News from Notch Consulting, Inc.

September 23, 2020

Tire Tech Expo delayed until June 2021

Filed under: Carbon Black, Conferences, Coronavirus/COVID-19, General — Notch @ 8:32 pm

Tire Technology Expo, originally scheduled to be held at the Deutsche Messe, Hannover in March 2021, has been rescheduled to June 8-10, 2021, as a result of the still fluid Covid-19 situation across Europe. In addition to the in-person Expo coming in June, the group is planning several Virtual Conferences and Virtual Technology Showcases, which will be announced shortly. 

Last week, the group successfully held the Testing Expo China Automotive show in Shanghai, which attracted 230 exhibitor stands and 8,000 visitors over three days.

 

 

September 20, 2020

International Tar Association to hold free virtual conference this week

Filed under: Carbon Black, Conferences, General — Notch @ 10:07 pm

The International Tar Association (ITA) will hold a 2020 Virtual Conference on Tuesday, September 22nd at 7:45 am EST – 11:15 am EST. There is no registration fee to attend the conference, which will consist of six presentations from industry experts providing updates on the coal tar, coal tar distillation, and related industries. The conference will include PDF copies of each paper and a chat function for questions. Register here.

September 18, 2020

Bridgestone closing French tire plant in 2021

Filed under: Carbon Black, General, Rubber Chemicals, Tires — Notch @ 1:44 pm

On September 16, Bridgestone Corporation announced plans to cease production at its 60-year-old passenger tire plant in Bethune, France in 2021. The company said the decision came in response to the challenging long-term outlook for the European passenger tire market, and that the closure represents the only viable path to safeguard the competitiveness of Bridgestone’s operations in Europe. All manufacturing operations at the site would cease, affecting 863 workers.

The current industry context for passenger tyres is threatening Bridgestone’s competitiveness in the European market. For the last several years, the market for passenger tyres has been facing strong headwinds – even without taking into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The passenger tyre market has seen its volumes stabilize over the last few years (average annual growth < 1%) while competition from low-cost Asian brands continues to increase (market share of 6% in 2000 increased to 25% in 2018) leading to general production overcapacity. This has resulted in pressure on pricing and margins, as well as overcapacity in the Low Rim Diameter segment, given a declining demand in LRD. And within Bridgestone’s overall European footprint, the Bethune plant is the least well positioned and least competitive.

Over the last years, Bridgestone has taken several measures, including attempts to increase the competitiveness of the Bethune plant. These have proven to be insufficient and Bridgestone has been losing money on tyres produced in Bethune for several years. Considering the current market dynamics, no improvement in the situation is foreseeable.

The decision drew immediate protest from the union and workers, who protested outside the plant the day following the announcement.

September 15, 2020

Tokai Carbon CB raising carbon black prices in the US

Filed under: Carbon Black — Notch @ 8:37 am

Effective October 1, or as customer contracts allow, Tokai Carbon CB Ltd. will increase prices for all carbon black products produced in the United States by $40 to $50/metric ton (1.8 to 2.27 cents/pound). The EPA charge of $88.00/ton (4 cents/pound) will remain in effect. The company said that the price change will support the continued increasing cost of operations, labor, and environmental compliance.

Here is the press release.

 

 

 

August 31, 2020

Further update on Hurricane Laura

Filed under: Carbon Black, General — Notch @ 1:01 pm

As of 7 AM, Monday, August 31, here is the status of Orion Engineered Carbon’s two US plants affected by Hurricane Laura:

  1. Ivanhoe, LA
    • We now have full access to the plant
    • Both power and gas supply have been restored
    • Plant is now on startup as of yesterday [Sunday] and should be producing certain grades later today [Monday].
    • Orion rail spur was damaged but we expect such repairs to be concluded by noon today [Monday].
    • Bulk trucks shipments will resume today [Monday].
    • We expect rail shipments out of the plant to resume this afternoon [Monday].
    • There was a rumor that our plant was flooded. That is incorrect. The area did flood but our flood barrier prevented our plant from flooding.
  2. Orange, TX
    • Plant has full access.
    • Plant is manned and ready to start up.
    • However, power has not been restored. Last night, our power supplier provided an update with a much longer time to restore power given the extensive damage due to the Hurricane in the area. Current estimates put power being restored at the beginning of the week of September 7th. This may still change (earlier or later).
    • We have rented generators to allow access and loading of bulk trucks and railcars.
    • Given this extended delay in power being restored we will be revising the inventory and supply situation and communicating with you.

Overall, these reports, along with previous reports from other suppliers, indicate that long-term damage to carbon black plants in the region from the hurricane was negligible. Some short-term shortages are likely due to power outages and shipping disruptions.

August 30, 2020

Partial update on hurricane aftermath

Filed under: Carbon Black, General — Notch @ 10:34 pm

As of Sunday night, Hurricane Laura had been downgraded to a Tropical Depression and was moving along the coast of Nova Scotia toward Newfoundland. The storm made landfall at 1:00 AM on August 27th at Cameron, Louisiana as a strong Category 4 Hurricane with winds as high as 150 MPH and a powerful storm surge. The storm caused extensive damage and the loss of power for hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses. However, initial reports from carbon black producers in the area indicate that flood damage was minimal as the area was better prepared and the dikes held.

