A gala dinner was held recently at the National Museum of Qatar to celebrate 50 years of partnership between four giant companies from Norway and Qatar-based QAFCO.
At least 250 distinguished guests attended the gathering, led by HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway; Minister of State for Energy Affairs and President/CEO of Qatar Petroleum HE Saad Sherida Al Kaabi; Norway Minister of Trade and Industry Torbjørn Røe Isaksen; and QAFCO CEO Abdulrahman M Al Suwaidi.
The function not only celebrated the years of collaboration, but also the strengthening of the strategic alliance between the two countries, which they hope to further develop over the next 50 years. Guests and dignitaries were also treated to a special performance by Norwegian artist Eva Weel Skram.
How It Started
After an abundance of gas resources were found in Qatar in the ’60s, YARA, which back then was part of Norsk Hydro, signed a joint-venture agreement with Qatar to build a production plant to produce ammonia and urea in Mesaieed. This led to the truly pioneering establishment of QAFCO (Qatar Fertiliser Company).
The formation of QAFCO was one of the country’s first large-scale venture into the petrochemical sector and was also the first major investment a Norwegian company had contracted abroad.
Today, QAFCO is a joint venture owned 25% by YARA and 75% by Industries Qatar (IQ). With an annual capacity of 3.8 million MT of ammonia and 5.6 million MT of urea, QAFCO is a key player in the global fertiliser market and one of the largest exporters of urea. YARA is a major off taker of high-quality urea from Muntajat, the company that markets, sells and distributes major volumes of fertiliser out of Qatar.
The collaboration has also expanded into food production.
This week, YARA, Hassad Food and QAFCO opened the first high-tech greenhouse in Al Shahaniya to support efforts to increase food production in Qatar. The partnership seeks to increase agricultural yields, in line with Qatar’s aim for self-sufficiency. YARA is a global leader in crop nutrition and fertigation. The organisation offers best-practice farming application methods and leading technologies to support Qatar in their effort to pursue sustainable farming of high-quality food products.
Yara International ASA was divested from Hydro in 2004, making it a sheer fertiliser business. Hence Hydro’s ownership in QAFCO was passed on to Yara. In 1997 Hydro became part-owner in Qatar Vinyl Company (QVC), a petrochemicals company. Ten years later, Hydro spun off its petrochemical activities and today, Hydro no longer has any ownership stakes in QVC.
In 2004, Hydro was invited to participate in a joint venture, Qatar Aluminium Company (Qatalum) together with Qatar Petroleum, to produce aluminium metal. A final agreement was signed in 2007 and the plant came into operation in 2010. Qatalum was developed as a 50/50 partnership between Hydro and Qatar Petroleum.
In 2018, the Qatar Petroleum ownership in Qatalum was listed on Qatar Stock Exchange as Qatar Aluminium Manufacturing Company (QAMCO). Qatar Petroleum holds a 51% stake in QAMCO. Qatalum, with an annual production of over 600,000 tonnes of value-add products, became the largest primary aluminium plant ever built in one phase. A fully integrated plant, it consists of a smelter, cast house and carbon plant as well as a dedicated gas-fired power plant.
KONGSBERG, another Norwegian company, is a global technology powerhouse determined to create innovative solutions and technologies to make a difference for partners and customers. In 2017, together with Barzan Holdings, KONGSBERG established a new company for technology development programmes. The company, BK Systems, is headquartered within Qatar Science & Technology Park, and KONGSBERG holds CEO position.
A More Sustainable Future
Vast interest from countries such as Norway underscores how successfully this small Gulf nation has emerged as a leading country in terms of acceptability and adapting new technologies and innovation. In line with Qatar National Vision 2030, Qatar has been striving to transform its energy-rich economy into a well-diversified knowledge-based society in order to become more sustainable.
Over the last 50 years, QAFCO has had a significant impact on Qatar’s economy through expansion of products made in Qatar. Partnership with Norway has lasted beyond a ‘client relationship’ and has greatly contributed to realising historic achievements, not only for mutual business interests, but also for the development of a nation.