Ras Laffan Olefins Company (RLOC) will deliver the first supplies of ethylene from its ethane cracker within weeks, according to executives at France’s Total Petrochemicals, one of the three shareholders in the plant.

The joint venture’s ethane cracker at Ras Laffan, in the north of the country, is due to begin operations in mid December, but it could be late January before it is working fully, at least six months later than originally planned. Labour and materials shortages caused the delay.

“We faced the same difficulties as every project in this region,” says one Total executive.

The joint venture will deliver the cracker’s ethylene to plants run by Q-Chem II and Qatofin in Mesaieed, in the south of the country, via a 128-kilometre-long pipeline.

Q-Chem II is a joint venture of the US’ Chevron Phillips Chemicals Company and state energy firm Qatar Petroleum (QP).

Qatofin, which was inaugurated by Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani on 24 November, is jointly owned by Total Petrochemicals, QP and Qatar Petrochemical Company, which is itself majority owned by the government.

The cracker will produce up to 1.3 million tonnes a year (t/y) of ethylene, and deliver up to 700,000 t/y to Q-Chem II and up to 600,000 t/y to Qatofin.

The two companies will use the ethylene to produce plastics and other products, including linear low-density polyethylene at Qatofin, and high-density polyethylene and normal alpha olefins at Q-Chem II.

Total Petrochemicals owns 22.2 per cent of RLOC, Chevron Phillips Chemicals Company owns 26.4 per cent and QP 51.4 per cent. QP will supply ethane feedstock for the cracker.

RLOC may expand the ethane cracker’s capacity to 1.6 million t/y at an unspecified future date, say officials at the joint venture.

Qatar is also considering proposals from international companies to develop further ethane crackers in the country.