National Petrochemical Company

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The Abadan Petrochemical Complex.

The National Petrochemical Company (NPC), a subsidiary to the Iranian Petroleum Ministry, is owned by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is responsible for the development and operation of the country's petrochemical sector. Founded in 1964, NPC began its activities by operating a small fertilizer plant in Shiraz. Today, NPC is the second largest producer and exporter of petrochemicals in the Middle East. Over these years, it has not only expanded the range and volume of its products, but it has also taken steps in areas such as R&D to achieve more self-sufficiency.

Two special economic zones on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf have been developed to be home to the NPC’s new project. These two zones enjoy a good access to feedstock, infrastructural facilities, local and international markets and skilled manpower. Despite pressure being exerted on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program, Tehran expects to see a surge in petrochemical exports from $5.5 billion in 2007 to a total of nearly $9 billion in 2008.[1] The Fourth Five-Year Plan (2005–10) calls for a fourfold expansion of petrochemical output, to 56 million tons per year.[2]

History[edit]

Iran petrochemical industry dates back to 1963. The first petrochemical complex to produce fertilizer kicked off then. In 1977 (considered as initial development in Iran petrochemical industry) Razi, Abadan, Kharg, Farabi, Bandar Imam, complementary phase of Shiraz and Iran-Carbon of Ahwaz petrochemical units were put into operation in that year.

Due to getting involved in imposed war, Iran oil industry development experienced the lowest growth rate from 1978 till 1989. In 1989 the country petrochemical products reached 2.4 million tons a year.

Since 1989 till 1999 petrochemical industry started to reconstruct and revitalize. Isfahan, Arak, Khorasan, Orumiyeh and Tabriz Petrochemical complexes were constructed and Bandar Imam Petrochemical Complex was also developed. This happened at the end of Country Second Development Plan (1996-2001) and country petrochemical products surpassed 12 million tons per year.

The fourth period (2006-2011) –called stabilizing and sudden growth period- started in 1999 and has been continued till now. The number of petrochemical facilities rose to 39 in the post-Islamic Revolution era from only 6 in 1978, raising the output to 15.8 million tons in 2005 and more than 40 million tons in 2010.[3]

Production sites at Nouri (Borzouyeh), Pars, Jam, Zagros, Pardis, and Mehr produce petrochemical and polymer products.[4]

Main activities[edit]

NPC's major activities are production, sale, distribution and export of chemicals and petrochemicals. Currently allied with 56 subsidiaries, including 9 production complexes and 18 project implementing companies, NPC operates as a mother company handling policy-making, planning, directing and overseeing the activities of its subsidiaries and affiliates.

As at end of 2009, Iran’s total annual petrochemical production capacity stood at 34 million tonnes.[5] In 2010, Iran produced 26% of the total petrochemical output in the Middle East, second behind Saudi Arabia.[6] The petrochemical industry accounts for 2 percent of the GDP, 44 percent of the non-oil exports and 55 percent of the industrial exports. In 2011, Iran earned 12 billion dollars from exporting petrochemical products to over 60 countries.[7] The petrochemical industry accounts for 2 percent of the GDP, 44 percent of the non-oil exports and 55 percent of the industrial exports.

The focus over the past few years has been on products which use natural gas as feedstock; in particular, methanol, ethylene, propane and butane. This is because the profit margins for crude oil and naphtha-consuming petrochemicals are continuously eroding due to the competitiveness of the market and the high price of feedstock.

National Petrochemical Company (Quantity: thousand tons / Value: million USD)[8]
Product Domestic sale - Quantity/Value (2003) Exports - Quantity/Value (2003)
Chemicals 749 thousand tons/ $232 million 804 thousand tons/ $217 million
Fertilizers 896 thousand tons/ $99 million 2069 thousand tons/ $138 million
Polymers 105 thousand tons/ $76 million 842 thousand tons/ $555 million
Aromatics 335 thousand tons/ $172 million 167 thousand tons/ $73 million
Fuel &

hydrocarbons

2459 thousand tons/ $646 million 683 thousand tons/ $140 million
Total: 4544 thousand tons / $1225 million 4565 thousand tons / $1123 million

Main products[edit]

Iran has a diversified petroleum product basket with more than 70 products.[5] The main exports are polyethylene, methanol, benzene, ammonia, sulphur, PVC and propylene.[6] Iran exported $8.613 billion worth of different types of petrochemical products in Iranian year 2010-2011.[9]

