, and DIC's withdrawal from LCD materials.

https://cen.acs.org/business/Expansion-China-hits-Japan/102/web/2024/04

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Apr 14, 2024: BASF has signed a 15-year contract with Chinese gas company ENN Energy Holdings for natural gas at BASF's integrated chemicals complex in Zhanjiang in Guangdong

Comment MCC: BASF is certainly sensitive to natural gas supply after its reliance on Russian gas turned out to be a major headache after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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Apr 13, 2024: Sanyo Chemical Industries will stop production at three plants in Nantong, China -superabsorbent polymer, surfactants, and urethane resins.

Comment MCC: The most likely reason is low profitability due to excess capacity and low-price competition by local players.

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Apr 12, 2024: According to ECONOMYNEXT, Sri Lanka has approved Sinopec to build a new refinery at the Hambantota port, an investment of at least $4.5 billion

Comment MCC: The refinery will supply both the local market and produce for export, strengthening China's position in the country in a region that India also has a strong interest in.

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Apr 11, 2024: Brazil is considering imposing import tariffs on some imports from China including chemicals.

Comment MCC: The Financial Times gives the example of phthalic anhydride, imports of which grew by more than 2000% between 2018 and 2023.

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Apr 10, 2024: A source named China Chemical Market Insights reports on several Wanhua investments including one in the production of menthol and one in the expansion of a catalyst treatment plant.

Comment MCC: However, the overall tone of the source is so gushing with praise for Wanhua that this is unlikely to be a truly independent source. Here is a sample: "Wanhua Chemical's visionary expansion and investment plans in Yantai epitomize the fusion of cutting-edge technology with a commitment to environmental sustainability. By championing projects that push the boundaries of chemical manufacturing, Wanhua is not just enhancing its global competitiveness but also contributing significantly to the sustainable development of the chemical industry. These initiatives herald a new era of high-quality development, with Wanhua Chemical leading the charge towards a more sustainable, innovative, and prosperous future." Reads like a parody of a company press release, not like an independent news source.

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Apr 09, 2024: While China produced about 60% of all lithium chemicals in 2023, data provider Benchmark forecasts an increasing import deficit, with 70-80% of all China-produced lithium chemicals depending on raw materials imports rather than on domestically mined rock.

Comment MCC: The intensifying efforts of China to secure lithium abroad seem to indicate that these forecasts are broadly correct.

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Apr 08, 2024: According to Chemical Week, lithium producer Albemarle expects global EV penetration to increase from 17% in 2023 to 23% this year and to reach 50% in 2030. This would mean the demand for lithium carbonate will increase from 1.3 million tons in 2024 to 3.3 million tons in 2030.

Comment MCC: However, as many companies have started activities in this area, prices have fallen substantially.

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Apr 07, 2024: Oxford Economics expects chemicals and pharmaceuticals to be the second-fastest growing segment within Chinese manufacturing, as measured by gross value-added growth in 2024.

Comment MCC: Factors cited include increased Chinese output in new industries such as EVs, batteries, and renewables, all segments closely linked to the chemical industry.

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Apr 06, 2024: The USA wants Japanese companies to limit exports to China of specialty chemicals used for chipmaking, including photoresist

Comment MCC: Obviously, the affected companies are not enthusiastic about these initiatives - and given the increasing restraints the US imposes on free trade in general, why should they?

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Apr 06, 2024: BASF will change the name of two dispersions plants, BASF Paper Chemicals Huizhou and BASF Paper Chemicals Jiangsu, to BASF Specialty Material Huizhou and BASF Specialty Material Jiangsu.

Comment MCC: While the official rationale is the wider product range of these plants, a more likely reason is that specialty chemicals are regarded as higher-end and higher-margin than the subsegment of paper chemicals.

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Apr 05, 2024: China Daily writes that "Multinational chemical manufacturers are looking at further opportunities to invest in China, business executives and experts said, as the country's commitment to build a modern industrial system and accelerate the development of new quality productive forces inject fresh impetus into its high-quality economic development."

Comment MCC: Companies providing positive statements on chemical investment in China include AkzoNobel and Clariant.

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Apr 05, 2024: According to chemanalyst.com, LyondellBasell restarted its PE and PP production in China, but only at a technically minimal level.

Comment MCC: Apparently, while demand is somewhat up, profitability is still low or even negative, so restarting production is more to keep the company's options open than to earn money.

https://www.chemanalyst.com/NewsAndDeals/NewsDetails/bora-lyondellbasell...

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Apr 04, 2024: A report issued by GBReports states that Mexico's chemical industry is well-positioned for nearshoring-driven growth.

Comment MCC: In particular, chemicals currently imported to the US from China might be produced in Mexico in the future. For some chemicals, this is already the case - though this also includes undesirable ones such as fentanyl.

https://www.gbreports.com/publication/mexico-chemicals-2024

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Apr 04, 2024: BASF has broken ground on a methyl glycols plant at its Verbund site in Zhanjiang, China

Comment MCC: As typical for BASF, the plant is backward integrated. And as typical for more recent developments, the key market for the product is the local one (for braking fluids).

