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Sabic to tap Mideast synthetic rubber demand

By: By Barry Copping
EUROPEAN RUBBER JOURNAL STAFF

October 16, 2013

DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — Sabic will bring on stream 400,000 metric tons per year of synthetic rubber capacity in 2015 to meet Middle Eastern demand, the company announced Wednesday at a press conference at K 2013 in Düsseldorf.

Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, executive vice president for performance chemicals, told European Rubber Journal that rumors of a delay in the project were unfounded.

"We are precisely on schedule," he said. "Pre-marketing has begun to selected clients. Our rationale is to build customer relationships before the rubber comes on stream." He claims the plant commissioning and production startup will be flawless.

The firm — whose partner in the project is ExxonMobil Chemical — will produce both ethylene propylene diene monomer and polybutadiene rubbers. Al-Rabeeah said that production could be varied flexibly between the two types, with no fixed proportion envisaged. He said that Sabic's substantial investment in assets ensures consistency of supply for its customers. With "huge" population growth in the Middle East, and the region around Saudi Arabia a major importer of rubber goods, Sabic (Hall 6/D42) sees particular potential in the automotive market (both tire and non-tire) and the construction sector. He said the region consumes 25 million tires a year. The region's climate poses particular challenges — for instance the effects of ambient and road temperatures on tire performance and reliability.

Examples of construction sector applications for Sabic's EPDM rubbers include bridge bearings, dock fenders, tunnel segmentation seals, flooring, window profiles, seals for building components of various types, flexible tanks and water hoses.

"Chemistry matters, but customers are more interested in physics" in terms of product characteristics and in-service performance, Al-Rabeeah said. "We at Sabic are not making molecules; we are making solutions."