The initial concept is for the Homs Refinery Company (HRC) to establish a polyethylene plant and caustic soda unit to supply the domestic market. ‘The scope of the plants, including their location, will depend on the quality and availability of natural gas,’ says a senior HRC official.

In mid-September, a Ministry of Petroleum & Mineral Resources committee that was set up to develop the plan and prepare the tender held its first meeting. The committee, which includes members from the ministry, HRC and the University of Petroleum, will carry out an initial assessment of potential product demand and develop the scope of the plan. It is being headed by HRC general director Ahmad Hammoud.

Petroleum & Mineral Resources Minister Ibrahim Haddad told MEED on 18 September: ‘We have executed the primary study and are preparing now the tender conditions for the economic and technical feasibility study. We think this will be done in the next two months.’

News of the plan surprised some international consultants. ‘Syria is a gas province but the gas is relatively dry so there is not a lot of feedstock for a petrochemicals industry,’ says one international consultant. ‘Unless there is a massive new find of wet gas there is not a lot they can do. They have to compare themselves with competitor countries. Syria’s gas reserves are a fraction of those in Algeria, Egypt and Libya. I will remain sceptical until I understand the feedstock situation.’

However, local officials say that increased exploration activity and the recent major gas finds by Croatia’s state oil company INA Naftaplin is improving the country’s gas position. In December, INA announced it had made a significant discovery of natural gas fields in Syria, although no details were given on the size of the find.