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Apr 03, 2024: Chinese president Xi Jinping recently visited BASF Shanshan Battery Materials in Hunan

Comment MCC: This of course indicates high-level support for BASF and must come as a relief to BASF - apparently, their pullout of the Xinjiang JVs is not being held against them by the Chinese government. It seems Xi is eager to demonstrate China's openness to foreign investment, particularly in new and rapidly growing areas such as battery materials.

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Apr 03, 2024: According to PWC/ Strategy&, 2022 and 2023 are the first years in history in which Germany had a negative chemical trade balance with China (volume and value)

Comment MCC: Of course, this is partly due to localization of production by German companies.

https://www.strategyand.pwc.com/de/en/industries/energy-utilities/the-st...

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Apr 02, 2024: An Australian miner of manganese ore will produce the resulting battery-grade manganese sulfate in China for a number of reasons including China's cost advantage

Comment MCC: Other reasons provided by the company for producing in China rather than in Australia include the faster speed (quicker registration, existing chemical parks), cheaper investment and operational costs, and the greater demand for the product in China.

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Apr 01, 2024: Perstorp bought out its Chinese minority partner for polyol production in Shandong.

Comment MCC: As this and other recent examples such as the BASF exit from Xinjiang JVs indicate, it may get harder and harder to align the interests of Western and Chinese JV partners not only with regard to political aspects, but also with regard to the extent of investing in sustainability, safety and reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. The only long-term solution then is the exit of one of the JV partners.

https://www.perstorp.com/en/news_center/pressreleases/2024/perstorp_buys_out_minority_partner_at_china_site

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Apr 01, 2024: A legislative initiative by US congressional leaders would block China from buying oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Comment MCC: Of course, this is a purely symbolic initiative with no practical implications but allows US politicians to bolster their China-bashing credentials without any cost to them.

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Mar 31, 2024: Evonik stresses the importance of China, with the CEO stating that "The Asian market, represented by China, has always been a driving force for the global economy and an important growth market for Evonik. Evonik regards China as one of the driving forces of the global economy"

Comment MCC: In the past, Evonik has been a relative laggard with regard to China. In 2023, only about 20% of its revenue came from Asia, and only about 8% from China, substantially lower than some of its peers and of course miles away from China's share of the total chemical market of around 45%.

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Mar 30, 2024: Syngenta withdrew its listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange

Comment MCC: This listing had already been postponed for a few years - presumably the company was waiting for an improvement in market conditions. Instead, if anything, market conditions got worse.

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Mar 29, 2024: China has about 52% of global titanium dioxide capacity (CCR)

Comment MCC: The reasonably high operating rate of 79% thus can only be maintained by exporting a substantial share (37%) of the domestic production.

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Mar 28, 2024: Two weight loss and diabetes drugs marketed by Eli Lilly may become harder to manufacture as some of their active ingredients are produced by Chinese company WuXi AppTec, a company targeted by US politicians.

Comment MCC: The law of unintended consequences coming into full force.

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Mar 27, 2024: China plans to increase its spending on science and technology by 10% compared to 2023.

Comment MCC: The main objective seems to be to reduce dependency on imports for goods and technologies deemed strategic, such as ai and semiconductors.

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Mar 26, 2024: An article in C&EN states that the global center of mass in aromatic chemical manufacturing is shifting toward China. One example given is the petrochemical complex of ZPC with a large refining capacity of 20 million tons per year and an extraordinarily high share of chemical output (40% vs. the typical 15-20%).

Comment MCC: As pointed out in the paper, this capacity increase has led many European players to reduce production of chemicals affected by Chinese capacities as margins shrank or even evaporated completely.

https://cen.acs.org/business/petrochemicals/China-aromatics-building-boo...

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Mar 25, 2024: According to AgriBusiness Global Direct, China dominates the global agrochemical sector as more than 50% of all active agrochemicals originate from China or contain critical components sourced from the country.

Comment MCC: Another chemical area in which indeed the world very much depends on China, for better or worse.

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Mar 24, 2024: UBE will invest $500 million to build a US plant for dimethyl carbonate (DMC) and ethyl methyl carbonate, both important ingredients in electric vehicle lithium-ion batteries.

Comment MCC: While the press statements claim that the project is "intended to bolster the domestic battery components supply chain by reducing the current heavy reliance on Chinese imports", this is probably less of a rationale for a Japanese company such as UBE. US subsidies are a more likely candidate.

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Mar 23, 2024: According to the Korea Times, "A growing number of Korean petrochemical companies are halting investments and considering selling their unprofitable facilities to cope with the lingering industry downturn resulting mainly from the oversupply of Chinese products"

Comment MCC: Examples include LG Chem trying to sell one of its naphtha cracking plants and Lotte trying to sell Malaysia-based Lotte Chemical Titan. However, given the overcapacities in China, it will be hard to find buyers for these assets.

https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2024/03/129_370471.html

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Mar 22, 2024: According to Eurostat, the segment "organo-inorganic and related compounds" (materials used as catalysts in chemical reactions) saw the biggest decline in Chinese exports to the EU in 2023 (-€13 billion; 45.4% less than in 2022).

