Since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's (KSA) first polymer processing plant opened in 1956, plastics production has expanded greatly in terms of volume, range and product sophistication.
Over these years Saudi Arabia has also attracted considerable foreign investment in its petrochemical and plastics and packaging sectors. In 2010, for example, US-based Greif formed a joint venture with KSA's National Scientific Company to produce flexible plastic containers in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabian plastics production comprises mainly polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polystyrene (PS). KSA also produces polycarbonates, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA).
Relatively recent additions include styrene butadiene rubber (SBR), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polyamides and polyoxymethylene (POM).
Among newly introduced and planned products are epoxy, ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM), polycaprolactam, polycarbonates, polyurethanes and polyether polyols.
With its vast petrochemicals industry, Saudi Arabia is a major producer of: the feedstocks used for plastics production, the basic chemicals required to make plastics (mainly ethylene, propylene, butadiene, benzene, methanol and xylene), and next-stage intermediaries (such as vinyl chloride, ethylene oxide, acrylic acid, propylene oxide and styrene).
Major raw materials suppliers to KSA's plastics and packaging sector include Petro Rabigh, Tasnee, Sipchem and SABIC, the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation. SABIC is the world's fourth-largest petrochemical company, largest producer of ethylene glycol and methanol, third-largest producer of polyethylene and fourth-largest producer of polypropylene and polyolefin.
The Industrial Clusters program (IC) is in charge of developing KSA's Plastics and Packaging cluster. The program has six plastics conversion anchor projects:
- Personal care products (for example tubes, bottles, containers and caps, and later pumps and sprays)
- Pharmaceutical packaging products (eg bottles and blister packs, and later inhalers and syringes)
- Caps and closures (standard shapes and later complex shapes such as tamper-proof and sports-bottle tops)
- Bi-oriented polypropylene (BOPP) film (eg transparent and metallised bags for food)
- Barrier films (eg bags and pouches, and later chemicals packaging, medical and pharmaceutical packaging)
- General-purpose film (eg blown and cast film for food packaging)
The Industrial Clusters program's main aims are to:
- Fill gaps in KSA's petrochemical and plastics supply chains
- Enhance links between the petrochemical and plastics sectors
- Develop links between KSA's plastics cluster and its automotive, solar energy and home appliances clusters
- Expand the number of plastics users, particularly consumer packaged goods (CPG)(fast-moving consumer goods) companies
- Attract global plastics, packaging and CPG players
- Encourage CPG packaging companies to become more export oriented
- Support plastics conversion (moulding, extrusion, lamination and forming) projects
- Encourage more companies to adopt licensed processes and technology
- Support higher added-value and high-end production for the automotive, biomedical and packaging sectors
- Develop sector-related products and services such as tools, equipment, training and logistics
Industrial Clusters' targets for 2020 include: making KSA a world top-10 exporter of plastics; and creating and sustaining 17,000 additional plastics and packaging sector jobs.