Since Asia is likely to emerge as the largest consumer of petrochemicals and plastic products very soon, the trend of the petrochemical industry shifting from North America and Europe to the Middle Eastern and Asian regions will continue. The Middle East region is building up its strength in the petrochemical sector to take advantage of availability of cheaper feedstocks and will continue to consolidate it's position in the next few years. As of now, Saudi Arabia is leading in petrochemical projects, but other countries in the region are also setting up new projects. The Gulf region will become the world's largest producer as well as exporter of petrochemicals and plastics by 2005. The exports of ethylene-based products are forecast to grow from 5.7 million tons in 2001 to more than 11 million tons in 2006, while exports of propylene-based products are expected to increase from 450,000 tons in 2001 to 1.5 million tons in 2006. Annual exports of all petrochemical products from the AGCC are already above 30 million tons, expected to increase to over 40 million tons by the end of 2005.
Three petrochemical partnerships have been recently announced last week between Shell Chemicals, Basell, and Dow Chemical with local companies in the Persian Gulf region.
* Shell is teaming up with Qatar Petroleum to develop a world-scale ethane-based cracker and derivatives complex in Qatar's Ras Laffan Industrial City. The project is expected to start up early in the next decade, with approx 1 million metric tpa of cracking capacity. The cracker will accompany another deal between Shell and government-owned Qatar Petroleum: a large-scale liquefied natural gas project in Ras Laffan, expected to commence operations about 2010–12.
* Basell has signed an agreement for 25% stake, with a set of Saudi Arabian investors, led by the privately held Saudi firm Tasnee Petrochemicals, to build an integrated polyethylene complex at Al-Jubail Industrial City in Saudi Arabia. This complex will include an ethane cracker and two 400,000 tpa polyethylene plants- HDPE and LDPE. Both plants will employ Basell technology. Basell's first venturte, Saudi Polyolefins, produces 450,000 metric ttpa of polypropylene.
* Dow and Kuwaiti partner Petrochemical Industries Co. (PIC) held a groundbreaking ceremony for their new ethylene and derivatives complex in Shuaiba, Kuwait, called Olefins II. Their present partnership exists as Equate Petrochemical, which had been established between PIC and Union Carbide prior to Carbide's acquisition by Dow. Olefins II is planned to have an 850,000 tpa ethane cracker and a 600,000 tpa ethylene oxide/ethylene glycol plant. The existing venture's 600,000 metric tons of polyethylene capacity will be expanded to use the additional ethylene. th eproject will also include an ethylbenzene/styrene unit of 450,000 metric tons to be supplied with ethylene from Olefins II and with benzene from an aromatics project to be built at the same time on an adjacent site.