SOCC Aluminium Alkyls Facility, Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Organometallic Chemicals Company (SOCC) opened a new aluminium alkyls production facility in Jubail Industrial City at Al Sharqiya, Saudi Arabia, in July 2013.
The plant has a production capacity of 6,000t of triethylaluminium (TEA) a year equivalent. It initially produces triethylaluminium, ultra low hydride triethylaluminium and aluminium alkyl in hydrocarbon blends.
TEA is an organoaluminum 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 are converted to isotactic polypropylene, high density polyethylene and synthetic rubber.
SOCC owns and operates the aluminium alkyls plant. It is the first organometallics manufacturing facility in the Middle East region. Its construction was 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 created several new jobs to the Saudi nationals. About 80% of the employees were hired as per the Saudisation policy in Saudi Arabia.
Construction of the Jubail cocatalyst plant on the industrial city site
The Jubail cocatalyst plant was constructed 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. The plant began initial production in July 2013, while full production is expected to be achieved in the third 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, provided the utilities, maintenance, finance and laboratory services for the plant.
Process technology for the aluminium alkyls production was licensed by Albemarle. The company also markets 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 receives raw materials from local sources. Bahrain Atomizers supplies the aluminium powder. Saudi Kayan supplies 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 meets the demand for TEAL from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Countries and serves the Middle East region.
It reduces the necessity for long supply chains and improves 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 Jubail plant increases the company's global footprint.