Driven by demand from markets such as China, Abu Dhabi is investing $4.5bn expanding its petrochemicals hub in Ruwais. When completed in 2014, the new facility will produce 4.5 million tonnes of petrochemicals a year, almost double its current capacity.

In Oman, a series of shelved petrochemicals projects appear to be back on the agenda after years of delays. In Egypt, the country’s recently-appointed oil minister, who has a considerable background in petrochemicals, is expected to strongly promote development in the sector. 

In contrast, neighbouring Saudi Arabia has struggled at times to fully leverage its potential. The troubled and loss-making Saudi Kayan venture stands as testament to this. Initially projected to cost just $300m to develop, the petrochemicals facility’s budget has blown out to $12bn over the course of its construction, which is yet to be completed after more than a decade.

In the second quarter of this year, Kayan’s controlling firm reported a loss of $87m, one of its biggest to date. The facility is projected to turn a profit in 2013, its first since its inception in 2001.