Qatar earned nearly USD8 billion from its chemical manufacturing portfolio last year according to a report by the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA), which says the industry has been forecasted to grow at 6% per annum over the next five years, with the region producing over 190 million tonnes of petrochemicals annually by 2020.
However, according to Business Monitor International in its Qatar Petrochemicals Report Q4 2015: ‘Qatar’s petrochemicals production has potentially been threatened by reduced demand growth in key export markets and a surge in output from such Middle East competitors such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. While a modest recovery in naphtha prices has given a temporary reprieve for the country’s ethane- fed petrochemicals industry, it is insufficient to prompt any revision to capacity forecasts.’
While in common with several other petrochemicals-producing countries Qatar has put several proposals for new greenfield developments on indefinite hold, analysts say it continues to explore the de-bottlenecking possibilities at some of its existing plants in Mesaieed and Ras Laffan, and ultimately to diversify its product portfolio, away from dependence on ethane feedstock.
Qatar’s fertiliser market has nearly tripled in the last 10 years, resulting in a manufacturing portfolio that places it as the GCC’s second highest producer of the commodity, according to the GPCA. At 10.7 million tonnes, Qatar accounts for the second largest share of fertiliser production in the GCC according to the GPCA’s Fertilisers Indicators report. Qatari fertiliser production grew at an average of 9.4% for the 2004- 2014 period, much higher than the regional average growth rate for fertilisers (7.1% in the same decade).
Analysts suggest that the global fall in naphtha price could also enable Qatar’s petrochemicals industry and its international marketer, Qatar Chemical and Petrochemical Marketing and Distribution Company (Muntajat) QJSC some room for reducing product prices at a time of rising supply and diminishing Asian demand growth. However current circumstances still would not appear to support a revival of shelved plans or further capacity expansion beyond 2016.
Qatar Fuel Additives Company Ltd (QAFAC) officially announced the launch of its carbon dioxide (CO2) recovery plant in February 2015. The state-of-the-art CDR facility is designed to process 500 tonnes of CO2 per day, resulting in an additional 300 tonnes of methanol production per day and annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings is equivalent to the CO2 absorption capacity of 4,200,000 trees in 10 years or the emissions produced by 32,000 vehicles per year. Recovered carbon dioxide is injected back into the synthesis system.
A number of Qatar’s oil, gas and petrochemicals companies have close relations with the nation’s educational institutions. For example, Qatar Chemical Company Ltd (Q-Chem) has a number of engineers and sponsored students at the College of North Atlantic–Qatar (CNA-Q). Q-Chem General Manager, Ahmed Ibrahim Al Emadi, says the company has ‘set goals of employing and developing Qatari nationals’ adding ‘Our partnership(s) with CNA-Q and other national academic institutions pave the way for achieving our strategic goals.’
Qatar Petrochemical Company (QAPCO) and CNA-Q have also signed a groundbreaking agreement to create a Professional Chair of Vocational Studies that will assist in building a strategic roadmap for the future of vocational education in Qatar. The agreement aims to improve the quality of vocational training and will strengthen the knowledge, skills and capacities of practitioners in the field to improve the delivery of current and future programmes. The sponsorship of this Chair is part of QAPCO’s innovative Research & Development in line with the country’s National Vision 2030.
The Total Research Centre–Qatar (TRC-Q) at the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) meanwhile undertakes petrochemicals research in one of its three dedicated laboratories, more specifically to organo-metallic pre-catalysts for polyolefins and biopolymers.
An overview by Marhaba Oil and Gas correspondent Gina Coleman, using published information compiled from media sources (October 2015).
Image Credit: Total Qatar, QAPCO