MANAMA: The rising middle class in emerging economies such as India and China is fuelling demand for petrochemicals from Bahrain and the GCC. Consumption of plastics – which is an indicator of increased wealth – has continued to rise exponentially in those countries, signalling greater growth of the chemical industry in Bahrain, said nogaholding chief executive Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa.
“As the number of Chinese and Indians who enter the middle class continues to rise, the amount of plastics consumed grows,” he told GDN on the sidelines of the Petchem Arabia 2012 conference at the Gulf Hotel. “Bahrain is hence hopeful of continued growth, despite the limited available feedstock.” The kingdom enjoys an advantage in terms of its knowledge base in refinery expertise, he said. Naphtha, a product of oil refining, is processed into either unsaturated hydrocarbon compounds called olefins or aromatic compounds.
As part of the expansion drive of its petrochemicals sector, Bahrain is focussing more on developing its aromatics products. “Focussing on the aromatics side opens up a whole avenue of opportunity as everything we use or consume, even the clothes we wear, have some petrochemical constituents,” said Shaikh Mohammed. “Plastics, medicines and automobiles use these compounds because of the abundance of coal and gas from the ground and they are much easier to use than metals.
“Petrochemicals are finding their way everywhere, as they are cheaper alternatives.” As the GCC countries are not close to large markets for petrochemical products, development of the downstream industry has taken a backseat, Shaikh Mohammed added.