‘We are a large global company,’ says a Yara spokesman. ‘At any time we are evaluating opportunities in many countries, and only when projects reach a level of maturity do we make official announcements.’

The signing of an MoU would be a significant first step for Tripoli, which has long harboured ambitions to increase its petrochemicals potential. Technological restrictions as a result of the US embargo have restricted the sector’s development, but the recent easing of sanctions has enabled Libya to start discussions with foreign firms on pushing ahead with its development plans.

Marsa el-Brega is the oldest of three petrochemical facilities in the country. It came on stream in the early 1980s and has design capacity of 1,200 tonnes a day (t/d) of ammonia, 1,750 t/d of urea and 1,000 t/d of methanol.

A number of US companies are also understood to be in talks with Tripoli over an estimated $1,500 million modernisation and expansion programme for the Ras Lanuf naphtha-based complex operated by Ras Lanuf Oil & Gas Processing Company (Rasco). Completed in the early 1990s, Ras Lanuf produces ethylene, propylene, butene-1, polyethylene (PE), polypropylene, benzene, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and butadiene.

The third facility is at Abu Kammash. It has design capacity of 104,000 tonnes a year (t/y) of ethylene dichloride (EDC), 60,000 t/y of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and 60,000 t/y of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM).