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Coke Committed To PlantBottle Despite JBF’s Bio-based Ethylene Glycol Cancellation

Here’s something that wasn’t very well publicized: JBF Industries has cancelled its project to build a bio-based ethylene glycol plant in Brazil.plantbottle-pkg

The company, and Indian polyethylene terephthalate producer, disclosed that it was putting the project “on hold” as part of its earnings back in August.

This is a far cry from the original announcement in September 2012, which took the form of a joint press release between JBF and Coca-Cola. JBF would have built a 500,000-metric-ton plant that would have derived ethylene glycol from cheap Brazilian ethanol. Coke would have used the glycol as part of its PlantBottle program, which incorporates bio-based glycol instead of synthetic glycol in the PET resins used in its soft drink bottles.

The Chemical Notebook learned about the JBF cancellation development at IHS’s recent Latin American Petrochemical Networking Meeting.  Otávio Carvalho, principal of the consulting group MaxiQuim, listed the cancellation in a presentation slide.

I asked Coca-Cola whether the cancellation had broader implications for the PlantBottle program. The company denied that it did. Coke blamed the cancelled project on “unexpected construction costs an a challenging economic environment”. The company said further that it is in discussions with other firms on a new glycol project. The talks may proceed for several months. Coke doesn’t expect such a plant to come onstream before 2016, which would amount to a delay of about a year versus JBF’s plans.

Coke also said that it is still working with Virent, Gevo, and Avantium, on a route to a bio-based alternative to terephthalic acid.

The JBF project always seemed like a stretch. This is an Indian PET company, albeit with a good track record of building projects overseas, constructing a glycol plant in Brazil, a bio-based glycol plant at that. Braskem, Oxiteno, or Dow would have seemed like more likely candidates. I suspect a few such firms did sniff out the project two years ago and decided that the setup Coke had in mind wouldn’t earn the cost of capital. (Actually, I know that one of the companies did exactly that at the time.)

 

 


Momentive On The Verge Of Bankruptcy

Momentive Performance Materials is threatening bankruptcy.

Moments ago the company filed an NT 10-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It is what a company files when it can’t file its 10-K annual report on time. The company says  it is in negotiations with creditors and notes that a Chapter 11 filing is a strong possibility. Momentive Performance Materials is the former GE Silicones business, which the private equity firm Apollo Management bought for $3.8 billion in 2006. Momentive’s filing reads:

The management of Momentive Performance Materials Inc. (the “Company”), a wholly owned subsidiary of Momentive Performance Materials Holdings LLC, has determined that the Company is unable to file its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the period ended December 31, 2013 on March 31, 2014, without unreasonable effort or expense because, for the following reasons, management needs additional time to analyze and finalize the Company’s financial statements.

The Company is currently in active discussions with various stakeholders regarding alternatives to modify its capital structure and reduce the Company’s leverage. The Company has been required to devote key personnel and administrative resources, including the personnel and resources of its accounting and financial reporting organization, to matters relating to these discussions. The Company believes these discussions will be concluded shortly. As part of this process, a filing under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code may provide the most expeditious manner in which to effect a plan of reorganization that may be proposed by the Company. However, there can be no assurance that an agreement can be reached with the Company’s stakeholders or that any transaction with the Company’s stakeholders will be consummated.

Although the Company is currently in compliance with the indentures governing its outstanding notes and its credit agreements, the Company has concluded there is substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern for the next twelve months and expects that the audit report by its independent public accounting firm, with respect to the financial statements to be included in the Annual Report on Form 10-K, will contain an explanatory paragraph expressing substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. The going concern issue has generated substantial additional disclosures and has required the Company to change certain assumptions related to balance sheet classifications, certain debt-related deferred costs and income taxes.

For these reasons, the Company has not been able to file its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2013 within the prescribed time period. Management is diligently working to close its books and records and to complete preparation of the financial statements as soon as practicable.

 

 

 


Siluria Is Looking Pretty Sharp

For the first time, IHS put on a Technology Seminar as part of its World Petrochemical Conference activities last week. Don Bari and Jeff Plotkin, both formerly with Nexant, organized the gathering. At more than 100, the attendance was pretty good, especially for an inaugural event that is part of a larger conference.

