The widening differential between naphtha and ethane feedstock prices owing to rising oil prices threatens to undermine naphtha-reliant Abu Dhabi’s ability to compete in Asian markets against ethanefed producers in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but this should be offset by the emirate’s massive refinery expansion programme which should moderate the cost of raw materials, according to BMI’s latest ‘UAE Petrochemicals Report’.
The availability of naphtha in the UAE will be boosted by the refinery expansion at Ruwais, helping to retain the Emirati industry’s competitive edge. The expansion will more than double the refinery’s oil processing capacity to 817,000bpd from 400,000bpd by 2014, by which time Abu Dhabi will have more than 900,000 bpd of total refining capacity. This will increase Abu Dhabi’s naphtha surplus by 50%, half of which will be dedicated to the planned Chemaweyaat complex, which the emirate hopes will be the world’s largest petrochemical complex, located in Khalifa Industrial Zone at Taweelah. It will include an olefins plant, an aromatics complex, and a range of downstream polymer and chemical units and is due to start production in 2015. The naphtha cracker will have capacity of 1.5mn tpa, but the exact details of the capacities of downstream units are unclear.
On the plus side, the UAE’s petrochemicals units are large and have a high level of integration, which make it more economical and competitive. This competitive advantage should ensure that, even in the event that Chinese demand is not as strong as hoped, production will continue to have a market and operating rates will be maximised. Consequently, BMI sees no reason for the UAE to fear the consequences of a short- to medium-term glut in the global petrochemicals market and petrochemicals margins will be sustained in 2010 and 2011 and strengthen thereafter as capacity utilisation rates improve. In the short term, the second phase of the Borouge complex at Ruwais, Abu Dhabi, is on course to come online in Q310, which should boost ethylene capacity from 600,000tpa to 2mn tpa and creating 800,000tpa of propylene capacity. It will also raise polyolefin production capacity to 2mn tpa, including one 540,000tpa Borstar technology enhanced PE unit and two 400,000tpa Borstar PP units. The new expansion will be located next to Borouge’s existing petrochemical complex in Ruwais, Borouge 1, a US$1.2bn complex with a 600,000tpa cracker and a 450,000tpa PE unit which was brought onstream in December 2001. The new capacity will be marketed mainly to the Middle East and Asia Pacific, targeting high-end applications in the pipe and high performance packaging areas. This will be followed in 2013 by a third stage, Borouge 3, which will have capacities of 1.43mn tpa PE and 900,000tpa PP.
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