Cabot Corporation put out this statement to customers on Friday, August 28th:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, we are happy to report that all our employees are safe and unharmed. Our manufacturing facilities in both Franklin, LA (Canal) and Ville Platte, LA sustained only minor wind and rain damage. Our employees will begin returning to both sites today and focus on clean up and restarting operations. We expect to return to normal operations by the weekend and shipments on Monday. Our thoughts remain with those in our communities that were greatly impacted by the storm.

Tokai Carbon CB reported that its plant in Addis, Louisiana never lost power and was able to restart on Friday, August 28th at full capacity.  

 

August 27, 2020

Orion statement on hurricane status

Filed under: Carbon Black, General — Notch @ 9:12 am

On Monday, August 24, Orion Engineered Carbons issued the following statement to customers regarding preparations for the storms expected this week.

Orion Engineered Carbons Monday, August 24, 2020 Update to Customers Regarding Hurricanes Laura and Marco

In light of 2 tropical systems forecasted to arrive in the Southern LA area starting on Monday, August 24th, Orion’s Ivanhoe, Louisiana facility was safely taken down over this past weekend and the storm gate was installed on Sunday, August 23rd. Tropical system Marco will be impacting the Ivanhoe area over the next 24 – 48 hours.  Tropical system Laura’s current uncertainty of landfall and intensity will very likely require this plant to stay down and closed until after Laura has cleared the Gulf Coast. 

Orion’s Orange, Texas facility is being taking down on Monday, August 24th, afternoon and will close its access gates shortly thereafter. This plant will also very likely stay down until Laura has cleared the Gulf Coast.

Restart dates will be determined upon evaluation of the sites, most likely to be performed after Thursday, August 27th. The timing of this evaluation will vary depending on where Laura makes landfall, access to the site and supply sources such as electrical power.

Please also note that we expect rail delays on any railcars shipped late last week that are on an easterly route as the railroads have now closed flood gates both in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas.  The resumption of rail movement will not occur until after both storms have cleared the area and track/bridge damage assessment has been completed and any actual damages repaired.

For further information about your specific order(s), please contact your Orion Customer Service Representative and/or Sales Representative.

We will provide periodical updates as the situation develops over the course of this week.

August 26, 2020

Recovered Carbon Black Congress coming in September

Due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19, this year’s Recovered Carbon Black Congress will be an entirely virtual event. The conference will take place over two 4-hour conference days on 9 & 10 September, commencing at 13:00 BST / 14:00 CEST / 08:00 EDT and will be streamed live via an all-in-one online event platform. Delegates will have the opportunity to gain perspective from key experts in the industry, schedule 1-1 meetings with fellow delegates, engage in real-time discussions, get answers to questions, and access recorded presentations. Notch will be presenting on Day One. 

Here is the conference agenda.

Hurricane Laura will hit US carbon black industry hard

Filed under: Carbon Black — Notch @ 11:57 am

Hurricane Laura is expected to strengthen into a Category 4 storm and make landfall tonight or Thursday morning near the border of Louisiana and Texas. 

From the National Hurricane Center’s Twitter:

Unsurvivable storm surge with large and destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, including Calcasieu and Sabine Lakes. This surge could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the immediate coastline.

The National Hurricane Center expects the storm to move through Louisiana into Arkansas by Thursday night, before veering east toward West Virginia and Virginia by early Saturday.

With so much of US carbon black capacity located on the Gulf Coast, the storm will hit the industry hard.

Heavily affected with possible flooding:

  • Birla Carbon USA – Franklin, LA
  • Cabot – Franklin, LA
  • Orion Engineered Carbons – Ivanhoe, LA
  • Orion Engineered Carbons – Orange, TX
  • Together these four plants represent about 30% of US carbon black capacity

Moderately to heavily affected (depending on storm path and severity):

  • Cabot – Ville Platte, LA
  • Tokai Carbon CB – Addis, LA
  • Together these two plants represent about 20% of US carbon black capacity

 

 

August 24, 2020

Bridgestone to close tire plant in South Africa

Filed under: Carbon Black, General, Rubber Chemicals, Tires — Notch @ 9:41 pm

Last week, Bridgestone announced a plan to close its bias tire manufacturing plant in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The closure is in line with the company’s recently announced strategy to focus on premium profitable growth segments of its business. Bridgestone Southern Africa (BSAF) has initiated a Section 189 notice and a consultative process in compliance with the South African Labour Relations Act.

Bridgestone said that the Port Elizabeth plant, which is 84 years old, is specifically geared towards the production of older bias tires, which are globally in decline and being phased out in South Africa as it is an unprofitable market. The effects of a shrinking economy and an influx of cheap imports compounded by rapid changes in the tire industry has prompted BSAF to restructure its operations. The agricultural industry is shifting to radial tires, which are longer lasting, and the production of which is modern and high-speed. Converting the plant to produce radial tires would require a substantial investment that is not feasible in the current economy. The move will affect 252 employees. A second Bridgestone factory in Brits, South Africa, will remain in operation.

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