On its 40th anniversary, Qatar Petrochemical Company (QAPCO) QSC, one of the leading petrochemical powerhouses in the region and a precursor in petrochemical production, celebrates its proud heritage and promising future, started by visionary pioneers.
Since the establishment of QAPCO on 9 November 1974, by Emiri Decree No. 109, the company has never ceased to grow, progress and evolve. On the occasion of this important milestone, QAPCO’s Management shares some inspiring stories that characterise QAPCO’s four decades of unparalleled success. Engineer Hamad Rashid Al Mohannadi, Chairman of QAPCO, said:
I am incredibly proud of our forty years of growth and excellence, inspired by our pioneers of the possible. Our successful and extraordinary journey rests on the minds and brilliance of many. It first started with a dream in 1974. By transforming a visionary idea into a reality, making the most of what we have been given, by further optimising our hydrocarbon resources, QAPCO broke new grounds and paved the way to an entirely new and promising industry in the GCC, petrochemicals.’
Unlocking natural resources potential – capturing the gas flows associated with oil production that were previously flared, and instead channeling those flows as feedstock for chemical production has made it possible to build an immense and highly profitable industry for the entire GCC region. QAPCO is the company that pioneered such an unprecedented development in 1974.
QAPCO established the first petrochemical facility aimed at utilising ethane, which was previously flared, to produce olefins, such as ethylene, and polyolefin for export. Utilising ethane as a feedstock is common nowadays, but back then it was a first-timer and a revolutionary idea.
In forty years, QAPCO increased its low-density polyethylene (LDPE) production capacity by 500% and today the company is recognised as a leader in its industry. LDPE is considered as the most widely used type of plastic, with applications such as food packaging, agricultural films, cables and wires, coating, and playing a key role in the development of green building solutions. LDPE’s innovative applications are used every everyday by millions of people all over the world.
QAPCO’s fortieth anniversary is truly the occasion for the company to pay a tribute to all its employees. QAPCO believes that its employees determine the future of the company and are its most valuable asset. As such, QAPCO is holding celebrations in their honour in it plant in Mesaieed on 9 November 2014. Dr Mohammed Youssef Al Mulla, Vice Chairman and CEO of QAPCO acknowledged the contribution of all the QAPCO employees.
From a staff of 20 people in 1978, the number of employees at QAPCO grew to 700 in the early eighties and reached 1,324 in 2014. Back in the late seventies, the main task was the recruitment and the training of the operating teams. QAPCO envisioned the workforce of the future and recruited international and local talents. The new enthusiastic and motivated recruits knew they were going to be part of something exceptional. To equip them with the most advanced technical skills to operate a complex petrochemical plant, small groups of employees were sent to France for training. Several Qataris participated in those intense coaching and development courses, becoming the first generation of Qatari petrochemical experts. At that time, no one in the Middle East had had any experience in operating a petrochemical plant.
Today, with Qatarisation standing at 30.2%, national leadership is one of the driving forces of QAPCO and gives the company its cultural identity.
Forty years since QAPCO’s inception, petrochemicals continue to play a key role in Qatar’s National Vision 2030 to develop an internationally focused economy through growth of industrial and diversified economic sectors. As QAPCO focuses on R&D, innovation and delivering sustainable solutions, the company believes in the tremendous potential offered by the next generation of advanced materials that will be produced from Qatar’s natural resources.
The power of an idea has allowed QAPCO to become an industrial giant. It started with a visionary dream; the power of an idea would soon revolutionise an entire region. Here is how the QAPCO story began.
As the European petrochemical industry was emerging, the company CdF Chimie was created in 1966 in France and specialised in steam-cracking products, intermediates and thermoplastics. CdF Chimie rapidly became the frontrunner in its field and expanded its activities internationally, through the creation of plants and industrial platforms specialising in plastic production, notably in Asia. At that time, CdF Chimie was looking to develop new sources of plastics in markets offering attractive raw-materials, and expand in regions that were closer to its main client-base, Europe.
In April 1974, Jacques Petitmengin, CEO of CdF Chimie, and René Boudet, Chairman of Gazocéan, traveled for the first time to Qatar. During their visit, they met with the leadership of Qatar, and proposed to build a ground-breaking and entirely new project for the region, an ethylene and polyethylene plant.
Qatar was very eager and committed to advancing the industrial development of the country and strongly believed in the extreme variety of downstream activities offered by polyethylene and the limitless possibilities engendered by its applications. Polyethylene had the potential to propel Qatar’s industrial sector into a new era of development, paving the way to a multitude of downstream industries. Therefore, the leadership of Qatar took a bold but visionary initiative, by supporting and spearheading a pioneering project, which acted as a true catalyst for the growth of the national economy. The Memorandum of Association was signed in Doha on 15 August 1974 between the Government of Qatar, CdF Chimie and Gazocean and QAPCO’s commercial registration was finalised on 9 November of the same year. The birth of an industry had just started. Qatar had laid the foundations for a promising industrial future. The petrochemical revolution in the GCC was in motion.
In the early seventies, Mesaieed had been identified as a strategic zone for the development of industrial activities and the city already had a functioning port, jetty facilities and an oil tanker terminal. Qatar Fertilizer Company (QAFCO) was the first plant in operations in entire industrial area.
The QAPCO plant was then built on a massive desert area, next to the QAFCO site, and was conceptualised to host integrated components that would facilitate daily operations within the future petrochemical complex. Construction work started in 1976, first with the jetty area, then in 1978 the construction of the LDPE 1 unit was in full swing, and by 1979 the administration building was finalised. At peak time, 2,000 workers participated to the construction of the QAPCO plant.
In March 1980, the utilities plant was fully operational and started functioning. For the first start-up of the ethylene plant, QAPCO received a shipment of ethylene from France. This was essential to start the ethylene unit, and at that time, there was no source of ethylene available in the Middle East. Finally, on 3 September of the same year, the first Made In Qatar polyethylene was produced. This was a landmark achievement for all the teams and it was duly celebrated.
On 23 February 1981, the first LDPE plant in the Middle East was formally inaugurated. Government representatives from Qatar and France, including the French Minister of Energy along with key executives from CdF Chimie and QAPCO took part in the official launch of the plant.
QAPCO started commercial production in 1981, with an initial annual output of 132,679 tons of ethylene. The plant also had the capacity to produce 140,000 tons of low density polyethylene and minor amounts of sulfur, generated as a by-product.
The day QAPCO exported its first shipment of ethylene was a milestone to remember. The ship transported the first-ever Qatari produced ethylene to Spain. The teams were thrilled by this historical moment. Conviviality, dedication, enthusiasm and passion were characterising the QAPCO pioneers, who were all driven by the eagerness to make things happen.
The decade of the eighties witnessed the steady emergence of QAPCO as one of the most important petrochemical companies in the Gulf.