BMI View: Although Qatari petrochemicals margins remain relatively healthy and petrochemicals prices are returning to near pre-crisis levels, there is the persistent downside risk that a potential double-dip global recession may impact Qatari petrochemicals production. Qatar is highly exposed to the Asian markets, particularly China, which is its main customer. With the rate of petrochemicals capacity additions slowing following a surge in 2009 and 2010, continued Chinese demand growth should support acceleration in the global petrochemicals trade and support Qatar’s operating rates over 2012 and 2013.
However, Qatar’s petrochemicals industry could be threatened if China’s industrial growth dips below an average of 8% over the medium-term. Furthermore, with a surge of new capacity expected in China by 2016, domestic Chinese producers are attempting to add value to production and are focusing on speciality chemicals. China will also leverage its own resources and develop complexes utilising its abundant coal reserves. These developments are likely to reduce China’s reliance on imported chemicals, which could impact Qatar.
In February 2012, Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Petrochemical Company (Qapco), which is 80% owned by Industries Qatar and 20% owned by Total, signed a heads of agreement (HoA) for a 80:20 joint venture (JV), which will produce 1.4mn tonnes per annum (tpa) ethylene, 850,000tpa high-density polyethylene (HDPE), 760,000tpa polypropylene (PP), 430,000tpa Linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE), 125,000tpa pyrolysis gasoline and 83,000tpa butadiene. The project will use feedstock from natural gas plants at Ras Laffan. Ras Laffan has been chosen as the location for the JV’s US$5.5bn steam cracker following a detailed feasibility study. Completion is scheduled for 2018. Output is destined for export to emerging markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
In March 2012, Qapco awarded two engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts to Taiwanese integrated engineering and construction firm CTCI Corporation. The contracts awarded to CTCI are worth QAR604mn, with the option of an additional QAR176mn, raising the total investment cost of Phase 1 to QAR780mn. Phase 1 of the two-phase project at Qapco’s main ethylene production facility at Mesaieed Industrial City involves installing new furnaces and an ethylene storage tank to meet international safety and environmental standards. Phase 2 of the project, estimated to cost QAR2bn, aims to increase production to 950,000-1mn tpa of ethylene.
Qatar’s score in BMI’s Petrochemicals Risk/Reward Ratings (RRRs) has declined 0.3 points this quarter due to the deterioration in the external economic environment. Meanwhile, Kuwait’s score has improved, meaning Qatar has fallen one place to fourth – now 0.5 points behind Kuwait and 3.4 points ahead of Israel. Qatar’s progress in raising its petrochemicals capacity could still falter due to rising construction costs and tightening lending conditions, as well as the rising cost of feedstock. Nevertheless, Qatar’s petrochemicals-specific ratings are strong, with cracker capacity set to rise significantly over the next five years and the country holding the second largest polyolefins production capacity in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) after Saudi Arabia. Underpinned by one of the highest levels of GDP per capita in the world and no history of political tension, Qatar remains a bastion of stability in a highly turbulent region. Qatar’s weakness is its relative lack of economic diversification compared with other countries in the region.
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