Saudi Arabia’s first petrochemical venture was the Saudi Arabian Fertilizer Company (SAFCO), which was set up in 1965. Large scale development of the petrochemical sector began in the 1976, with the creation of Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) and the subsequent building of massive industrial cities in Yanbu and Jubail, and the construction of a Master Gas System. In the 1990s, Saudi Arabia was the first of the GCC countries to become home to large private petrochemical companies. In the early 2000s Saudi Aramco became a player in the Saudi petrochemical arena, when it entered into two joint ventures: PetroRabigh, formed with Sumitomo Chemical Company; and Sadara, a partnership with Dow Chemical Company.
Kuwait was the first country in the Arabian Gulf region to launch a petrochemical venture. In 1964, the Petrochemical Industries Company of Kuwait (PIC), together with British Petroleum and Gulf Oil, formed the Kuwait Chemical Fertilizer Company. Plans to move Kuwait into the production of other petrochemicals were temporarily thwarted by the Iraqi invasion and occupation of the country, but these were revived after Kuwait was liberated. In 1993 Kuwait formed a joint venture with Union Carbide Company, EQUATE, which has evolved into a major manufacturer of polyolefins and aromatics. Current subsidiaries of Equate, now a joint venture with Dow Chemical Company, include MEGlobal and Equipolymers.
The Qatar Fertilizer Company (QAFCO) was formed in 1969. In 1980, the Qatar Petrochemical Company (QAPCO), a joint venture of France’s Total and Industries Qatar, built the first polyethylene plant in the Arabian Gulf region, and in subsequent years Qatar became home to a number of petrochemical companies – the Qatar Vinyl Company (1997), the Qatar Chemical Company (1997), and the Qatar Fuel Additive Company (1999). The establishing of these enterprises has broadened the range of Qatari petrochemical products. To market and distribute these, in 2012, the Qatar Chemical and Petrochemical Marketing and Distribution Company (Muntajat) was formed
Bahrain’s petrochemical sector emerged in 1979 with the establishment of the Gulf Petrochemical Industry Corporation (GPIC), initially a joint venture of Kuwait’s Petrochemical Industry Corporation and the Bahraini government. In 1980, the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation joined this partnership. Because of the ‘dry’ composition of the gases associated with petroleum production in Bahrain, GPIC has concentrated on the manufacture of methane-based products – methanol, urea and ammonia.
In 1980, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) launched a joint venture named (Fertil), with Total of France to produce ammonia and urea. In the mid-1990s, the UAE moved into the production of polyolefins when ADNOC teamed with Borealis to create the Abu Dhabi Polymer Company. This enterprise, known as (Borouge), started production in 2001 with manufacturing facilities in the UAE and has a marketing arm that is run out of Singapore.
The first petrochemical operation in Oman appeared 1994, when the Oman Oil Company brokered a joint venture with three Indian companies to create the Oman Indian Fertilizer Company. Next on the scene was the Oman Propylene Company (OPC), which began manufacturing polypropylene in 2006. That same year, Aromatics Oman started constructing a major complex to produce para-xylene and benzene. The operations of OPC, Aromatics Oman, and the Oman Refineries and Petrochemicals Company were brought together in 2010 to create the Oman Oil Refineries and Petroleum Industries (Orpic), which has since led the way in developing the country’s petrochemical operations.