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Middle East companies eye specialty petrochemical investments abroad: Sadoun

As demand from major consumer China for commodity petrochemicals like olefins, aromatics and polymers falls consistently, Middle east producers are seeking more acquisitions of downstream specialty petrochemicals abroad, Abdulwahab Al Sadoun, secretary general of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) said in an interview.

GPCA is a Dubai-based association of Persian Gulf-based petrochemicals producers.

“Saudi Aramco recently made a downstream push by acquiring a stake in German synthetic rubber producer Lanxess. The Kuwaitis are already looking for similar opportunities. There may be others as well,” Al Sadoun said but did not provide specific details or timelines.

Germany’s Lanxess said September 22 that it had agreed to form a 50:50 joint venture with Saudi Aramco in its synthetic rubber business. Saudi Aramco will take a 50% stake in the Eur2.75 billion ($3.07 billion) joint venture via its Aramco Overseas Company subsidiary.

Besides, looking for opportunities abroad, all the major petrochemical producers in the region are making a strong push into downstream petrochemicals production within their countries, Al Sadoun said.

“Major Middle East petrochemical producers like Sadara, Petro Rabigh and Orpic in Oman are all making a downstream push,” Al Sadoun said. “They are all developing downstream production centers next to their petrochemical complexes.”

While Sadara is expected to start up its new petrochemical complex at Jubail in Saudi Arabia by the end of 2015, Petro Rabigh will start up its new Phase II petrochemicals complex at Rabigh on the Red Sea coast by mid-2016.

Both petrochemicals complexes are designed to produce a range of olefins, polymers and aromatics.

Orpic’s petrochmical complex at Sohar in Oman produces 198,000 mt/year of benzene and 818,000 mt/year of paraxylene besides 350,000 mt/year of polypropylene.

“The Oman plant will develop a range of downstream petrochemical plants that would take feedstock from the Orpic complex,” Al Sadoun said.

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