Short items

Profit slumps for petrochemical giants

China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) has reported a 73 per cent drop in net profit for the first half of 2008 to 9.3 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion), compared with the same period last year. But this figure fails to take into account a government subsidy of 33.4 billion yuan (US$4.9 billion), meaning that the petrochemical giant actually made a loss of US$3.5 billion, the worst in its history. Meanwhile, PetroChina, Sinopec’s major rival, also reported a 36 per cent decline in profit for the first half of 2008 compared with the same period last year to 48.3 billion yuan (US$7.1 billion). Analysts say that China’s tight price control on finished oil products has caused serious losses in Sinopec’s refinery business while PetroChina’s oil exploration business boosted its results. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s state-owned petrochemical giant CPC Corp said on 5 September that it plans to expand joint oil exploration with Beijing-based China National Offshore Oil Corp to the East China Sea and areas off Australia, Chad and Kenya. 

New roles for China’s drug regulator 

The State Council, China’s cabinet, approved the new roles of the health ministry and the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) on 1 September, nearly six months after China’s government reshuffle put the SFDA under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health. The SFDA is to keep its role as regulator for drug approvals but the health ministry will directly govern the national pharmacopoeia and the basic drug catalogues, formerly the work of SFDA.  
A major change also takes place in food regulation, which has been in a state of chaos. The Ministry of Health now takes on responsibility for investigating major food-related public health crises. Hygiene regulations for food and catering industries, as well as the approvals of health foods, have been shifted to the SFDA. Outside the health ministry, the General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine deals with food safety in production while the State Administration for Industry and Commerce
is responsible for food distribution. 

Dow to build two plants in Shanghai 

Dow Chemical has announced that construction of a new liquid epoxy resin (LER) plant and a glycerin-to-epichlorohydrin (GTE) plant at the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park should be completed by 2010 and 2011 respectively. The plants passed China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection’s environmental impact assessment on 25 August. ’We are pleased to have reached this milestone, which brings us one step closer to actual construction,’ says Noelle Walsh, global business director at Dow Epoxy. The expected annual outputs of the LER and GTE factories will be 100 000 tonnes and 150 000 tonnes respectively. Epoxy resin is widely used in adhesives, paints and casting materials. Dow offers a wide variety of liquid epoxy resins such as bisphenol A. The Shanghai LER factory will be the world’s first to recycle its purified, salt-water byproduct to use as a feedstock for a chlorine plant on the site rather than discharge the water into the sea. With its proprietary GTE technology, the plant will halve chlorine consumption and produce far less waste water, claims Dow.