Petrochemicals are chemical products derived from petroleum or natural gas. Various chemical compounds made from petroleum or gas are also obtained from other fossil fuels, such as coal, or from renewable sources such as corn or sugar cane. The petrochemical and chemical industry invests heavily in the pursuit of new and viable sustainable products and processes.
The birth of the petrochemical industry can be traced back to the recognition that certain product streams, arising out of crude oil refining and natural gas processing, were both abundant and hence low in value and therefore a resource-in-waiting for research and development.
The risks taken by early petrochemical and chemical leaders in pursuing the possibilities of the industry was both courageous and inspired. Over time and as the versatility of petrochemicals became evident resulting in new end markets, major oil companies enjoyed both revenue growth and rapid corporate expansion.
Two key events formally marked the beginning of the GCC petrochemical industry and its brisk evolution. The first was the commissioning of QAPCO’s ethylene/polyethylene plant in Qatar in 1981, and the second was the production of methanol in SABIC’s affiliate company AR-RAZI in Saudi Arabia in 1983.
Beside Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the production of petrochemicals in the GCC States has extended to Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and in more recent times to Oman. At present, the annual GCC petrochemical production accounts for about 13% of the world petrochemical output by volume. This is a remarkable achievement, considering the short time span since the production process began in the 1980s.
All Round Us
Petrochemicals are used in the manufacture of thousands of products that people use in their everyday lives. These products include everything made of plastic, many fertilizers, medicines and medical devices (such as pacemakers), cosmetics, furniture, white goods and kitchenware, television sets, computers, vehicle parts (from every mode of transport including air), solar power panels and wind turbines. Petrochemicals are also the building blocks for body armor and other high-tech materials that are used to protect service personnel such as police officers and fire fighters.