Rapid increases in petrochem capacities in Saudi Arabia, mainly in commodity chemicals over the medium-term

While Saudi Arabia will be the focus of commodity chemicals expansion over the medium-term assisted by plentiful low cost domestic ethane feedstock availability, its dependence on Chinese demand and lack of diversification into high value products will remain significant weaknesses going forward, according to BMIs latest Saudi Arabia Petrochemicals Report. In 2010 Saudi Arabia had olefins capacities of 12.67mln tpa ethylene and 4.7 mln tpa propylene. Polyolefins capacities included 2.81mln tpa HDPE, 620,000 tpa LDPE, 3.95 mln tpa LLDPE, 5.07mln tpa PP, 175,000 tpa PS and 855,000 tpa PVC. By 2015 BMI forecasts ethylene and propylene capacities will rise to 16.52 mln tpa and 6.55 mln tpa respectively, with Saudi Kayan’s commercial operation in 2011 set to contribute most to the increase. Compared to 2010, total PE capacity will rise 20% to 8.86 mln tpa, PP will rise 11% and PS, PET and PVC capacities will remain unchanged. Saudi Arabia is rapidly increasing capacities, but will remain dependent on commodity chemicals over the medium-term. Recent announcements show that the level of investment activity is picking up, following postponements brought about by the global economic slowdown and financial crisis. Sabic is progressing with its plans to enter polyurethanes with the possibility of world-scale methylene di-paraphenylene isocyanate (MDI) and toluene diisocyanate (TDI) plants. Meanwhile, Saudi Acrylic Monomer Company is to establish an acrylic acid complex with 250,000tpa capacity in 2013, a year later than originally planned. Some of the acrylic acid will also be used in a previously announced 80,000tpa superabsorbents joint venture planned by Tasnee, Sahara and Evonik Industries at Jubail by 2013. The Alrajhi Group is progressing with its plans to open an 100,000 tpa linear alkyl benzene (LAB) plant and a 6,000 tpa polysilicon plant. Sabic subsidiary Ibn Rushd is also going ahead with its plans to double PTA capacity to 700,000 tpa. Sabics 2020 Visions strategy is placing great emphasis on the development of polymers, with the company planning to triple its total global output of all products to 130mn tpa by 2020, including up to 20 mln tpa of polymers. The Saudi Kayan facility should contribute 13-15 mln tpa of polymers capacity when it is completed in 2011. Sabic recently brought onstream new plants at its Sharq and YanSab complexes, which added a combined 2 mln tpa of polymers. In 2010, Sharq completed a 400,000 tpa HDPE and 400,000 tpa LLDPE plant at Jubail and YanSab brought online three polyolefin units at Yanbu, each providing 400,000 tpa of LLDPE, HDPE and PP. Saudi Kayan will add 1.25 mln tpa PE and 350,000 tpa PP. Ethylene capacity in 2015 is forecast to be more than double that of 2008 levels at 16.52 mln tpa, with Jubail and Yanbu the focus of petrochemicals developments. Our projections for petrochemical capacity are based on planned projects, but it is possible that some may not come to fruition as a result of the restriction on ethane feedstock and a possible lacklustre recovery in the Chinese market at a time of rising Chinese capacities. Due to the integrated nature of the megaprojects under development, any delay further up the supply chain will cause delays in downstream developments.
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