(From the June 13 issue of Rubber & Plastics News)
HOUSTON—Saudi Basic Industries Corp.—known as SABIC—and affiliates of ExxonMobil Chemical Co. have awarded front-end engineering design contracts for a planned new elastomers project in Saudi Arabia.
The Al-Jubail Petrochemical Co., a joint venture between ExxonMobil and its Saudi partner, plans to produce synthetic rubber and specialty elastomers to meet the growing global demand for these products. The project, once completed, will have the capacity to produce more than 400,000 metric tons of rubber and specialty elastomers annually to serve local and international markets in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
“This project is aligned to support Sau- di Arabia's National Industrial Cluster Development Program, which is responsible for accelerating growth and diversification of the manufacturing sector,” said representatives for ExxonMobil and SABIC in an emailed response to questions. “This includes new demand in targeted industries, including automotive manufacturing, building and construction and appliances.”
The specific products planned for the Al-Jubail project will be production of butyl rubber, polybutadiene rubber, SBR, EPDM, thermoplastic elastomers, thermoplastic olefins and carbon black. These products are not presently available in Saudi Arabia, representatives for the joint venture said.
“The uses for these products include automotive applications such as tires, gaskets, hoses, weather seals and bump-er fascias,” the representatives said. “They can also be used for construction applications such as roof sheeting and industrial applications like conveyor belts.”
The representatives won't reveal how much ExxonMobil and its Saudi partners are investing, nor give an estimate about the project's specific economic impact or the number of jobs that will be created.
“We cannot speculate on the exact number of jobs which will be created long term, but it's safe to say that new jobs have already been created, and the project will certainly see hiring in Saudi Arabia,” they said.
The recently awarded front-end engineering design—or FEED—contracts went to Jacobs Engineering Inc. and Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding for process units and to Fluor Transworld Services Inc. for associated support facilities.
“The elastomers project will be the basis for the creation of a world-class rubber value chain in Saudi Arabia and a valuable extension of our offering of products and services to our customers in key markets,” said Koos van Haasteren, SABIC executive vice president of performance chemicals.
In addition to the FEED contracts, the partnership signed third-party license agreements with Continental Carbon Co. for its carbon black production technology and with Goodyear for its SBR technology.
Continental Carbon, as part of its agreement with the joint partnership, will market part of the production of the new carbon black plant to serve the local and international tire industry.
“In the long term, we hope the Middle East market will develop and it will have a strong auto and tire sector,” said Continental Carbon President Kim K.T. Pan. “But in the near term, the market for the product will be primarily in Europe.”
Continental Carbon currently does not have a presence in Europe, he said.
Pan declined to reveal how much revenue his company's agreements with Al-Jubail Petrochemical will produce.
The Al-Jubail Petrochemical Co. also awarded a contract worth about $33 million to the University of Akron Research Foundation to design and sup- port a new vocational center that will train local Saudis to work at the rubber plant. The university, which has expertise in polymer science, will help train the workers and develop a curriculum for the program.
SABIC, headquartered in Riyadh, was founded in 1976 and recorded net profits of about $5.73 billion last year. Its businesses include chemicals, polymers, performance chemicals, fertilizers, metals and plastics.