Comment MCC: Unfortunately, I can only speculate about the reasons for this steep decline - lower demand may be one factor, competition from other import countries another, while the third (bigger production capacity within the EU) seems intuitively less likely to me. Any comments on this are very welcome.

https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/fr/web/products-eurostat-news/w/ddn-20240304-2

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Mar 21, 2024: Arlanxeo will build a 5 kt (2.5 t in the first phase) hydrogenated nitrile butadiene rubber (HNBR) plant in Changzhou, China.

Comment MCC: The CEO statement related to the investment highlights China's status as a perceived high-growth market.

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Mar 20, 2024: According to Oxford Economics, while overall imports into the EU from China decreased by 23% in 2023, they increased in the chemical area (+24%).

Comment MCC: Another area of increase is motor vehicles (+327%), presumably driven by EV imports, which should also have a knock-on effect on the chemical industry in Europe (loss of demand).

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Mar 19, 2024: According to the CNPC's Economics & Technology Research Institute, China's refining capacity will rise by 2.7% in 2024, a faster growth than the estimated growth in throughput of 1.8%.

Comment MCC: This means increasing pressure to export petrochemical products now and also in the future, as demand is expected to peak in 2024 or 2025 at well below 45% of refining capacity.

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Mar 18, 2024: A paper analyzes the application of green hydrogen in China's chemical industry and concludes that both raw material substitution and process substitution have high technical feasibility.

Comment MCC: However, the paper is marred by weird and convoluted sentences such as "Furthermore, this study found significant homogeneity problems with the green hydrogen chemical industry in real-world deployments, emphasizing the need to strengthen top-level design in policymaking." You tell me what that means.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360319924004063

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Mar 17, 2024: China is the largest trading partner of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, accounting for 26% of its exports.

Comment MCC: Interestingly, the trade balance has recently shifted somewhat toward China - mostly driven by a strong increase of GCC imports from China. See the original source for detailed data.

https://www.gpca.org.ae/2024/02/28/shaping-the-future-the-gccs-and-china...

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Mar 16, 2024: Sabic reported a loss for 2023, the first since 1996. The company attributes the loss to the usual "challenging operating environment" but also to losses associated with the divestment of a steel plant.

Comment MCC: The press release reporting the result also indicates the future focus of Sabic - developing new technology to turn crude oil into chemicals and building a strong position in China.

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Mar 15, 2024: Euractiv warns about the danger of new EU regulation which would define post-consumer plastic waste as waste coming from either a member state or a third country.

Comment MCC: At first glance, such regulation makes sense, and part of the objections certainly come from the protectionist sentiment of European players. On the other hand, as virgin plastic is cheaper than recycled material, "recycled" material coming from China sometimes is not recycled at all, so accepting it at face value as recycled does nothing for the environment.

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Mar 14, 2024: Inner Mongolia will allow renewable-based hydrogen projects outside the designated chemical industrial zones and eliminate the requirements for licenses of dangerous goods production

Comment MCC: This should help accelerate such projects, of which Inner Mongolia has about 30% of China's total. The lifting is restricted to renewable hydrogen and thus clearly is a political measure rather than one based on technical considerations. Presumably, the objective is to establish Inner Mongolia as a center for such production, which should be helped by the large geographical expansion and low population of the province.

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Mar 13, 2024: The Shanghai government recently published a list of 378 major carbon-emitting enterprises in the city that will fall under its carbon emissions trading scheme. The list includes the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park Development Co.

Comment MCC: Initially, Shanghai will allocate free carbon emission quotas based on emissions intensity benchmarks for each industry and firms' actual production levels. These benchmarks will be progressively tightened each year.

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Mar 12, 2024: In 2024, ExxonMobil will invest an additional US$1.4 billion, into its Huizhou, Guangdong, China, ethylene chemical plant.

Comment MCC: This is in addition to the approximately US$10 billion already invested, indicating an ongoing commitment to China despite the growing political tensions between the USA and China.

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Mar 11, 2024: Between 2012 and 2022, China's market share in global chemicals increased from 31.3% to 440% while India's decreased from 5.9% to 4.2%. Even in the period from 2017, when China's chemical industry started to get affected by tightened environmental regulation and subsequent plant closures, to 2022, China's market share increased while India's declined.

Comment MCC: This is a substantial blow to the hopes of India's chemical companies to benefit from issues of China's chemical industry and the China+1 strategy expected to be adopted by customers then.
Another source (bnnbreaking.com) highlights the current plight of India's chemical companies: "The financial performance of Indian chemical companies reflects the sector's ongoing struggles. Recent quarterly earnings reports have shown a troubling trend, with many companies reporting their lowest sales since the COVID-19 outbreak. Additionally, a significant number of firms have experienced declines in both revenues and margins, highlighting the intense competitive pressures and operational challenges they face. The sector's difficulties are further compounded by the delayed expectation of a demand revival, casting a shadow over the future outlook for Indian chemical firms."

https://bnnbreaking.com/world/china/india-struggles-to-match-china-in-global-chemical-market-amid-rising-competition

https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/markets/indian-chemical-players-had-big-hopes-riding-on-china1-but-reality-dashes-them-12397451.html

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Mar 10, 2024: According to S&P Global, China's share of global exports of lithium-ion batteries increased from 44% to 68% between 2019 and 2023. S&P further predicts that by 2030, China will control at least 70% of battery and raw material production, reaching over 80% in selected areas such as cobalt and graphite

Comment MCC: This may lead to Western governments having to prioritize one of two goals, speeding up the energy transition and reducing dependence on China.

