Feedstock rich Middle East becoming hub of global petrochemical industry

The Middle East region is soon assuming a prime position in the global petrochemicals industry. The industry’s centre of gravity is shifting to the feedstock-rich Middle East wherein several new projects are coming on stream at a time when production falters elsewhere. According to Chemical Week, 19 mln metric tons of ethylene is scheduled to be added annually to the Gulf region capacity over the next five years, nearly doubling the current capacity and providing extensive raw materials for downstream industries. By 2015, the region will supply one-third of the world's ethylene glycol, used in fibers and anti-freeze; 20% of global polyethylene and 13% of higher-value polypropylene. Saudi Arabia is expected to become the main global center of petrochemical production with as many as 30 new petrochemical plants, including some mega-projects in Jubail and Yanbu, are scheduled for completion next year with another 40 at the planning phase. Other large-scale units are also coming up in Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Abu Dhabi, and an estimated investment of around US$170 bln is envisaged by 2015. "Beyond these basic petrochemicals projects, a new wave of investments in the Gulf region will target specialty chemicals and high-value plastics production, which will add value and will service industrial clusters based on the building blocks provided by the chemical industry," according to GPCA secretary general. "The global recession is over, led by Asia. The slowdown in the Middle East is reversing," says JADWA Investments chief economist Brad Bourland.
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