The global petrochemical industry’s centre of gravity is shifting to the feedstock-rich Middle East as dozens of new projects are coming up in the region while production falters elsewhere.

According to Chemical Week, co-organizer of the Fourth Annual GPCA Forum, 19 million metric tonne ethylene, the key building block for petrochemicals, is scheduled to be added annually to the Gulf region capacity over the next five years, nearly doubling the current capacity and providing extensive raw materials for downstream industries.

“By 2015, the region will supply one-third of the world’s ethylene glycol, used in fibres and anti-freeze; 20 percent of global polyethylene and 13 percent of higher-value polypropylene,” it said.

The Fourth Annual GPCA Forum is taking place in Dubai from December 8-10 and will hear global industry leaders assessing the post-recession scenario with a focus on how the regional players are integrating sustainability into their growth agendas.

Saudi Arabian Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali Al-Naimi will make the opening keynote presentation at the forum. Saudi Arabia is expected to become the main global centre of petrochemical production with as many as 30 new petrochemical plants, including some mega-projects in Jubail and Yanbu, are scheduled for completion next year with another 40 at the planning phase.

Other large-scale units are also coming up in Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Abu Dhabi, and an estimated investment of around $170 billion is envisaged by 2015.

“Beyond these basic petrochemicals projects, a new wave of investments in the Gulf region will target specialty chemicals and high-value plastics production, which will add value and will service industrial clusters based on the building blocks provided by the chemical industry,” GPCA Secretary General Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun said.

On the first day of the Forum on December 9, Dr. Vijay Govindarajan, one of the world’s leading experts on strategy and innovation and author of international best seller ‘Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators,’ will speak at the Human Resources Breakout Session.

The past recession-hit year has seen an increase of trade issues, with some importing nations raising dumping allegations against the region, and GPCA questioning the anti-dumping moves against member-companies and countries.

“The global recession is over, led by Asia. The slowdown in the Middle East is reversing,” says JADWA Investments Chief Economist Brad Bourland, who will talk about the economic outlook and its impact on the chemical industry at the forum.