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BASF and Lutianhua Plan New Production Process to Reduce CO2 Emissions

On June 18, BASF and Sichuan Lutianhua Co., Ltd. signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to co-develop a pilot production plant, that will significantly reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency in producing dimethyl ether (DME) from syngas compared to the traditional process. DME is a methanol equivalent and can be used as an intermediate to produce lower olefins like ethylene and propylene. Currently, DME is produced via methanol as an intermediate from syngas.

According to the MoU, Lutianhua will invest and build the plant with a step-change technology that is developed by BASF and Linde. BASF will supply new, high-performance catalyst systems that enable one-step conversion of syngas to DME while Linde will provide its newly developed process design and engineering for direct DME synthesis. The pilot plant is planned to be built in 2020. The cooperation has been facilitated by the newly established Open Innovation Platform of China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Federation (CPCIF).

“The Open Innovation Platform is designated to promote cooperation among industry leaders for technological breakthroughs and industrial transformation,” said Mr. Li Shousheng, Chairman, CPCIF at the signing ceremony. “The BASF-Lutianhua partnership shows a great example of how we live up to our purpose.”

Merck to Acquire All Outstanding Shares of Versum Materials

Merck Versum Acquisition Merck has commenced a cash Tender Offer to acquire all outstanding shares of Versum Materials, Inc. for $48 per share, without interest and less any withholding taxes. In addition, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, announced that it has filed definitive proxy materials with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with its solicitation against the Entegris acquisition of Versum and that it has commenced mailing its definitive proxy materials, including a GREEN proxy card.

In a second letter to Versum shareholders, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, said: “We are firmly committed to completing the acquisition of Versum and the Tender Offer is an unambiguous step toward that objective.”

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s Tender Offer price represents a 51.7% premium over Versum’s last undisturbed trading price on the day prior to the Entegris acquisition announcement and a premium of 23.6% to the value of the Entegris merger consideration on March 25, 2019, the day prior to the launch of the Tender Offer. It reflects an enterprise value (EV) for Versum of approximately $6 billion and an EV/FY18 EBITDA multiple of approximately 13.3x.

Nippon Shokubai & Sanyo Chemical Decide to Integrate Businesses

Business Integration Nippon Shokubai and Sanyo Chemical Industries announce that they have entered into a basic agreement to move ahead with the consideration toward the integration of their businesses (the “Business Integration”) based on an equal footing. The Companies will carry out detailed examinations and discussions concerning the Business Integration based on the spirit of mutual trust and equality, with the aim of concluding the final agreement on the Business Integration (the “Final Agreement”) around December 2019.

With the group mission “TechnoAmenity - Providing affluence and comfort to people and society, with our unique technology,” Nippon Shokubai, guided by its core catalyst, polymer and organic synthesis technology, has been engaged in the manufacturing of basic chemicals, including acrylic acid and ethylene oxide, as well as the development, manufacture and sale of high-performance functional chemicals and environmental and catalyst products using these basic chemicals as raw materials.

On Your Coatings Radar – Acquisition Snapshot, H. B. Fuller Surfactants, Thickeners, Dispersants

St. Paul, Minnesota-based H.B. Fuller Co. on June 12 announced that it has inked a deal to sell its surfactants, thickeners, and dispersants business to Tiarco LLC for $71 million.

The business unit was initially purchased as part of H.B. Fuller’s $1.6 billion acquisition of Royal Adhesives and Sealants announced and closed in fall of 2017. In a release announcing the transaction, H.B. Fuller president and CEO Jim Owens described the unit as a “non-strategic, non-adhesive” business.

H.B. Fuller's surfactants, thickeners and dispersants business, based in Dalton, Ga., had fiscal year 2018 sales of approximately $25 million and EBITDA of approximately $8 million. Its brands are well recognized, and the products include thickeners used in carpet, floor coatings, adhesive and caulk formulations, as well as surfactants used in detergents, wetting agents, and foam boosters in beauty and healthcare products.

The new owner of the unit is Tiarco, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Textile Rubber and Chemical Company, Inc. H.B. Fuller will use the net proceeds from the sale for debt reduction. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter. Both business units are based in Dalton, Georgia.

Owens added, “Our focus is to shift our portfolio to more highly specified adhesive solutions, and the surfactants, thickeners and dispersants business is not part of our strategic vision. By divesting this business, we are able to continue to accelerate paying down debt, focus on our core, and better position this business for future growth under the ownership of Tiarco, which specializes in this market. We are pleased that our colleagues will join a strong, established team at Tiarco.”

The transaction is slated to close in the third quarter.

Net proceeds from the sale will go toward debt reduction, H.B. Fuller officials said in a news release.

On Your Coatings Radar - Research into Dispersion Shear Thickening opens Door to New Products

A cornstarch-water dispersion becomes more viscous and resistant to motion the faster it is stirred. This effect, called shear thickening, occurs in many liquids, and researchers have now shown that it can be enhanced in some cases by adding long, stringy polymers into the solution. The result came from measuring the properties of liquids containing polymers of various lengths. The finding may help engineers design better flexible body armor or smart materials that are liquid under normal conditions but turn solid under stress.