Methanol: Iran is a key player in supplying the world’s methanol demand. Currently, Iran has the capacity to produce more than 5 million tonnes of methanol, which constitutes 10% of the world’s methanol production. Of this amount, approximately 90% is exported.[5]

Ethane: In addition, Iran has a competitive advantage in the gas consuming stream of the petrochemical industry due to its vast reserves of natural gas. In the Assalouyeh region near the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf, Iran is able to convert raw gas to ethane (a raw material for the petrochemical industry) and then to petrochemical products at a gross margin of up to 88%. In 2009, Iran consumed domestically over 95% of the natural gas that was produced.[5]

Expansion of the petrochemical industry[edit]

See also: Assaluyeh and South Pars
Shazand Petrochemical complex.

In 1989 the Planning and Development Department of NPC initiated, with the help of other related institutions and individuals, a long-term study on the "Strategic Plan for the Development of the Petrochemical Industry in Iran". Considering national and international factors such as the local market, export potentials, feedstock availability and profitability, a 25-year development plan, consisting of five development phases, was drawn up.[10]

Business Monitor International (BMI) estimates that in 2009, Iranian petrochemicals exports will be around $7.9 billion, 32 percent above the previous year. Iran hopes to implement 47 new petrochemical projects by the end of the Fifth Five-Year Economic Development Plan in 2015 at a cost of $25 billion, adding a total of 43 million tons per annum (tpa) to the capacity.[11][12] Iran will represent at least 5.3 percent of global petrochemical output and 36 percent of Middle Eastern production once those projects become online. The Oil Ministry has set targets for annual production of 11.5 million tpa of ethylene, 11.5 million tpa of polymer and 3.4 million tpa of urea, with a target of becoming the world’s leading producer of methanol with 7.5 million tpa of methanol capacity, which represents 18 percent of global capacity.[13]

Iran National Petrochemical Company's output capacity will increase to over 100 million tpa by 2015 from an estimated 50 million tpa in 2010 thus becoming the world' second largest chemical producer globally after Dow Chemical with Iran housing some of the world's largest chemical complexes.[14][15][16] 50 billion dollars will be invested during the fifth five-year development plan (2011–2016) to create this new capacity.[7]

Projects[edit]

According to Business Monitor International in 2012:[17]

Projects due to be completed by 2016, such as the 14th olefins complex in Firouzabad with 1mn tpa ethylene capacity, the 15th olefins complex in Genaveh with 500,000tpa of ethylene and the 17th olefins complex in Ilam with 607,000tpa of ethylene, could be significantly delayed under the sanctions regime. Meanwhile, the 12th olefins complex has been postponed and will be configured. However, the 16th olefins and methanol complex is already being constructed by Bushehr Petrochemical Company as part of phase two of the Pars SEZ at Assaluyeh. Completion of the plants, with capacity for 1mn tpa ethylene and 1.65mn tpa methanol, is due in 2014, although past experience has shown that delays could push commercial production back.

Research & development[edit]

There are essentially four locations where R&D in the area of petrochemicals are conducted:[18]

  1. Universities;
  2. Research Institute of the Petroleum Industry (RIPI);
  3. The Petrochemical Research and Technology Company;
  4. R&D departments internal to the petrochemical complexes.

NPC is investing more on its R&D activities: this includes carrying out joint research projects with local institutions and universities; systematic link with local and foreign research centers; and design and operation of pilot plants for research purposes.[10] As at 2011, Iran is highly dependent on foreign expertise in the petrochemical sector, Germany holds a 35 per cent share in Iran's petrochemical production (i.e. licenses). UK, France and the Netherlands rank the next with 18 per cent share, 12 per cent share and 11 per cent share, respectively.[19] Iran has since embarked on domesticating some of those technologies such as Naphtha isomerization, thus eliminating the need for purchasing the license from Western countries within the next 5 years.[20]

As at 2012, self-sufficiency in manufacturing and repairing rotating equipment and providing catalysts are the main challenges of the petrochemical industry in Iran. Domestic production of 52 petrochemical catalysts will be started in 2013 onward.[21] 70 percent of the equipment used in the petrochemical sector is produced by domestic manufacturers.[22]

Privatization[edit]

Local and foreign, is essential for sustained growth of the petrochemical industry in Iran. Policies for encouragement of private sector participation include allocating NPC shares to private sector both inside and outside of Iran; supporting local private sector investments in the petrochemical industry; supporting local engineering firms and production companies; allocating parts of engineering, and most of construction jobs, to the local private sector; and allowing the private sector to invest in new projects in the petrochemical industry.[10]

NPC plans to privatize 17 subsidiary companies by the end of 2007.[23] All shares of domestic petrochemical firms will be offered to the public in the frame of a holding company by the end of 2010.[24] The petrochemical industry is also a key industry on the privatization list. At least 5 more petrochemical companies are expected to undergo privatization over the next 3 years.