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Mar 09, 2024: US additives producer SI Group will end its own manufacturing in Jinshan, China, and instead start a supply partnership with a local partner, Liaoning Dingjide Petrochemical.

Comment MCC: While not very clear on the subject, the company announcement hints at a challenging business in China as it talks about optimizing the footprint and variabilizing the cost structure. This is one of the few examples so far in which major Western chemical companies actually seem to reduce their China presence.

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Mar 08, 2024: China Daily cites Mr. Brudermueller, the CEO of BASF, with some very positive statements on BASF and its presence in Guangdong: "BASF has always been firmly optimistic about Guangdong and investing in the province, hoping to focus on the development of the entire green petrochemical industry chain, and further expand cooperation between the two sides in areas such as technological innovation, process research and development, green environmental protection and intelligent manufacturing ... BASF will further enhance its innovation capabilities in the southern Chinese region, helping customers reduce carbon emissions, conserve energy and promote environmentally friendly production."

Comment MCC: Indeed, BASF seems firmly committed to China even though this may be seen as somewhat out of line with German government policy.

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Mar 07, 2024: According to americanjournalnews.com, multiple Republican congresspeople who criticized China also took campaign cash from Syngenta, a state-owned Chinese chemical company located in Switzerland.

Comment MCC: One example provided is Republican Don Bacon from Nevada, who between 2020 and 2023 took USD 5500 from Syngenta while at the same time stating that "American farmland should never be owned by China", conveniently ignoring the fact that Syngenta owns about 1500 acres of US farmland. Or is that money does not smell after all?

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Mar 06, 2024: In an article on guancha.cn, Chen Jing gives his view on the Indian versus the Chinese chemical industry (machine translation): "Chemicals are one of India's largest export categories. In 2022, India's agrochemical exports were US$5.5 billion, surpassing the United States to become second, and China ranked first with US$11.1 billion. Indian media reported that India plans to surpass China and become the world's largest chemical manufacturing center. This is of course funny. China will account for 43% of global industrial output in 2021 and plans to account for 50% in 2030. India often makes this kind of boastful propaganda against China, but it is not completely unfounded. There is a sizable industry there. Indians now know that China is powerful, but they are not convinced yet and feel that they can catch up and surpass it."

Comment MCC: While Chen Jing still seems very confident about the long-term superiority of China's chemical industry, he also seems to acknowledge a gradual strengthening of India's.

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Mar 05, 2024: According to Statista, the total value of global chemical imports increased from 1.3 billion dollars in 2020 to 1.8 trillion dollars in 2022.

Comment MCC: While this may sound like a substantial increase, the fact that the average oil price in 2020 was about 42 USD and 101 USD in 2022 (again, according to Statista) makes this increase much less impressive.

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Mar 04, 2024: Evonik has invested via its Venture Capital unit in the Chinese company JLand Biotech, which specializes in the development and production of vegan collagen.

Comment MCC: According to the press release, this will provide Evonik with collagen for products such as anti-aging and hydrating creams, masks, and gels.

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Mar 03, 2024: BASF expects growth in China to lift earnings before interest, taxes and special items to as €8.6 billion in 2024, up from €7.7 billion. BASF will also cut costs in Germany.

Comment MCC: Statements like this explain BASF's strong focus on China despite the potential political issues this engagement carries.

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Mar 02, 2024: In, 2023, China's lithium carbonate production increased by 31% while production capacity increased by 83%.

Comment MCC: This divergence between production growth and capacity growth also explains the substantial drop (more than 80%) in lithium prices.

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Mar 01, 2024: A recent paper discusses the technological progress and the subsequent environmental benefits due to advances in coal-to-olefins processes.

Comment MCC: While some of the progress cited in the paper is impressive, the fact remains that essentially, coal is dug out of the earth and - possibly via some intermediate chemicals - released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, even though the amount of this can be reduced, for example by using green hydrogen.

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Feb 29, 2024: According to Xinhua News, German firms see the chemical industry as the most optimistic sector in China, with about 90% of respondents seeing an increase in the industry in the next 5 years.

Comment MCC: This is based on a survey by the German Chamber of Commerce in China, according to Xinhua.

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Feb 28, 2024: An article on Chinadialogue discusses the damages caused by road salts in China.

Comment MCC: For example, the article cites the (far too precise) point that "[in] China, from 2005 to 2020, car companies recalled and repaired 430,000 vehicles due to chloride salt corrosion."

https://chinadialogue.net/en/cities/road-salt-protecting-chinas-drivers-but-at-what-cost/

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Feb 27, 2024: According to Chemicalindustryjournal.co.uk, China's imports of ethylene derivatives have fallen by about 20% between 2020 and 2023.

