News from Notch Consulting, Inc.

January 12, 2021

Bridgestone reaches deal to divest Firestone Building Products

Filed under: General, Rubber — Notch @ 1:09 am

Bridgestone Americas Inc. has reached an agreement to divest its Firestone Building Products unit, which produces commercial roofing and building envelope solutions. France-based LafargeHolcim Ltd. will acquire the business for $3.4 billion. LafargeHolcim is a leading global supplier of building materials, including cement and ready-mix concrete as well as roofing, with a focus on sustainable building solutions.

Jan Jenisch, LafargeHolcim CEO, said in a statement, “With Firestone Building Products we are strengthening our biggest market, the US, while also building a global growth and innovation platform for the company.”

January 11, 2021

Fire consumes Hexpol Compounding site in Tennessee

Filed under: General, Rubber, Tires — Notch @ 11:17 pm

Hexpol Compounding’s rubber compounding plant in Jonesborough, Tennessee caught fire in the early morning of January 7, causing workers to evacuate and sending one person to the hospital. Thick smoke from the fire was visible for hours as firefighters fought for more than 24 hours to bring the blaze under control.

In a statement, Hexpol said,

Jonesborough, TN, 1/7/20 – At approximately 1:30 am CST on January 7th, HEXPOL’s Jonesborough rubber compounding facility, located in Jonesborough, TN, had a significant fire in the facility.

Emergency protocols were immediately activated, and 22 employees were evacuated from the facility.  One employee is being treated for injuries.  At this time, there are no fatalities.

The cause of the fire is under investigation and HEXPOL is fully cooperating with governmental officials.

Local authorities have begun investigations into the cause of the fire.

December 2, 2020

USTMA raises forecast for US tire shipments in 2020

Filed under: General, Tires — Notch @ 12:48 am

On December 1, the US Tire Manufacturers Association announced a significant revision to its forecast for US tire shipments. Even with the improved outlook, however, total shipments in 2020 are expected to fall 10.3% from 2019 levels.

The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) projects U.S. tire shipments will total 298.3 million units by the end of 2020, compared to 332.7 million units in 2019. This forecast represents a significant improvement of nearly 19 million units from the 2020 volume USTMA forecasted in July, reflecting industry resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Compared to 2019, Original Equipment (OE) shipments for passenger, light truck and truck tires are expected to decrease by 20.4%, 18.0% and 29.0% respectively, with a total reduction of 12.4 million units. Replacement passenger and light truck tire shipments are projected to decrease by 9.5% and 1.8% respectively, with truck tire replacement shipments showing a modest decline at 2.1%. The total unit reduction for replacement tires is projected to be 22.0 million units.

Mitsubishi invests in Monolith Materials for clean hydrogen production

Filed under: Carbon Black, General — Notch @ 12:39 am

Monolith Materials (Lincoln, Nebraska) has announced an investment from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America to support its innovative commercial-scale, emissions-free hydrogen manufacturing technology. The announcement is the latest in a series of recent strategic investments made by MHI in support of achieving a decarbonized world. Monolith Materials is the first U.S. manufacturer to produce a clean, industry-transforming hydrogen known as “turquoise hydrogen” on a commercial scale.

“Successfully scaling Monolith’s technology to serve a global marketplace will benefit from the kind of investment that we have from MHI,” said Rob Hanson, co-founder and CEO of Monolith Materials. “This relationship will be a model for evaluating future investment opportunities to make emissions-free hydrogen the standard around the world.”

Through an innovative and proprietary breakthrough in commercial-scale methane pyrolysis, Monolith is now manufacturing emissions-free, economically sustainable hydrogen using 100% renewable energy. Monolith’s hydrogen is classified as “turquoise hydrogen,” which meets the industry standard for the cleanest hydrogen available today.

Monolith Materials, which was founded in 2012, developed a process technology that converts natural gas into clean hydrogen and carbon black. The company is currently in the operating stage of Olive Creek 1 (OC1), its first commercial-scale emissions-free production facility designed to produce approximately 14,000 metric tons of carbon black annually along with clean hydrogen. In addition to producing carbon black and clean hydrogen, the company recently announced its plans to produce emissions-free ammonia at a second phase production facility known as Olive Creek 2 (OC2) in Hallam, Nebraska.

 

GM raising EV spending, predicts 40% of US lineup will be electric by 2025

Filed under: Auto, General — Notch @ 12:24 am

General Motors is increasing its financial commitment to electric vehicles and predicts that 40% of the company’s US entries will be battery electric vehicles by the end of 2025.

Chairman and CEO Mary Barra revealed that the company will offer 30 all-electric models globally by mid-decade. Forty percent of the company’s U.S. entries will be battery electric vehicles by the end of 2025. Barra also announced an increase in GM’s financial commitment to EVs and AVs today to $27 billion through 2025 – up from the $20 billion planned before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Climate change is real, and we want to be part of the solution by putting everyone in an electric vehicle,” said Barra. “We are transitioning to an all-electric portfolio from a position of strength and we’re focused on growth. We can accelerate our EV plans because we are rapidly building a competitive advantage in batteries, software, vehicle integration, manufacturing and customer experience.”

GM said in the press release that it plans to launch 30 EVs around the world by 2025, and more than two-thirds will be available in North America. Cadillac, GMC, Chevrolet and Buick will all be represented. More than half of GM’s capital spending and product development team will be devoted to electric and electric-autonomous vehicle programs.

 

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.

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.  

 

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