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New vinyl plant opened on the dot

June 21, 2001, 01:00 CEST

The Emir of Qatar presided over the opening of the petrochemicals plant recently built by Qatar Vinyl Company Ltd., where Hydro owns a 30 percent stake. An enormous 4,000 square metre marquee, specially flown over from Dubai for the occasion, provided the venue for 700 invited guests who witnessed a formal ceremony with Eastern style and precision.

Precision is also a key word for the modern production plant, which has been built next to the other chemical plants, including Qafco, in the Mesaieed industrial area south of the capital city of Qatar, Doha - it was both completed on time and within the budget of USD 695 million.

Production has started and only fine adjustments remain before the planned volumes of ethylene dichloride (EDC), vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), caustic soda and sodium hydroxide can be released into the Asian market. The last on the list was the VCM unit which came onstream on 4 June. Vessels of up to 70,000 tonnes call at the quay to deliver raw materials and load up with products. A 120 MWh gas power plant has also been built, and is supplied with plentiful and competitively priced gas.

Close collaboration
Now that the plant is in production, the managing director of Qatar Vinyl Company   (QVC), Ottar Berge, confirms that the vinyl project in Qatar has been completed faster than any other project he has been involved with.

"A seven year old idea has become reality, many details have been solved, and a tight schedule has been followed by both planners and contractors," he comments, giving credit to the German construction company Krupp Uhde and Italian Technipetrol which together have built the plant.

"Relations between owners and contractors supplying technical plant can become strained, but here we have managed to keep a positive tone. Now we can concentrate on production, marketing and sales," Berge adds.

Meanwhile a good share of the honour is due to Hydro's own technology division, Hydro Technology and Projects, which has played a key role through the project teams QVC has hired from the division. Certain personnel from Hydro Polymers' plants at Rafnes and Stenungssund are also taking part during start up and will remain until the end of September to help ensure that the necessary routines are standardized in the company.

Up to the end of May, the project management team registered impressive safety statistics over the construction period, with zero sick leave due to injuries distributed over 16.3 million working hours. The total number of employees at QVC is currently 170, compared with up to 4000 working in a hectic environment at the height of construction activities.

Major customers in Asia
QVC was established in 1997 as a joint venture between Qatar Petrochemical Company (25.5 percent), Qatar General Petroleum Corporation (31.9 percent), Hydro (29.7 percent) and French Atofina (12.9 percent).

These companies share the responsibility for sales and marketing. The books already include major customers in countries such as Australia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, which can now look forward to deliveries from a production point that is much closer in terms of logistics. Caustic soda has also been delivered to several African countries.

"Qatar is a highly advantageous location for the markets in Asia, and we no longer need to ship these products via Rafnes, for example. Our production in Qatar will help us compete for customers who have traditionally purchased from USA, where we know that production can at times be unstable," says Anders Hermansson, head of Hydro's petrochemicals division.

The main reason for locating the vinyl production plant in the vicinity of the other chemicals plants in Mesaieed is the advantage of using the surplus production of ethylene from Qatar Petroleum Company (QAPCO). The extensive investments in the local infrastructure also allow economies of scale through utilizing shared services.