Jubail sets example for Saudi industrial plans

11 March 2015

City presents a blueprint for other projects to follow

Saudi Arabia’s Jubail Industrial City has set not only a regional benchmark, but also a global one as one of the largest petrochemicals developments in the world since its inception in 1976.

The upcoming commissioning of the $20bn Sadara petrochemicals complex, to sit alongside the $14bn Satorp refinery in Jubail, will further cement the complex as one of the world’s leading industrial cities.

However, while Jubail’s continuing growth will be welcomed domestically, it could create problems for some other aspects of the kingdom’s development strategy.

As the industrial hub becomes even more of a success, it may well do so to the detriment of the other major industrial zones planned in the kingdom. While the growth of the petrochemicals conversion industry in Jubail will help diversify the kingdom’s downstream hydrocarbons sector, Riyadh’s plans to develop other major industrial hubs, such as Jizan Economic City in the southwest of the kingdom, and spread the wealth around the kingdom may well suffer.

If companies are looking to invest in the downstream and plastics conversion industry in the kingdom, at the moment there is only one place to be. In addition to the impressive King Fahd Port, which is planned to be expanded further, and other infrastructure, Jubail has an established supply chain that international companies can tap into.

Setting up in the Eastern Province allows access to established local and international contractors, plant equipment and skilled local and expatriate labour forces that have been built up over decades.

But Jubail’s achievements should not be seen by other ambitious developments in Jizan and the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) as a hindrance, but rather a blueprint that should be followed. With Jubail set to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2016, it has had decades to develop towards the position of prominence it enjoys today.

The city’s progress is a result of careful planning and a long-term vision, which must be the strategy of the kingdom’s other burgeoning developments such as in Jizan. If they are able to learn from Jubail’s development and plan for the coming decades, and not just focus on the short term, then Jubail’s success will spread far beyond the Eastern Province.

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