The first speaker was Guido Radaelli, vice president of engineering at Siluria Technologies, which is working on the oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) into ethylene. The term Holy Grail is thrown about often in the chemical industry. But it is no exaggeration for this technology. If perfected, such a technology would bestride the chemical world like a colossus. One leg would be that methane is a cheaper and more plentiful raw material than ethane. The other leg would be the considerable energy savings over ethane steam cracking because methane conversion would be exothermic.ihsblock

With such rewards, many have tried before and failed,notably Arco and Union Carbide, which  both had serious programs along these lines in the 80s.

Things are going fairly well for Siluria. The company is partnering with Braskem to build a demonstration plant in Texas. It also unveiled an ethlylene-to-liquids technology that would convert ethylene into aromatics and transportation fuels. They’ll need some pretty cheap ethylene to make that work.

Which brings us back to Siluria’s progress on OCM. Radaelli said that the company has made more headway than any company ever has in methane conversion into ethylene. The activity of the catalyst is higher, he said. The operating conditions are “many hundreds of degrees lower”. (I think this is one of the main factors that killed previous efforts.) The Siluria catalysts last years, not days, unlike previous efforts. Conversion and selectivity are thus far the same as they had been in the past.siluriafeeds

I was a little surprised to find out what actually happens in the process, as there is some ethane cracking occurring. It is powered by the heat of the conversion of methane into ethylene. I have included Siluria’s slide of the block diagram as well as one describing feedstock use.

Radaelli claims economic advantages over (conventional?) steam cracking. He said that, hypothetically, if a company were to build a 1,000,000 metric ton ethylene cracker and a 1,000,00 metric ton plant using Siluria’s technology, Siluria’s technology would have been more profitable to run in each of the four years beginning in 2009. Similarly, if a company would have built a 75,000-metric-ton plant using the Siluria technology in 2014, it would have by now saved more than $100 million in ethylene purchases. (The stand alone back-integration scenario seems to be a target for the technology.)

 

 


Dow To Europe: Drop Dead!

I don’t want it to seem like I am picking on Dow this week.

This was the first day of IHS’s World Petrochemical Conference in Houston. This is my 15th annual conference. So far, this conference is better than average. The place is packed with more than 1,300 people.

Dow executive vice president Jim Fitterling gave an address on the beneficial economic effects of shale. We have been hearing a lot of this kind of thing in recent years. However, Fitterling went way beyond the usual touting of big numbers related to shale petrochemical investment. He said that shale will help lead to a renaissance in American manufacturing in general and is even stimulating greater R&D spending in the U.S. as manufacturers invest in technological research to support their operations. He pointed to Dow’s own planned R&D facility in Lake Jackson, Texas, near its Freeport operations, as an example. Very exciting stuff and very positive.

About that headline. He also took the opportunity to complain about all the liquified natural gas export capacity being planned in the U.S. So called “unfettered” exports would drive up natural gas prices and ruin everything for everybody, companies like Dow say. “No it won’t,” oil companies usually retort.

Now if you have been following this issue, you might have heard the suggestion that U.S. exports of natural gas to Europe would loosen the energy stranglehold Vladimir Putin has on Europe. “Don’t even go there,” Fitterling said. No, he didn’t say that. Actually he said this:

Now we are pointing to the Ukraine and arguing that we must fast track LNG exports to help our allies in Europe. Even our own energy secretary says that’s a weak argument, especially given the long lead time and financing to build these terminals. And let’s not forget, Europe has the resources and the capability to provide for its own energy [consumption]. Just because they have rejected nuclear energy and horizontal drilling, and left themselves at the mercy of others, shouldn’t create an obligation for us to bail them out by shipping our advantage to them.

If Europe really wants to be energy competitive and energy secure, it cannot walk away from nuclear and they must embrace horizontal drilling and exploration. The same policies that made America competitive are available to Europe today.

The real question we should ask is a simple one: what is our foreign policy, especially when it comes to our valuable energy resources? Shouldn’t we know that with some certainty before we just launch ahead blindly?

I heard at least one person attempt to start a round of applause while he was still talking. He rocked the house at the chemical conference to the extent that the house at a chemical conference can be rocked. And I am willing to bet that more than a few European chemical executives, who aren’t slow themselves to gripe about Europe’s high energy costs, agreed.