Comment MCC: This is largely due to capacity increases for these materials in China itself - the source states that while China is the largest importer of chemicals, it has also been the location for around 75% of olefin and aromatics capacity additions between 2020-2024

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Feb 26, 2024: Sumitomo Chemical will suspend some production lines for polarizers (light filters attached to LCD screens)

Comment MCC: The reasons include a drop in demand for TVs and - probably more importantly - increased competition from Chinese producers

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Feb 25, 2024: According to the CCR, domestic PA6 capacity will continue to rise as new plants come onstream from 2023 to 2027, leading to increased overcapacity.

Comment MCC: However, while this will decrease the amount of imported PA6, China will still rely on imports of high-end PA6.

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Feb 24, 2024: Chinese bisphenol A (BPA) capacity grew at a CAGR of 20.5% between 2010 and 2023 while output grew at a CAGR of 18.5%.

Comment MCC: As a consequence, China now has about half of the global capacity of BPA, up from about 7% in 2010. China had a self-sufficiency rate of about 40% in 2011, which has now increased to about 100% despite the much larger demand for BPA due to the increased local production of materials such as PC.

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Feb 23, 2024: BYD started construction of a sodium-ion battery project, an investment of about 10 billion RMB.

Comment MCC: Sodium-ion batteries have several potential advantages over the lithium-based batteries currently used, such as cost-effectiveness and a more abundant raw material. However, there are also substantial disadvantages regarding energy density, cycle life, and the maturity of the technology. It seems BYD is taking at least a partial bet on overcoming these challenges.

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Feb 22, 2024: China's Ministry of Commerce will retain anti-dumping duties on imports of o-chloro-p-nitroaniline originating in India

Comment MCC: The source of this information, the Chinese paper Global Times, states that this is "a move that experts said is a legitimate response to concerns raised by domestic producers" - but then, this is what a Chinese paper would say anyway. On the other hand, according to the same source, during the period from 1995 to 2023, India launched 336 antidumping investigations against China while China only launched 12 against India, though these were mostly in chemicals.

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Feb 21, 2024: According to TASS, Russia sees huge prospects in cooperation with China in the chemical industry and trade in fertilizers

Comment MCC: The Russian Ambassador to Beijing Igor Morgulov is quoted as having said in a TV interview "Apart from energy there are other sectors where I see huge prospects, those being the chemical industry, production of the paper industry, fertilizers, various types of metals and ore"

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Feb 20, 2024: According to ChemAnalyst, Chinese PX imports declined by 14% in December 2023 compared to December 2022.

Comment MCC: This is an obvious consequence of the increasing domestic PX capacity.

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Feb 19, 2024: Canadian company Neo Magnequench started construction of a plant for rare earths permanent magnets in Estonia.

Comment MCC: This is in the interest of the EU in order to reduce dependency on China for these materials, which currently is about 98%.

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Feb 18, 2024: China's acetone capacity increased by 51% in 2023 compared to 2022, with 8 new plants coming on stream.

Comment MCC: Correspondingly, imports decreased by 43%, and China is already close to 90% self-sufficiency after less than 80% in 2022.

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Feb 17, 2024: China's MDI capacity increased at a CAGR of 6.9% between 2018 and 2022 and actual output increased by a similar CAGRd (6.8%). However, domestic consumption only increased by a CAGR of 4.1% (data from CCR).

Comment MCC: As China gets self-sufficient for some chemicals, for other such as MDI, for which the country is already self-sufficient, the pressure to seek exports increases. This will affect foreign producers in their home and export markets.

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Feb 16, 2024: As a destination for South Korea's exports of petroleum products, China dropped from fourth place in 2022 to fifth in 2023 after ranking number one from 2016 to 2021.

Comment MCC: This is even more surprising given that the drop in 2022 was associated with Covid-19, and shows that China's growing domestic production capacity strongly affects selected other countries

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Feb 15, 2024: Despite the announced exit from two JVs in China, BASF aims to increase its presence in China. According to the CFO, BASF targets achieving 20% of its global sales from China in 2030, up from around 15% now.

Comment MCC: Given the continued investment in China, this seems plausible. BASF expects around 80% of global chemical growth to 2030 coming from China.

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Feb 14, 2024: In 2023, 45 hazardous chemical enterprises in urban densely populated areas of Hunan were relocated while 34 chemical companies along the Yangtze River were moved to chemical parks (CCR)

Comment MCC: It seems Hunan will easily achieve its targets for these relocations as after 3 years of a 5-year program, 89% of firms have already been relocated.

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Feb 13, 2024: Solvay is expanding the capacity of its joint-venture hydrogen peroxide plant in Shandong

Comment MCC: The demand driver is the production of solar cells, for which hydrogen peroxide is used as a cleaning agent. According to Solvay, China is the world's largest market for hydrogen peroxide.

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Feb 12, 2024: BASF will sell its stakes in two joint ventures in Xinjiang. The local JV partner as been accused of human rights abuses by human rights groups

Comment MCC: While BASF claims that these divestures are mainly due to environmental and economic reasons, the real driver very likely is the criticism mentioned above. Of course, with its huge investments in China, BASF is very careful to openly address these charges.

