Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic) plans to use a newly acquired technology license to build a chemicals plant based on renewable feedstocks, which will be the first of its kind in the region.

In a 29 August statement, Sabic said that it had agreed license agreements with German engineering firm Lurgi, which will give it access to the company’s oleochemicals production technology.

Oleochemicals are made from either plant oil or animal fat and are predominately used to make biofuels. They also have applications in lubricants and plastics production along with cleaning, health and beauty products.

Lurgi’s technology is based on the use of palm kernel oil and coconut oil, Sabic says. The petrochemicals firm plans to build a new plant using the license at the Jubail production complex owned by its affiliate Saudi Kayan Petrochemicals Company. Sabic has scheduled start-up at the plant for the end of 2013.

The new unit will be made up of a natural acid unit, a wax-ester unit, a hydrogenation unit, natural alcohol fractionation and distillation facilities and a glycerine production plant.

The complex will be produce 83,000 tonnes a year (t/y) of natural alcohols for use in household cleaning and laundry products. The alcohols will also be used to make plasticisers, chemicals which make plastics more flexible, lubricants and for the production of cosmetics.  Glycerine produced at the plant will be used in food production as well as cosmetic and pharmaceuticals in the kingdom.

Sabic is the fourth-largest producer of basic plastics in the world, but has been looking for opportunities to move into a more diverse product slate as the world suffers from a glut of polymers and supplies of cheap ethane dry up in the kingdom.