Celanese Promotes Process Safety; Navigates Financial Woes

May 20, 2009
CP 50 company stresses that safety is a prerequisite for the financial success of the business.

April is usually reserved for taxes and foolish pranks. But for Celanese, the month of April 2009 was all about safety. Indeed, April 2009 marked one full year in which no Celanese facility around the world had a lost-time injury.

“Safety is a cultural cornerstone and a core value of Celanese,” said James A. Conner, vice president of global operations and technology, Acetyl Intermediates at Celanese.

Conner recently delivered a speech to a China conference on process safety management. The conference was organized by the China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Association.


In the speech “Process Safety Management – Operations and Maintenance,” Conner stressed the importance of process safety in the enterprise structure and its active role in the operations of the enterprise.

“Celanese’ emphasis on scientific design, high-efficiency management, system standardization, promotion of best practices and processes, comprehensive training and high-levels of employee participation have enabled Celanese to rank within the top 10% of all chemical industry manufacturers in terms of safety.”

And according to Conner, safety is a prerequisite for the financial success of the company. With an emphasis on safety, care for life, and responsibility to society, Celanese hopes to maintain sustainable development.

So far, so good. Celanese’s Nanjing, China, facility has logged more than 10 million hours of construction and operations without a lost time injury.

"Celanese has taken another solid step toward its objectives of zero incidents and zero defects,” notes Josh Cheng, president of Celanese’s China operations.

While Celanese enjoys an enviable safety record, its financial performance hasn’t been as stellar.

The company reported its first-quarter 2009 financials in late-April. Net sales were $1.146 billion, a 38% decrease from the same period last year, primarily driven by lower volumes on continued weak global demand and lower pricing for acetyl products, according to a company statement.

“Although general economic conditions at the consumer level remained weak, we began to realize the positive impacts of reduced inventory destocking throughout our customers’ supply chains as the quarter progressed,” said David Weidman, chairman and CEO. “The leading global franchises of our integrated business model, particularly our Consumer and Industrial Specialties businesses, continued to execute their strategies and delivered strong results during these challenging times. Additionally, our fixed spending reduction actions have already begun to yield sustainable benefits. Our cash position remains very strong and we continue to expect positive free cash flow in 2009.”

Some of the strategies and actions Weidman was referring to include Celanese' choices to:

• Enter into an agreement to sell its polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) business to Sekisui Chemical Co., Ltd. for a purchase price of approximately $173 million. This transaction is expected to be completed by mid-year 2009.

• Permanently shut down the VAM (vinyl acetate monomer) production unit at its Cangrejera, Mexico, site during the first quarter of 2009.

• Initiate a project of closure of its acetic acid and VAM units in Pardies, France. This project follows the assessment phase initiated in January 2009 regarding the potential closure of the site and the acetic acid and VAM operations.

• Realign its executive leadership team to support ongoing productivity efforts and position the company for sustainable long-term value creation. Sandy Beach Lin and Doug Madden were both named corporate executive vice presidents.

Celanese is a CP 50 company. To view the Celanese profile, visit: http://www.chemicalprocessing.com/cp50/2008/celanese.html.

To view the entire CP 50 list, visit: http://www.chemicalprocessing.com/cp50.

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