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Feb 11, 2024: BASF Environmental Catalyst and Metal Solutions and Heraeus Precious Metals have started operations at a new JV plant, BASF HERAEUS Metal Resource in Pinghu, China.

Comment MCC: According to the press release, the "facility recovers precious metals from spent automotive catalysts, enabling a circular economy, while supporting China's security of supply and sustainability goals."

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Feb 10, 2024: Two major Chinese chemical companies, ChemChina and CNOOC, are on a US list of "Entities Identified as Chinese Military Companies Operating in the United States"

Comment MCC: This seems a bit weird as the main focus of these two companies - similar to China Mobile, which is also on the list - is not in the military area.

https://media.defense.gov/2024/Jan/31/2003384819/-1/-1/0/1260H-LIST.PDF

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Feb 09, 2024: BASF inaugurated a Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) plant at the Zhanjiang Verbund site.

Comment MCC: The fact that this is the largest single TPU production line for BASF globally once again underlines China's unique position as the biggest chemical market by far.

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Feb 08, 2024: According to Japanese law firm Sonoda & Kobayashi, since 2020, China and South Korea have surpassed Japan in yearly patent applications for perovskite solar cells: "In 2021, China submitted 70 applications, South Korea submitted 39, and Japan submitted only 19."

Comment MCC: The law firm warns that if the current situation persists, China will be superior to Japan in this field despite the efforts of Japanese companies such as Panasonic, Sekisui, and Toshiba.

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Feb 07, 2024: Sasol reported "challenging market conditions" for its chemicals business, with average sales prices in their 1H FY 24 being 24% lower than one year earlier.

Comment MCC: Among the factors cited are macroeconomic weaknesses in Europe and China.

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Feb 06, 2024: BASF again gets criticized by the German media (ZDF, Spiegel) for being involved in human rights violations via its Xinjiang JV partner Markor.

Comment MCC: As commented on before, this is a difficult situation for BASF as the company - with its big and increasing investments in China - cannot afford to offend the Chinese government, but its image in the West may suffer from these accusations. In reality, BASF has presumably very limited influence on the actions of its Chinese JV partner, so only an exit from the JV would keep BASF from facing similar accusations in the future.

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Feb 05, 2024: China's output of refined oil products increased by 16.5% in 2023 after a growth rate of 13.3% in 2022.

Comment MCC: This is mainly a reflection of China's increased capacity and its aim to reach a greater degree of self-sufficiency rather than of greater demand.

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Feb 04, 2024: BASF will cooperate with China's Envision Energy to develop a process for converting green hydrogen and CO2 into e-methanol. BASF will provide the catalyst technology while Envision will be responsible for the overall process design.

Comment MCC: The demand for such sustainable fuels will increase substantially in the future due to EU legislation requiring a share of the fuel used in aircraft and ships to be sustainably sourced.

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Feb 03, 2024: A recent paper by Chinese authors covers the topic "Fine-tuning Large Language Models for Chemical Text Mining"and states that "The fine-tuned LLMs models demonstrated impressive performance, significantly reducing the need for repetitive and extensive prompt engineering experiments". It concludes "Given its versatility, robustness, and low-code capability, leveraging fine-tuned LLMs as flexible and effective toolkits for automated data acquisition could revolutionize chemical knowledge extraction."

Comment MCC: This is certainly an interesting topic for the chemical industry - according to the authors, AI has a huge potential. My only gripe is that the paper has 17 authors - were there really 17 people doing substantial work on this paper, or did a number of people catch a free ride due to their position in the hierarchy?

https://chemrxiv.org/engage/chemrxiv/article-details/65baa07b9138d231612...

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Feb 02, 2024: According to Oxfordenergy, China's coal chemical industry accounts for about 5.4% of China's emissions of carbon dioxide. The site highlights the political importance of the sector for China: "As coal chemicals' potential to slow China's rising oil and gas imports bodes well with Chinese leadership's rising energy security anxiety amid geopolitical tensions, coupled with strong political desire for investment-driven growth exaggerated by a sluggish post-pandemic economic recovery, especially at the local level, the coal chemical industry becomes the only major coal consuming sector in China that still possesses great potential for substantial capacity expansion as well as emissions spike in the coming decades."

Comment MCC: However, it also wonders about the contradictions in China's policy: "Without an appropriate decarbonisation strategy in place, further expansion of the industry is expected to contradict with China's dual carbon goals of peaking national carbon emissions before 2030, and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060."

https://www.oxfordenergy.org/research/prospects-of-the-chinese-coal-chemical-industry-in-an-increasingly-carbon-constrained-world/
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Feb 01, 2024: According to the China Ecological Environment Bulletin of 2020, agricultural chemicals contribute to 50 % of the environmental pollution sources in China

Comment MCC: A surprisingly high number hinting at the greater need for control of the use of these chemicals. Interestingly, in another study, it was found that once non-local employment in a given agricultural area rises, the amount of fertilizer used decreases. In other words, urban migration may itself alleviate the problem somewhat.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652624001677

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Jan 31, 2024: SABIC announced the final investment decision for its $6.4 billion petrochemicals complex in Fujian, China. This is a 51%/49% JV with Fujian Fuhua Gulei Petrochemical to build a mixed feed steam cracker with a production capacity of up to 1.8 million mt/year of ethylene and subsequent production of PE, PP, and PC.