 


What Might Be Tagged At Dow’s Yardsale?

As you have may have heard, Dow Chemical plans to sell more businesses. Back in December, the company said it would get rid of its epoxy resins and chlorine-related business, which would make the bulk of $3.0 to $4.0 billion worth of divestitures. Mind you, these numbers here are a little funky. They refer to the pre-tax proceeds to Dow from transactions that aren’t necessarily even being negotiated yet. However, the company tends to get strong valuations when it sells businesses, so I would expect that the proceeds from deals would be within the range and even towards the top of it.

Last week, at an investor event in Saudi Arabia, the company announced it would put an additional $1.5 to $2.0 billion in businesses up for sale. CEO Andrew N. Liveris wouldn’t say what the businesses are, but he would certainly characterize them. They would be nice businesses, likely coming out of its Performance and Functional Materials units, and perhaps reasonably profitable. But they would be more meaningful to potential buyers than they currently are to Dow. They would be, Liveris promised,  “Lots of small, little businesses that you never even track, that you never follow, and that you never even knew we had.”

He was addressing analysts, thus casting a wide net. They are only acquainted with the solid form of ethylene known as polyethylene and Dow AgroSciences.

The Chemical Notebook takes Liveris’ remarks as a challenge. What are the most obscure Dow businesses? Two that jumped out at me are are Dow Plastics Plastics Additives And Dow Oil & Gas. Dow put the plastics additives unit up for sale last year and then withdrew it from the market. Oil and Gas is tiny, about $270 million in annual sales. It is a market facing unit that sells chemicals for oil and gas exploration and extraction. This is a very marketable business, with companies such as Solvay and Ecolab plunging further in this area. My only reservation about Dow selling this business is that the chemistry on offer in oil and gas overlaps with other Dow businesses.

Additionally, I combed through Dow’s Product Safety Assessment Finder, which by the way, is a great source of information for many chemicals. I asked question “what are the real oddball businesses?” Here are few (Don’t take this as a list of possible sales, though. Some, as you will see, are likely keepers.):

Silicones and Feel Modifiers: These sound dirty. They’re not. They are used in leather finishing. They also sound like something Dow Corning would sell. With a tradename like ROSILK, I’ll guess these came from Rohm and Haas.

ADSORBIA Adsorbent Media: Did you know that Dow offers titanium dioxide based adsorbent media? Now you do. Dow has a market-facing water treatment businesses, so while Dow selling something made of TiO2 sounds strange, it does seem like this is part of a complementary market offering.

Stannous Fluoride: This is fluoride…for toothpaste. Take that, Cavity Creeps!

Markers and Dyes: These are markers and dyes used to color fuel. Why would you color fuel? So you can easily tell different kinds of fuels apart. For instance, diesel and number 2 oil are taxed at different rates. Home heating oil is taxed at the lower rate. It gets a red dye to prevent and detect its illegal use as a transportation fuel. I know this because heating oil was the Tullo family businesses. Also, we drove diesel cars, including that terrible Oldsmobile, in the late 70s. This seems to be another one that came from Rohm and Haas (Morton to be precise), as the brand name MORTRACE is associated with this business.

Nickel-plating process products: I never knew Dow did this. However, don’t think trophies and baby shoes. This business primarily serves the electronics industry.

Infrared Materials: These are zinc selenide and other specialty glass materials. Dow sells them as shapes that are pressed into lenses for infrared sensors, night vision goggles and so forth.  These don’t strike me as particularly dangerous materials unless the Marines are after you at night.

Powerhouse Solar Shingles: These are photovoltaic cells that are easier to install and more inconspicuous than conventional polysilicon solar cells. This is a good business and addresses a need. However, I never fully understood why Dow is in this business. It has kind of a pet project feel, so it could be a keeper for a while. But I think that Dow will sell this business eventually.

Borohydride and other boron based compounds: These are used as chemical intermediates, largely in fine chemicals. Similarly, Dow also supplies trimethyl borate. My boss, Mike McCoy, swears that this business, another Rohm and Haas joint, is sizable, with perhaps tens-of-million-of-dollars in revenues. I don’t doubt that. It does seem like a vestige, one that doesn’t seem difficult to carve out.


