WPC '13: Tasnee sees Middle East chemical sector adding specialties, polymers

By Ben DuBose
Online Editor

HOUSTON -- The next step in the evolution of the Middle East petrochemical sector will be expanding beyond olefins, aromatics and chlorine and into specialty chemicals and performance polymers, an industry executive said Wednesday.

Speaking at the IHS World Petrochemical Conference, Dr. Moayyed Al-Qurtas, vice chairman of The National Industrialization Company of Saudi Arabia, better known as Tasnee, told attendees that new projects have become considerably more sophisticated and demanding.

“New products and technologies are being introduced which include more sophisticated chemicals and are not limited to commodities,” Dr. Al-Qurtas said.

“The region could be a good base for selected intermediate, specialty chemicals and export-oriented downstream plastics,” he added.

Dr. Al Qurtas cited three regional complexes as examples of this philosophy -- Tasnee’s Al-Jubail complex that began in 2004, Sabic’s Saudi Keyan project launched in 2009, and the Sadara Chemicals venture of Aramco and Dow Chemical slated to start up in 2014.

As a result, over the next five years, he envisions the Middle East industry realizing its potential in specialty chemicals like flame retardants, formulated specialties such as water treatment chemicals and lubricants, performance polymers like engineering plastics, and services including logistics/shipping and wastewater treatment.

“This will stimulate downstream industries,” Dr. Al-Qurtas said. “We’re seeing a significant capacity buildup in the pipeline, increasing the [Middle East] share in global production and trade.”

He cited Middle East competitive advantages such as world-scale plants and modern technology, proximity to export markets, and world-class infrastructure as development drivers.

In addition, growth in the region and neighboring countries is far higher than mature economies such as Europe.

Demographic trends are favorable and expected to continue, Dr. Al-Qurtas said, leading to high growth in the infrastructure, construction, housing and health care sectors and boosting demand for related products.

Furthermore, in contrast to locations such as the US, newer Middle East projects are moving toward cracking heavier feedstocks such as naphtha. This could raise co-product volumes such as propylene, butadiene and benzene.

The conference continues through Thursday at the Hilton Americas in downtown Houston.

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