Saudis to Build LAO Plant


Saudi Basic Industries Corp. announced that it has co-developed a linear alpha olefin technology that will be the basis for a 150,000-metric-ton plant scheduled to open by 2005.

The facility, to be built in Saudi Arabia on the coast of the Persian Gulf, is the seventh linear alpha olefin (LAO) project scheduled to open during the next four years. Those projects would have capacity to increase current LAO production by 40 percent. Still, at least one analyst said that another plant appears to make sense given the growing demand for poly alpha olefins (PAOs) and plastics applications of LAOs.

The construction of another LAO plant appears justified given growth in demand from applications such as PAO synthetic lubricants and polyethylene co-monomers, Frost & Sullivan consultants said in a Nov. 13 news release.

LAOs are the main building block for PAOs. They are also used in lube oil additives, surfactants and oil field chemicals, and as co-polymers to improve the mechanical performance of high- and linear low-density polyethylene.

Current demand for alpha olefins is 2.5 million metric tons (2.7 tons) per year, according to London-based Frost & Sullivan. The seven plants scheduled to open between this year and 2005 would have a combined capacity of 1 million metric tons. In arguing the justification for a seventh plant, Frost & Sullivan noted that PAO demand in Europe, the United States and China is growing between 8.5 percent and 10 percent annually.

Sabic officials said the new LAO technology, named a-Sablin, allows for low investment and production costs, as well as product distribution flexibility. Both Sabic and Linde plan to license the technology. Frost & Sullivan speculated that the companies may encounter little interest in licensing because of the number of LAO projects already in the pipeline

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