The U.S. Cracker Leader Board

Back in March 2011, I jotted down on my notebook a ranking of companies most likely to build a U.S. ethylene cracker. It was to be a post for this very blog. But before I got around to posting it, Chevron Phillips announced a cracker project, stealing my thunder. I didn’t end up putting it up.

And thank goodness for that. It was a pretty cruddy list. I can’t find it now, but I am pretty sure that Shintech, SABIC, and LyondellBasell were on top. None of these has formally announced a project.

That said, now that we are approaching the construction phase for the projects that have been announced over the last three (three!) years, it might be worthwhile to compile a ranking of how likely it is that the projects will be built (at something resembling their appointed schedules and without major modifications).

Welcome Plastics News readers! And thanks, Don, for the kind words.

1) Chevron Phillips: The company is building a cracker in Baytown, Texas, and a pair of polyethylene plants in Sweeny (Old Ocean), Texas.

Probability: nearly 100%. Only meteors or aliens could stop this one. I just interviewed Ron Corn, who has been in charge of these projects for the last couple of years. The sites have been prepared. The equipment, and even the structural steel and pipe, have been ordered. The contracts and the air permits are in hand. Construction is set to begin in earnest within months.

2) Dow Chemical: The company is building a cracker in Freeport, the keystone of a program that is also seeing the company build a propane dehydrogenation plant and reopening a cracker in Louisiana. The dehydrogenation plant is already under construction.

Probability: 90%. Like Chevron Phillips, it seems that equipment and contracts are in place. A draft permit from EPA came for the facility this month. That said, Dow has an unrivaled capacity to change its mind on capital expenditure decisions. (Remember the crackers in Oman, Russia, and India? The Michigan battery plant? Ethanol-based polyethylene in Brazil? The Canadian wheat straw composites plant?) However, what Dow is doing on the Gulf Coast is much less risky than any of those things. The company did originally promise a second PDH plant, which I would say is a little less probable than its other builds in the region.

3) ExxonMobil: The company is building a cracker in Baytown and polyethylene capacity in Mont Belvieu.

Probability: 85% There have been challenges to the environmental permitting here. I doubt that would be enough to sideline the project. 

4) Formosa Chemicals and Plastics: A medium-sized ethylene cracker and propane dehydrogenation unit as well as a polyethylene plant at its Point Comfort, Texas, plant.

Probability: 80%. The company hasn’t said a lot about the project since it was announced in February 2012. Having built a cracker in Point Comfort a little more than a decade ago, the company has a proven track record. Plus the project is more modest than some of the other plans companies have for U.S. petrochemical capacity.

5) Occidental Chemical/Mexichem. A smallish cracker in Ingleside, Texas. The cracker will feed an Oxy vinyl chloride monomer plant. Mexichem has an offtake for the VCM, which it will export to integrate its polyvinyl chloride operations. 

Probability: 70%. This one is a little less likely than the others, though it is somewhat out of the gate. Mexichem is already expanding VCM capacity in Mexico. Maybe it needs more, maybe not. Oxy is back integrated into upstream oil and gas and needs an outlet for natural gas liquids. It is building fractionation capacity in Ingleside. However, Oxy already owned a cracker in Corpus Christi. It contributed it to Equistar. Now Lyondell owns it and is presumably a major Oxy ethylene supplier. I would be shocked if the Oxy and Lyondell haven’t discussed an NGL supply agreement with an ethylene offtake for Oxy. I would be surprised if such a low capital approach wasn’t still an option today.

6) Sasol: A cracker and derivatives in Westlake, La.

 

Probability: 65%. This is the aperitif to Sasol’s $16 billion gas to liquids project. Sasol tells me that a final investment decision hasn’t been made. So, at the very least, I would look for a delay beyond the 2017 startup. However, the community has invested a lot in this plant. Sasol has also divested an Iranian joint venture to prevent a regulatory holdup to its plans in Louisiana. Some 80% of property owners surrounding the plant have signed on to Sasol’s land acquisition plan.

7) Axiall/Lotte: An ethylene cracker and downstream derivatives somewhere in Louisiana.

Probability: 50%. On the one hand, I am under the impression that having the heft to pursue a project like this is one of the reasons that PPG’s chlor-alkali unit and Georgia Gulf merged. However, the project is new and not defined yet. 