A liquid containing a high density of microscopic particles—a so-called colloidal suspension—can exhibit shear thickening. Researchers are still seeking a fundamental understanding of the effect. Previous experiments have found that the shear-thickening effect can be weakened or even eliminated by introducing short polymers into the solution, the presence of which induces weak attractive forces between the larger colloidal particles. Why this reduction takes place remains a matter of debate, as several competing physical effects play a role.

Now Jacinta Conrad of the University of Houston, Daniel Blair of Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and their colleagues, have discovered a distinct effect by which the addition of much longer polymer molecules leads to enhanced shear thickening. In a series of experiments, they tested the properties of a glycerol-water mixture containing 1.5-micrometer-diameter spherical particles to which they added polymers of different lengths.

The team tested the solutions in a standard rheometer, where the blunt tip of a shallow cone points downward and nearly touches a flat plate. Fluid placed in the narrow space between the two surfaces is sheared as the cone rotates, and the device measures the force required to turn the cone as well as the pressure against the surfaces. Shorter polymers (0.6 micrometers long) slightly weakened the shear thickening effect at high shear, compared with a polymer-free solution, in agreement with earlier experiments. But with longer polymers (about 4 micrometers long), the team observed strongly enhanced shear thickening. In addition, the suspension containing short polymers pulled inward at high shear, while the larger polymers caused the fluid to press outward.

These results, Conrad says, when combined with recent theoretical and experimental work by others, point to a possible explanation for the enhanced shear thickening observed with long polymers. The shear stress appears to squeeze long polymers out of the smallest spaces between the particles and into larger voids. From there, the random motion of the polymers as they push against neighboring particles creates an effective attractive force among the particles. This attraction causes the particles to behave like grains of sand in a sandpile; a shear stress applied at one location has a long-distance effect as each particle pushes on its neighbors through the so-called contact network. This network leads to high viscosity and thus to an enhanced shear thickening effect. The shear stress applied by the rheometer caused the material to expand because each particle had to roll around others in order to slide past.

The short polymers are not easily excluded from tight spaces, so they appear not to influence shear thickening in the same way as long polymers. However, their small effect at high shear is consistent with earlier work. In the rheometer, the suspensions with short polymers contracted when sheared, presumably because high-density clusters formed and reduced the fluid volume. This cluster formation is one of the standard models of shear thickening.

“This work is surprising,” says chemical engineer Lilian Hsiao of North Carolina State University in Raleigh. “It goes against previous thoughts that the addition of polymers would mask the shear thickening.” The discovery, she suggests, could help engineers, who often add polymers into suspensions to tune viscosity, which affects how fluids flow in many industrial processes. “The work provides a map for fine tuning polymers to design complex flows of particles, which we find in everyday life, including in oil slurries, foods, and many consumer products.”

The team believes that their results should be useful in designing polymer additives of different sizes for use in adjusting the strength of the thickening effect in particle suspensions. This ability could enable the development of smart materials that can change their characteristics according to conditions. These materials would have uses in safeguarding industrial equipment operating in extreme conditions or in protective clothing, such as bullet-resistant vests or better helmets that reduce the risk of concussions.

This research is published in Physical Review Letters.

Covestro to Sell European Systems Houses Business to H.I.G. Capital

Covestro has signed an agreement with H.I.G. Capital for the sale of Covestro’s European Systems Houses business. H.I.G. focuses on investments in small and mid-sized companies. The sales proceeds amount to a high-double-digit euro million sum. The decision to sell the systems houses was taken as part of Covestro’s ongoing portfolio optimization process that includes the sale of Covestro’s North American spray polyurethane foam systems house in 2017.

“Our focus is future growth and value creation. That’s why evaluating and optimizing our portfolio is part of our daily business”, said CFO Dr Thomas Toepfer. “Providing tailor-made solutions, systems houses serve relevant market needs. However, in an advanced polyurethanes market like Europe we focus on a more centralized approach to efficiently address the needs of our customers.”

With its new owner H.I.G., the European Systems Houses now have the perspective to position themselves as an independent, focused player for mid-sized customers. In Asia with its developing polyurethane markets, Covestro will continue to serve its customers through its established systems houses network.

The systems houses are part of the company’s Polyurethanes segment and are offering tailor-made polyurethanes systems for customers. The European Systems Houses business comprises facilities in the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Germany and further businesses in Italy. Approximately 250 employees are generating annual sales of some EUR 230 million. Operations will continue at the current facilities while Covestro will continue to have strong ties with the systems houses as a key polyurethanes supplier.

Polyurethanes are a class of plastics that can be found in many areas of modern life – be it in the form of soft or rigid foam or as thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). They are used in numerous applications like, for instance, mattresses, automobile seats, sports equipment or as insulating material in buildings and refrigerators.

With view on scale and capabilities as well as the solid asset base, the European Systems Houses perfectly fits into H.I.G.’s buy-and-build approach. H.I.G. aims to further develop their pan-European presence and to build a strong and independent European group of polyurethane systems houses with a clear focus on mid-sized customers. The company intends to continue working with the current experienced management team of the systems houses to further improve the business. The closing of the transaction is expected for the second half of 2019 after the required antitrust clearance.