Sunday, August 14, 2011

Former Royal Society of Chemistry Chief Executive Dr Richard Pike dies

 Dr Richard Pike has died at the age of 61.  Dr Pike stood down as the RSC’s chief executive in February this year after five successful years at the helm of the learned society. Under his leadership, membership reached a record high of more than 47,500. Among other notable achievements, 10 new journal titles were launched and the number of chemical sciences articles published since Dr Pike joined in 2006 trebled.

He also steered the RSC into international waters, with several new offices opening in China, India and the United States. A fluent Japanese speaker, having spent five years in Japan while working as an executive for BP, Richard also oversaw plans for the opening of the RSC’s Tokyo office, which took place in July.

Born on 2 April, 1950, Dr Pike attended Gosport County Grammar School (later to become the comprehensive Bay House School) before studying at Downing College, Cambridge, where he gained a 1st Class BA in engineering in 1971. He gained a PhD in 1977, also from Cambridge, and his research work investigated experimental and theoretical aspects of vapour bubble dynamics in boiling liquids, focusing on the thermal and fluid characteristics of water and organic liquids in various gravitational fields, including Earth and zero gravity.

He was sponsored by BP as an undergraduate and went about studying Japanese during his time at college. This led to a 25-year career in British Petroleum (BP), where he held a number of technical and commercial positions in the UK and abroad. While working in Tokyo as General Manager, Chemicals, BP Far East, he was also appointed President, BP Chemicals, Japan and Director, Samsung-BP Chemicals, South Korea.

Upon returning to the UK, Dr Pike became Director General of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers – a position he held for five years. He moved on to become senior associate at Gaffney, Cline & Associates, advising on corporate strategy within the oil and gas industry.

In February 2006 he was appointed as the Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry and said he looked forward to “ensuring that the RSC maintains and develops its role in championing the vital role that the chemical sciences and those who practise them play in the future prosperity and well-being of the population, economy and environment”.

It was a position he relished as Dr Pike quickly became the UK’s leading advocate of the chemical sciences through a sustained media campaign, allowing the RSC, combined with its parliamentary activities, to become a significant voice in science and education, acknowledged for its robust defence and worldwide promotion of the chemical sciences.

One of his best known initiatives was the ‘Five-Decade Challenge’, an exam for the brightest 16-year-old chemistry students taking in exam questions from the 1960s through to the 2000s. The results showed the pupils performed significantly worse on the older papers’ questions – Dr Pike said this demonstrated a lack of problem-solving ability, a problem stemming not from pupils or teachers but a flawed national science curriculum too focused on ‘hoop-jumping’.

He appeared on news channels and radio stations throughout last summer using his experience as a chemical engineer and former BP executive to explain to the nation the developments concerning the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. But raising standards in education was the one theme Dr Pike returned to throughout his time at the RSC, never missing an opportunity to question whether exam boards challenged British pupils enough while simultaneously highlighting the important role chemical scientists played in the health and well-being of the nation.

In the year Dr Pike stood down as chief executive, a record number of students began studying chemistry at UK universities.

LANXESS steps up commitment to China through local investments

: LANXESS is strengthening its commitment to serve the growing Chinese market with premium products by making a number of local investments totaling more than EUR 40 million. “China remains one of the fastest growing markets in Asia and a key pillar of our mid-term growth strategy,” said LANXESS CEO Axel C. Heitmann.

The German specialty chemicals company held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new leather chemicals plant in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, representing a EUR 30 million investment. It will have a capacity of 50,000 metric tons per year and will come on stream in the first half of 2013. The plant will feature the latest technology and environmentally friendly processes and will create about 150 new jobs. The plant will produce leather chemicals such as Tanigan, Isoderm, Euderm and Levotan used for leather tanning, dyeing and finishing applications. China is the largest market for leather chemicals worldwide, with steady growth expected in the coming years.

In addition, LANXESS will start up the third production line of its high-tech plastics plant in Wuxi, Jiangsu province. The EUR 10 million-investment increases total capacities at the plant to 60,000 metric tons per year. The plant produces the innovative, lightweight plastics Durethan and Pocan that replace heavier metal parts in automobiles thus contributing to fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. China is the world’s largest automotive market, and is expected to grow by nine percent this year.

