Atofina and Qapco are expected to sign a final contract, confirming their participation in the ethane cracker, by the end of the year. The cracker will have an initial capacity of 1 million tonnes a year (t/y) and will be expanded in a second phase to 1.5 million t/y. No details have so far been given about the companies’ proposed equity shares in the new facility.

The new cracker will provide feedstock to the 750,000-t/y polyethylene plant proposed by the QP/Chevron Phillips venture at Ras Laffan. Under the plan, ethylene will also be transported though a purpose-built pipeline to Mesaieed where it is expected to be used as feedstock for a new 400,000-t/y polyethylene plant under study by Qapco, and for the expansion of the Qatar Vinyl Company (QVC)plant (MEED 12:10:01).

Studies for the Ras Laffan project are under way. The plant’s first phase is expected to enter production in the second half of 2006.

The MoU strengthens Atofina’s involvement in the local petrochemicals sector. The TotalFinaElfaffiliate already has a 10 per cent stake in Qapco and a 16 per cent interest in QVC.