Doha looks to petrochemicals
Qatar is turning its attention once again to petrochemicals schemes with several new projects planned
Qatar’s hydrocarbons sector has typically focused on achieving a prescribed goal before shifting its attention elsewhere.
Over the decades, this strategy has meant that the small peninsula on the Gulf has quietly evolved from an oil producer to the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Qatar’s gas reserves has always led experts to believe that it was only a matter of time before the country developed into a leading petrochemicals producer to match its LNG exporter status. The logic dictates that producing olefins such as ethylene from ethane gives a producer a massive cost advantage over producers using naphtha, so Qatar investing in the sector would add further value to its hydrocarbons reserves.
What was not imagined was just how popular Qatar’s hydrocarbons would be to the rest of the world. LNG prices in Asia are pushing the $16 a million BTU mark, which means that more than enough value is being added to Qatar’s gas without the need to build a $6bn petrochemicals complex.
However, despite the buoyant Asian LNG market, Qatar is still investing in petrochemicals and a number of large schemes are being planned for the Ras Laffan Industrial City.
Qatar is now also starting to utilise naphtha feedstock that is being refined from condensate coming from the non-associated gas field the North Field. The Ras Laffan Refinery is undergoing a $1bn expansion that will provide an additional 61,000 barrels a day of naphtha that will be used to produce olefins.
Despite the vast quantities of gas Qatar owns, using mixed-feed crackers to produce olefins is an indication of Doha wanting to fully utilise all of its resources.