Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Commerce & Industry is close to reaching final agreements with foreign investors for three rubber product factories to be built in Yanbu Industrial City, the Saudi Downstream conference was told on 9 March.

They will involve building a rubber compounding plant and factories making rubber conveyor belts and rubber gaskets and seals.

“These (agreements) are to be closed very soon,” vice president of the National Industrial Clusters Programme (NICDP) Tariq Bakhsh told the conference, which was held in Jubail Industrial City on 8-10 March.

Bakhsh said the NICDP, a unit in the ministry, had identified five rubber product manufacturing projects involving a total investment of $100m that could viably established in the kingdom. The other two are for rubber sheets and rubber hydraulic hose pipes. These are also to be based in Yanbu. He said that Saudi Arabia at present imports 70,000 tonnes of rubber products a year.

Bakhsh said that the foreign investors, which he did not name, will provide 100 per cent of the investment required by the three projects. At present, no Middle East country produces rubber products.

Bakhsh said that the five projects are part of the NICDP’s rubber industries cluster programme. This also includes plans to develop an elastomer manufacturing plant. In June 2012, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic) and affiliates of ExxonMobil announced they will construct a world-scale specialty elastomers facility at the Al-Jubail Petrochemical Company (Kemya) manufacturing joint venture with capacity to produce up to 400,000 tonnes a year of rubber.

The three rubber products factories will be the first manufacturing units to be built under the NICDP which was launched seven years ago.