8) Shell: An ethylene cracker along with polyethylene and other derivatives in Monaco, Pa.

Probability 30%. This project is not on the Gulf Coast, so lack of connectivity with the rest of the chemical world is a big disadvantage. Shell would have to reenter the polyethylene business. Shell did cancel a gas-to-liquids project, making it a little more likely that the company will allocate capital for the chemical plants. But that is like a turkey concluding he’ll never be eaten because he wasn’t the one dragged to the stump on Thanksgiving morning. The best that can be said that is that Shell really loves chemicals now because it compares favorably to refining. 

9) Odebrecht: A cracker in Parkersburg, W.Va, and polyethylene plants. Odebrecht affiliate Braskem would market the output. 

Probability: 29%. Just slightly less likely than the Shell project. It should be noted that Braskem and Idesa are already building an ethylene cracker in Mexico that is well underway. So my only real reservation about this project, other than the same isolation issues for Shell, is that another Braskem project in the NAFTA region will be like another trip to the smorgasbord. (Or leaving the rodizio card greenside up?) However, investing in petrochemicals in South America isn’t a great option for the foreseeable future. Braskem would be wise to invest in North America while there is an opportunity to do so.

 

10) Total Petrochemicals: The company is contemplating a cracker in Port Arthur.

Probability 25%. Lowest on the list only because the project isn’t clearly defined.

 


BASF’s Climate Change Schizophrenia

Today, The Chemical Notebook features a guest post by Alex Scott, C&EN’s London-Based senior editor.

Contradictory behavior relating to climate change was on show recently at BASF’s annual financial press briefing in Ludwigshafen, Germany. BASF’s Chairman Kurt Bock, an advocate of shale gas exploitation in Europe, swatted aside questions about the climate change impact of shale gas on the basis that most people in the world still get their energy predominantly from fossil fuels so it should be okay for BASF, too.

And this, just minutes after holding up a car part made from BASF’s engineered plastic and exclaiming that it is lighter than the metal it was designed to replace and so would improve fuel efficiency and hence the environmental performance of vehicles.

Given that there is broad scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, it shows how leading chemical companies such as BASF – one of the world’s most innovative companies – is potentially both part of the solution and still part of the problem. And that’s a business model set to attract greater scrutiny as scientific understanding about anthropogenic climate change sharpens.

LIGHTWEIGHT: BASF’s Kurt Bock shows off lighter car components made from its engineered plastic but the firm has yet to roll out “holy grail” processes such as those that use carbon dioxide as a raw material.

LIGHTWEIGHT: BASF’s Kurt Bock shows off lighter car components made from its engineered plastic but the firm has yet to roll out “holy grail” processes such as those that use carbon dioxide as a raw material.

The struggle for companies like BASF remains one of doing better for people and planet while also making money for shareholders. Right now the s

hareholders appear to be winning. The shift to truly sustainable technologies seemingly is too expensive or too difficult – or both. Yes new technologies are being developed, but by and large the pace of change is incremental. And being less bad for the environment doesn’t qualify as sustainable.

As Bock mentioned in Ludwigshafen, truly sustainable processes such as those that consume carbon dioxide remain the “holy grail” of the chemical industry. But as Bock also noted it was too early for him to be able to provide details about BASF’s activities in this field because they haven’t been sufficiently developed.

On the one hand BASF and many other chemical companies could be blamed for this state of affairs: They make a profit and only pay the current value for

their raw materials, such as fossil fuels. The next generation will pick up the full (and hidden) costs, including those resulting from climate change.

On the other hand, all chemical companies are working in the best way that they can within the current regulations and that means staying as profitable as they can, otherwise they might not survive at all.

A potential solution for breaking this deadlock is to markedly accelerate innovation in sustainable processes by creating closer ties between academia, industry and government. Government should step up its role of funding R&D for sustainable processes, and additionally provide tax breaks and a tax regime that is attractive enough for chemical companies to make the early investment in R&D for truly sustainable (not less bad) processes without going broke.

The need for closer ties between chemical firms and academia and government was a central theme taken up by a panel of experts meeting in the past week at the Royal Society of Chemistry in London as one of the best ways for “future-proofing” chemical companies and the users of chemicals. “Just in the U.K. we throw away the same number of carbon atoms that we spend £1.5 trillion [$2.5 trillion] buying in this country,” said industry veteran Ian Shott, who among his other roles is head of the Scotland’s new national center for industrial biotechnology. “There is an enormous opportunity here,” he says.

