SOCC Aluminium Alkyls Facility, Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Organometallic Chemicals Company (SOCC) is building a new aluminium alkyls production facility in Jubail Industrial City in Al Sharqiya, Saudi Arabia. The plant will have a production capacity of 6,000t of triethylaluminium (TEA) a year equivalent. It will initially produce triethylaluminium, ultra low hydride triethylaluminium and aluminium alkyl in hydrocarbon blends.
TEA is an organoaluminium compound. It is mainly used as a cocatalyst in the Ziegler-Natta type catalyst system of synthesis of refinery olefins in the plastic industry. The olefins will be converted to isotactic polypropylene, high density polyethylene and synthetic rubber.
SOCC will own and operate the aluminium alkyls plant. It is the first organometallics manufacturing facility in the Middle East region. Its construction is estimated to cost SAR300m ($80m).
SOCC is 50:50 joint venture between Albemarle Netherlands, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Albemarle Corporation, and the Saudi Specialty Chemical Company (Specialty Chem), a business unit of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC).
Background to the Albemarle / Specialty Chem agreement and project
Albemarle and Specialty Chem signed agreements to jointly build a world-scale organometallics manufacturing plant in the Arabian Gulf industrial city of Al Jubail in October 2009.
SOCC was officially formed in 2010. The plant is expected to bring several new jobs to the Saudi nationals. About 80% of the employees would be hired as per the Saudisation policy in Saudi Arabia.
Construction of the Jubail cocatalyst plant on the industrial city site
The Jubail cocatalyst plant is being built on the Specialty Chem's site in the Jubail Industrial City. The front end engineering design (FEED) of the plant was completed in mid-2010.
The construction of the facility began in September 2011 and is expected to be mechanically completed in September 2012. It is planned for start-up in the fourth quarter of 2012 and full production will be achieved in the first quarter of 2013.
Contractors involved with the Saudi aluminium alkyls production facility
The FEED contract for the plant was awarded to the Fluor Sugar Land Office, Texas. SOCC selected Samsung Engineering as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the project, in April 2011.
Specialty Chem, which hosts the plant's site, will provide the utilities, maintenance, finance and laboratory services for the plant.
Process technology for the aluminium alkyls production will be licensed by Albemarle. The company will also market the product by providing its logistic support, proprietary safety expertise and technical services for producing and handling the organometallic catalyst.
Feedstock suppliers for the Saudi Arabia-based SOCC JV's plant
The plant will receive raw materials from local sources. Bahrain Atomizers will supply the aluminium powder. Saudi Kayan will supply the hydrogen and ethylene feedstock.
Market growth for the TEAL organometallic / organoaluminium compound
TEAL is the most important cocatalyst used in the production of polyolefins, which is a multibillion dollar industry.
Demand for the product in the region is currently being met through the imports from Albemarle facilities in North America, Europe and Asia. Demand has been growing due to the increase in petrochemical production in the region.
The new SOCC Al-Jubail organometallic facility is expected to meet the demand for TEAL from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Countries and serve the Middle East region.
It will reduce the necessity for long supply chains and improve the supply of the cocatalyst product. The Middle East market is expected to become the world's largest cocatalyst consumer in 2014.
Marketing commentary for SABIC and Albemarle
SABIC is one of the largest petrochemical companies in the world. It is considered to be a market leader in the manufacturing of polypropylene, polyethylene, thermoplastics, methanol, glycols and fertilisers.
Albemarle is also considered to be a market leader in producing and marketing organometallics compounds, used for synthesis of chemicals and production of polyolefins. The company expects that the Jubail plant will increase its global footprint.