QAFCO Melamine Plant, Qatar


In October 2010, Qatar Melamine Company (QMC) officially unveiled its new melamine plant in Mesaieed Industrial City, Mesaieed, Qatar. With a capacity of 60,000mt/y, the plant will supply 5% of global melamine demand. It is the second biggest melamine facility in the world and the biggest in the Middle East.

QMC is owned by Qatar Fertiliser Company (QAFCO, 60%) and Qatar Intermediate Industries Holding Company (QH, 40%). QAFCO will be responsible for marketing the melamine produced at the plant.

The foundation stone was laid in April 2008 and the plant was commissioned in April 2010 with first production achieved in May 2010. The project required an investment of $350m.

QAFCO took over the operations of the plant in September 2010. Depending upon future demand QAFCO may expand the plant's capacity.

Background

The melamine project was proposed in 2003 to improve the downstream activities of Qatar's petrochemical industry and also to take advantage of opportunities in the global market. Feasibility studies were carried out to establish its viability.

In 2006, QAFCO established QMC to carry out the project.

"Melamine is used in a wide range of applications and is primarily produced in Europe."

Process technology

The plant produces melamine using Eurotecnica's High Pressure (HP) Melamine Technology. Urea is heated in a high pressure reactor, which is similar to a heat exchanger. Melamine is produced through a single-stage, liquid phase reaction.

The process produces melamine by using the chemical's intrinsic properties without adding any other chemicals or catalysts. It does not use any recycle loops, compressors or fluid beds.

High pressure in the reactor is maintained in the downstream equipment and in the off gases produced as a result of the reaction.

By-products and co-products of the process are converted either into melamine or back into ammonia and carbon dioxide. The ammonia obtained is mixed with the off gases and returned to the urea plant. The process completely recovers all the products and thus causes zero discharge. It means no raw materials are wasted and no solid, liquid and gaseous products are released into the environment.

Feedstock

The new plant will use urea as feedstock which will be supplied by QAFCO's urea plant QAFCO-1. The melamine project required the QAFCO-1 plant to be upgraded to increase its urea productivity from 1,300mt/y to 1,610mt/y.

The upgrade required an investment of $95m and was completed in August 2009. The QAFCO-1 plant was fully integrated with the melamine plant in September 2010. About $40m of the total investment on the upgrade was spent for ensuring that the facility is compliant with the relevant environmental standards.

Engineering, procurement and construction

Eurotecnica of Italy won the engineering and procurement contract for the melamine plant. The company was responsible for providing engineering services, construction assistance and commissioning services. It was also responsible for procurement of materials and equipment, and supervision of the plant during start-up.

"QAFCO took over the operations of the plant in September 2010."

Switzerland-based Urea Casale was awarded the engineering and procurement contract for upgrading the QAFCO-1 plant. Urea Casale was also responsible for supervising the construction and providing commissioning services.

The combined construction contract for the melamine plant and the QAFCO-1 upgrade was awarded to the Qatar Engineering Construction Company (QCON).

The contract worth QAR440m was awarded in 2006. The scope of work included civil engineering, piling, MEP works and construction of the mechanical, process and utilities modules and a warehouse.

Market growth

Melamine is used in a wide range of applications and is primarily produced in Europe, Asia and North America. The chemical is used in laminates, surface coatings, flame resistant materials, textiles and moulding compounds. Demand for melamine between 2011 and 2015 is expected to grow at 3%-5% across the world.

The Mesaieed plant is expected to tap into this demand and supply melamine to both local and international markets. QAFCO has already signed an export agreement with Germany-based Helm in May 2010 to supply 18,000t of the melamine produced at the new plant to Europe.