So curing the chemical industry’s climate change schizophrenia might enable chemical companies and their users to be future-proof too.

Shott is not the only chemicals expert advocating a closer working relationship between academia and industry as a way of securing growth and unlocking sustainable technologies. The other panelists at the RSC meeting, including David Jakubovic, open innovation director for Procter & Gamble, Tony Ryan, chemistry professor and pro-vice chancellor for the University of Sheffield in the U.K., and Andrew Burgess, chief scientist for Akzo Nobel, the company hosting the meeting, also voiced support for bringing academics and industrialists closer together to accelerate innovation. Cross-fertilization of technologies across the supply chain could further accelerate innovation, the panellists agreed.

The chemical industry’s climate change schizophrenia, as demonstrated by Bock, will go on for some time yet. But the sooner the collective chemistry brains from academia and industry come closer together – as advocated by Shott and others – the sooner chemistry can really be unleashed to tackle climate change. Then maybe Bock and other chemical industry leaders can start talking about the ‘holy grail’ chemistries that we are really interested in.


The Curious Case Of Cereplast

Cereplast started out as a good idea when it was founded by Frederick Scheer 10 years ago. The company would compound biobased and compostable resins such polylactic acid. The companies developing biobased resins are, for the most part, focused on agricultural processing or biotechnology. There would be a place for a specialist sorting out the nitty gritty of making the plastics work in real-world applications.

But something, if not many things, have gone wrong for the company. And earlier this month, the Cereplast filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

What happened?

It’s hard to tell. The Cereplast story is a little vague.

2011 seemed to be a good year for Cereplast in terms of revenues, which climbed to a high of about $20 million. However, the company managed to lose $14 million on those sales.

The company might have been in the red, but CEO Scheer was securely in the black. He earned a more than $1 million: about $500,000 in salary, $400,000 in bonuses, and nearly in $100,000 in stock awards.

A year later, things were pretty unpleasant for Cereplast. The company had to write off $12 million in accounts receivable in 2012. (Can’t tell if these were booked as part of the 2011 sales.) It is tough to figure out what exactly happened here, but the default explanation is that some customer stiffed the company for $12 million worth of compounded plastic. Conference calls allude to efforts to get the inventory back. The company lost $30 million on $911,000 in sales in 2012. Scheer earned a mere $336,077.

The company delisted from NASDAQ in 2012. It picked up, earlier in the year, Paul Pelosi, Jr. as a director, who wanted to lend one of America’s most recognizable names to team Cereplast for some reason. As far as I can tell he was an uncompensated, outside director.

Cereplast also ran the stock certificate printing presses in 2012 to stave off bankruptcy. Ironridge Technology bought $5 million in Cereplast preferred shares. Some outfit named Magna promised to pay off $1 million Cereplast debt in exchange for common shares. Cereplast is suing Magna for breach of contract.

Last year brought new ways for Cereplast to lose money. The company had $2.1 million in revenues for the first nine months of the year. It lost $34 million. The biggest item on its income statements is a $21.6 million loss for “change in derivative liabilities.” Cereplastcs explanation is as follows:

“Our derivative financial instruments consist of embedded and free-standing derivatives related primarily to the convertibles notes. The embedded derivatives include the conversion features, and liquidated damages clauses in the registration rights agreement. The accounting treatment of derivative financial instruments requires that we record the derivatives and related warrants at their fair values as of the inception date of the agreement and at fair value as of each subsequent balance sheet date. The recorded value of all derivatives at September 30, 2013 totaled approximately $15.1 million. Any change in fair value of these instruments will be recorded as non-operating, non-cash income or expense at each reporting date. If the fair value of the derivatives is higher at the subsequent balance sheet date, the Company will record a non-operating, non-cash charge. If the fair value of the derivatives is lower at the subsequent balance sheet date, the Company will record non-operating, non-cash income. At September 30, 2013, derivatives were valued primarily using the Black-Scholes Option Pricing Model.”

The Chemical Notebook doesn’t know either.