Comment MCC: This again shows the determination of SABIC to move further into chemicals - and to rely on China as a major market.

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Jan 30, 2024: A US-China working group will meet in Beijing to discuss fentanyl precursor chemicals

Comment MCC: According to one official, China has already started taking action against the producers of such chemicals since last November, when Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi met.

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Jan 29, 2024: BASF Monomers Division and Xuchuan Chemical plan to cooperate on bio-mass balanced (BMB) Methylene Diphenyl Di-isocyanate (MDI) in synthetic leather applications

Comment MCC: The stated objective is to reduce carbon emissions in the production of polyurethanes for the industry.

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Jan 28, 2024: Sinopec and BP signed a memorandum of understanding at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, covering cooperation in areas including fuel sales, oil, and gas trading, marine fuel and upstream activities.

Comment MCC: BP's interest is likely to gain an entry into the charging of EVs in China, for which demand is growing fast.

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Jan 27, 2024: According to Nikkei, Japanese production of ethylene is the lowest in 35 years, falling by 1.7% last year

Comment MCC: The main explanation provided is China's fast-growing capacity - and indeed, it is hard to imagine how Korean and Japanese producers of basic petrochemical products can in the long run keep relying on exports to China for a substantial part of their sales.

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Jan 26, 2024: DuPont issued a profit warning, citing weak demand in China as a major reason

Comment MCC: Apparently, DuPont expects a fourth-quarter 2023 loss and lower-than-expected 2024 first-quarter sales

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Jan 25, 2024: According to Reuters, Germany's chemicals sector is starting to get affected by delayed shipments via the Red Sea

Comment MCC: The article quotes one owner of a German chemical business, Gechem, stating that procuring necessary materials has gotten much harder recently and continues that "As a result of the delays, Gechem, which makes annual sales in the double-digit millions of euros, has lowered production of dishwasher and toilet tablets because it can't get enough trisodium citrate as well as sulfamic and citric acid." Of course, a large share of these materials comes from China.

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Jan 24, 2024: China will initiate a three-year campaign in 2024 to tackle workplace safety risks in areas from mining to firefighting.

Comment MCC: This will include the formulation of emergency disposal codes for chemical enterprises

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Jan 23, 2024: According to the CEO of Intel, China's semiconductor industry lags behind the global standard by about ten years, and he foresees this gap persisting for the next decade.

Comment MCC: A partial reason for the gap is the lack of chemicals such as resists, highly purified gases, and other chemicals used to manufacture advanced chips.

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Jan 22, 2024: An article by US News includes 3 mainland Chinese universities among the 10 best chemistry universities, along with 4 US ones, 2 Singaporean ones, and one in Saudi Arabia.

Comment MCC: It is a bit of a surprise to see this - for example, to have Tsinghua ranked higher than Berkeley - but presumably reflects a genuine improvement in the quality of Chinese chemistry universities.

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Jan 21, 2024: According to chemanalyst.com, the expansion of China's petrochemical companies raises concerns in the Korean chemical sector.

Comment MCC: In particular, apparently Rongsheng Petrochemical plans to invest $12.2 billion in a refinery and petrochemical project located in China's Zhoushan Islands. The chemicals to be produced there overlap substantially with those of Korean companies and include EO, POE, phenol, acetone, PO, styrene, 1,4-butanediol and ABS. In ABS, the new plant will directly compete with Korean companies such as Lotte, LG and Kumho.

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Jan 20, 2024: China's crude oil imports increased by 11% in 2023 compared to 2022.

Comment MCC: This figure also represents an annual record, being about 9% higher than the import volume of 2020.

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Jan 19, 2024: China's PDH capacity will rise substantially in 2024 and 2025, up 77% from the end of 2023 (Mysteel).

Comment MCC: While delays and poor margins will delay the startup of some of these capacities, the capacities coming on stream in time will still add about 50% to the current capacity.

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Jan 18, 2024: A study by ResearchAndMarkets forecasts a CAGR of 12.4% for China's market for industrial wastewater treatment between 2022 and 2030.

Comment MCC: While such market studies tend to be overly optimistic (perhaps in the belief that this makes potential buyers more likely to obtain the study), this is still an impressive growth rate even if one subtracts a few percent.

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Jan 17, 2024: The Jan-Nov investment in China's chemical industry between January and November 2023 was up 13.3% year on year.

Comment MCC: This is a larger increase than for the manufacturing sector as a whole (6.3%), indicating a somewhat surprising optimism regarding the sector.

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Jan 16, 2024: According to an article in the Economic Times India, in solvent and commodity chemicals, Indian companies will continue to face pressure from Chinese chemical companies.

Comment MCC: The article mentions battery chemicals as a bright spot for Indian chemical companies, but adds that in this segment, pressure will also come from Chinese competitors.