Apart from strengthening its asset base, LANXESS is opening a technology center in Qingdao, Shandong province, to intensify services for the beverage industry. The center represents a single-digit million euro investment and will initially be the home to 10 experts. They will provide analytical, technical and consultancy services, as well as customized-solutions centered on LANXESS’ flagship product Velcorin, which is used as a sterilization agent in non-alcoholic beverages and wine. China is set to become the world’s largest beverage market in the next decade.

LANXESS is operating or constructing major production sites in Shanghai, Wuxi, Liyang, Nantong, Changzhou and Qingdao. In addition, the company has a headquarters in Shanghai for many of its business units, as well as offices in Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. LANXESS has close to 900 employees and achieved sales of about EUR 800 million in China in 2010.


Solvay to form joint venture with Sadara to build hydrogen peroxide plant in Saudi Arabia

 Solvay announced that it has the intention to create a 50/50 joint venture with Sadara Chemical Company (itself a planned joint venture of Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) and The Dow Chemical Company (Dow)) for the construction and operation of a Hydrogen Peroxide Plant in Jubail industrial City, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Scheduled to be operational in the second half of 2015, this new plant is intended to supply Hydrogen Peroxide (HP) as a raw material for the manufacture of propylene oxide (PO) by Sadara at its world-scale, fully integrated chemicals complex. Propylene oxide is used to produce propylene glycol, polyurethanes and glycol ethers. Solvay will use its proprietary, high-yield hydrogen peroxide technology for the world-scale plant.

Dow and Saudi Aramco announced the planned formation of Sadara on July 25, 2011.  Building on Saudi Aramco's project management and execution expertise, and utilizing many of Dow's industry leading technologies, the Sadara chemicals complex, comprising 26 manufacturing units, will be one of the world's largest integrated chemical facilities, and the largest ever built in one single phase. The complex will possess flexible cracking capabilities and will produce over 3 million metric tons of high value-added chemical products and performance plastics, capitalizing on rapidly growing markets in energy, transportation, infrastructure and consumer products. Jubail Industrial City is the largest industrial complex of its kind in the world. It is located in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, approximately 100 kilometers northwest of Dammam.

The proposed hydrogen peroxide megaplant in Saudi Arabia will be Solvay's third. The Solvay Group operates today a 230 kt/y megaplant in Antwerp, Belgium, and is currently commissioning a 330 kt/y megaplant in Map Ta Phut, Thailand. The new planned HP plant in Jubail Industrial City will further strengthen Solvay's leadership in this field. By using the advanced hydrogen peroxide to propylene oxide (HPPO) technology, it is possible to reduce both the capital intensity and the environmental footprint of PO production compared to conventional production technologies.

Univar expands with office opening in Greece

Univar Inc. announced it has expanded its operations in Greece with the opening of a new office in Athens.  Univar has been exporting products to Greece for over ten years from its UK and French operations. The growth in customer base and expanding product portfolio warranted a transition to a fully-functioning operation on the ground, culminating in last month’s office opening.

Markos Roussos is managing director of the new office with a remit to further expand business in the region. Roussos joined the company from Tesa Tape, a leading manufacturer of adhesives and coating technology, where he worked for seven years, most recently as sales manager. 

In Greece, Univar’s product range focuses on Personal Care, Household & Industrial Cleaning, Pharmaceuticals and Coatings, distributed from warehouse premises near Athens. The new Univar office will enable one-to-one customer service and greater support with formulations and product applications. Univar is representing many of its longstanding supplier partners in Greece and has already established a solid customer base, comprising local and international companies of all sizes in several key markets.

“Expansion in the region and recent extensions to the product ranges have meant that a Univar presence on the ground was the logical next step,” explains Nick Powell, Regional Director Middle East, Africa, Turkey & Greece, Univar. “Markos has an excellent track record in the industry and I am confident the pattern of growth in Greece will continue. The added convenience, speed of distribution and local knowledge will provide the ideal platform for Univar’s continued expansion.”