In any case, the bankruptcy was filed, in response to a lender’s efforts to sell off its assets, which aren’t insignificant. The value of the company’s property and equipment amounts to $11.2 million.


Breaking Bad: A Clueless Review

The biggest thing to happen in the world of chemistry this week was the final episode of Breaking Bad. The Chemical Notebook never saw the show, and for the last several years has felt left out of the fun that most of the chemical world was having watching it every week. I considered seeing the show before, but getting caught up would take more than 50 hours. It doesn’t seem important enough to invest that kind of time.

Instead, I just jumped into the final episode. Technically, I watched a little bit of the second to last episode, but most of that time was spent telling the kids to stop playing in front of the television.

I don't know what bromine and barium have to do with anything.

I don’t know what bromine and barium have to do with anything.

Here’s my review of the last episode:

[[SPOILER ALERT: People may have recorded the show on VHS or whatever.]]

The main character is Walter White. He’s played by the dad from Malcolm in the Middle. I’m pretty sure the shows occur in different universes. Walter White makes drugs, probably methamphetamine, using science. In fact, many references in the final episode leave me with the impression that he was once a reputable scientist. Most likely he was a chemist because I know chemists enjoy the show and they wouldn’t like it as much if it was about a renegade geologist.

White may have done other bad things besides making drugs, but that isn’t 100% clear from just the last episode. He seems like a nice man, as far as drug makers go, so I have my doubts.

Walter has some kind of disease that makes him cough a lot. Also, he’s a fugitive.

He has a wife. I didn’t catch her name. She smokes. He also has a son, who walks around with crutches. He is very angry with his father about the drugs and other things he may or may not have done. Oh, and a baby. There’s a baby in house. I’m not sure how it got there. The wife smokes in the house even though there’s a baby. Maybe she just smokes in the kitchen.

I should mention Jesse. I think he used to be friends with Walter White. He was making drugs while tethered to a thing. He used to make nice boxes out of wood.

The show has a lot of characters. I can’t get into them all. A woman who drinks tea a lot seems like she was important for the last few episodes at least. Walter kills her with chemistry. Also there were two rich people with a nice fireplace, apparently two former businesses associates of White. They said bad things about him on Charlie Rose. This upset Walter White even though nobody really watches that show. Walter White makes them set up a trust for his family by threatening them with laser pointers. This scene left me wishing there were cats in the room. It would have been funny to see cats trying to climb up their legs to get at the laser pointer dots.

Walter does lots of other stuff during the episode. He steals one of New Hampshire’s many Volvos and drives it all the way back to Albuquerque. He manages to find every working payphone along the way. He has a nice breakfast. Because the police are looking for him, he’s sneaking around the all the time.

To set up the finale, Walter makes a contraption with an oscillating motor, which he attaches a machine gun to and hide the trunk of an old De Ville. (He had ditched the Volvo a while back.) He infiltrates a bad guy place under a ruse. (I thought it was a chop shop at first, but it soon becomes clear that he’s been there before.) They take his wallet and keys from him. Then they threaten to kill him. It really seems like Walter is a goner.

But no.

Now for the important part: the keyless entry thing that was taken from him controls the machine gun contraption. They don’t think it’s strange that a 30 year old Cadillac has a keyless entry system. In any case, he grabs the keys, tackles Jesse, activates the thing he made, and all the bad guys in the room get shot…almost. One guy survives because the writers needed him to stick around so Jesse can kill him with the chains he was bound with. Another guy lives long enough to finish his cigarette. Jesse drives away at an irresponsibly high rate of speed.

Walter dies in a factory of some kind. It was probably his old drug factory, judging from the Badfinger music playing the background. Then AMC showed a bunch of interviews I didn’t really understand.


Trinseo (Styron) Drops Its IPO

Trinseo has withdrawn its prospectus for a $400 million initial public offering of stock.

Trinseo is the rarely used name for Styron, the former Dow styrenic polymer and polycarbonate unit. Dow sold the unit to the private equity firm Bain Capital for $1.6 billion in 2010.

Bain changed the name to Trinseo for some reason and filed for an IPO two years ago. In its letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission, dated June 15 pulling the registration statement, the company would only say that the withdrawal “would be consistent with the public interest and the protection of investors.” I think that just means that no one gets hurt.



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