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Jan 15, 2024: According to Eurostat, the EU trade in chemicals with China turned into a slight deficit in 2021 and a substantial one in 2022 after continuous surpluses between 2009 and 2020.

Comment MCC: The main reason for the big deficit in 2022 is the strong increase in Chinese exports to the EU (+93%) that was not compensated by a much smaller increase in exports to China (+15%),

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Jan 14, 2024: In the last quarter of 2023, BYD overtook Tesla as the producer of the largest number of electric vehicles

Comment MCC: While Tesla has a strong brand, BYD and other Chinese players have their own advantages, including the lower price, strong government subsidies, and strong supply chains for critical materials such as rare earths. BYD has the additional advantage of having a background in battery manufacturing, which also helps the company reduce overall production costs.

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Jan 13, 2024: A recent paper provides an assessment of recent major chemical accidents in China

Comment MCC: The paper notes a lower occurrence of accidents in summer and an overall decline of accidents in the period from 2017 to 2022.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s44268-023-00024-0
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Jan 12, 2024: A paper published at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting states that China's growth forecast has improved

Comment MCC: Key drivers of growth are innovation, green tech, and capital markets. At least the first two have a strong connection with the chemical industry.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2024/01/china-future-trends/

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Jan 11, 2024: According to Xinhua, the world's largest ethanol production equipment, with an annual output of 600,000 tonnes, went into trial in Huaibei, Anhui. The plant converts coke oven gas into ethanol.

Comment MCC: The press release further remarks that this"will massively increase the added value of coal and provide a feasible way for the low-carbon development of steel and petrochemical industries."Given that the ethanol is derived from fossil resources rather than from plants (bioethanol), at least the last part of the statement is wrong.

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Jan 10, 2024: Sinopec expects Chinese coal consumption to peak around 2025 at 4.37 billion metric tons while oil consumption is projected to peak around the middle of 2026-2030. China's total carbon emissions from energy activities are expected to peak during the 15th Five-Year Plan period at 10.1 billion metric tons, up from 10.02 billion tons in 2023.

Comment MCC: It seems China is on track to achieve the - rather unambitious - goal of peak emission by 2030. The zero-emission target for 2060 will be much harder to achieve.

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Jan 09, 2024: A team led by Chinese researchers has mapped the chemical composition of the lunar surface with greater precision than before, using samples brought back by China's Chang'e-5 mission.

Comment MCC: Apparently, these samples provide information on the more recent geological past of the moon, a period that previously collected samples did not cover.

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Jan 08, 2024: IMCD acquired the specialty distribution company Guangzhou RBD Chemical, a distributor of lubricant additives.

Comment MCC: This is a fairly small deal in a niche of the chemical distribution segment - the annual sales of RBD are only about 10 million EUR.

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Jan 07, 2024: According to a recent paper, China's five most dangerous industries are coal mining, metal and non-metal mining, construction, and chemical and fireworks manufacturing.

Comment MCC: The paper highlights the dangers in the chemical industry: "Especially in the chemical industry, major accidents occur more frequently. According to statistics, from 2016 to 2021, there were 1050 chemical accidents in China, resulting in 1330 deaths."

https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-023-17...

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Jan 06, 2024: According to Statista, China's share of global chemical exports dropped from 9.6% in 2021 to 9.3% in 2022.

Comment MCC: However, given the long lock-downs in China in 2022, this may not be an indication of a broader trend. The long-term trend from 2009 (4.7%) to 2022 still suggests that China's share may increase further.

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Jan 05, 2024: According to the Hellenic Shipping News, some Indian chemical producers are planning to increase production in 2024 to take advantage of the China Plus One strategy adopted by some global chemical buyers, which should boost India's export potential.

Comment MCC: However, currently many Chinese basic chemicals exports are sold at very low prices (Indians talk about dumping) - this will make it hard for Indian producers to compete.

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Jan 04, 2024: China imposed stricter export controls on graphite, a critical EV battery material, since December 1 (Digitimes Asia)

Comment MCC: As a consequence, some Japan-based companies have been diversifying their supply chains and purchasing from other countries to reduce the risk of not being able to buy the material from China

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Jan 03, 2024: An analysis of snowpack collected in Harbin revealed the presence of different pollutants depending on the collection site. Specifically, "coal combustion, industrial emissions, and traffic-related activities lead to the enrichment of heavy metals in the snowpacks of urban and suburban areas, while coal combustion and biomass burning contribute to pollution in rural areas."

Comment MCC: An interesting approach to analyse pollution.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0045653523031569

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Jan 02, 2024: The market share of the top 5 Chinese maleic anhydride producers reached 64% in 2023, up almost 10% from 2022 and double the share in 2013.

Comment MCC: Underlying causes are the shift to larger scale plants, shifts in production technology, and value chain integration.

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Jan 01, 2024: A recent paper analyzes the origin, evolution, and current status of Chemical Industrial Parks in China.

Comment MCC: Perhaps even more important, the paper also analyzes the characteristics and causes of 90 chemical accidents in detail.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0950423023002632