Feedstock price[edit]

For several years, Iranian petrochemical companies have enjoyed significant discounts from the government on their natural gas feedstock, in comparison to global prices. Even with the partial removal of governmental subsidies on natural gas as part of the economic reform plan, these companies remain highly profitable and retain their global competitive advantage.

According to the 2010 Iranian Economic Reform Plan, by 2015, petrochemical companies, which use natural gas as their feedstock (rather than fuel), will pay no more than 65% of the average export price (rather than 75% charged to the general population) for a period of 10 years.[25]

Similarly, petrochemical companies which use crude oil as their feedstock pay 90% of the market price despite being already highly profitable.[26] It is estimated that only five percent of hydrocarbon products are delivered to petrochemical companies and transformed to value-added products.[27]

NPC affiliate companies[edit]

As at 2012, Parsian is the largest listed holding company of petrochemicals in Iran and controls the world’s largest producer of methanol (Zagros Petrochemical) and the world’s largest producer of urea (Pardis Petrochemical).[28]

Company Location Year founded Employees[29][30] Production (as of 2009)[29][30][31] Costs[31] Remarks
Khorasan Petrochemical Co. Khorasan 1996 fertilizers including urea, ammonia and crystal melamine privatized co.
Tabriz Petrochemical Co. Tabriz 1989 978 petrochemicals including ethylene and propylene new projects: $35 million
Isfahan Petrochemical Co. Isfahan privatized co.
Arak (Shazand) Petrochemical Co. Arak (Shazand) 1984 3,825 petrochemicals including ethylene and polyethylene One of the largest privatized co. on TSE[32] Affiliate companies: Bakhtar[33] - Andimeshk, Chahar Mahal Bakhtiari, Gachsaran, Hamedan, Kermanshah, Kordestan, Lorestan, Mahabad, Mamasani, Miandoab, Kavian, Dehdasht.[34] Seventy percent of Arak's products are sold in the domestic market.[35]
Kharg Petrochemical Co. Kharg One of the largest privatized co. on TSE[32]
Shiraz Petrochemical Co. Shiraz 1959 2,261 fertilizers including urea, ammonia and methanol affiliate: Kermanshah petrochemical co.
Razi Petrochemical Co. near Bandar Imam and Petzone 1968 2,100 fertilizers including ammonia, urea, phosphoric acid and sulphuric acid Linked to Iran's nuclear and missile programs.[36] Privatized co. As of 2008, owned by a Turkish consortium.
Orumiyeh Petrochemical Co. Orumiyeh 1995 petrochemicals including crystal melamine, ammonium sulphate and ammonium carbonate privatized co.
Bandar Imam Petrochemical Co. (formerly known as "Iran Japan Petrochemical Co.") Bandar Imam (Petzone) 1973 production and marketing of fuel and petrochemicals including aromatics, polymers and chemicals: 443,000 tons of ethane; 365,000 tons pentane; 284,000 tons hexane plus; 688,000 tones butane; 35,000 tones fuel gas; 870,000 tons propane. (2012)[37] affiliates: Ab Niroo, Basparan, Faravaresh, Kharazmi, Kimia. One of Iran's top 100 companies.[38]
NIPC International Co.
Petrochemical Commercial Co. (PCC) sales of petrochemical products in the international markets as well as supplying Iran’s petrochemical downstream industries subsidiaries in England, Germany (Intra-Chem Trading Co.), China, Singapore, India, U.A.E, South Korea and Turkey.
Bu-Ali Sina Bandar Imam (Petzone) benzene, paraxylene, orthoxylene, light ends, raffinate, LPG, pentene, heavy aromatics and naphtha one of the biggest petrochemical plant in Iran.
Arvand Petrochemical Complex Bandar Imam (Petzone) 2010 300,000 tons of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), 660,000 tons of caustic soda, 340,000 tons of vinyl chloride and 890,000 tons of ethylene dichloride,[39] color alkali (2.834 million tpy) $1.612 billion 8th olefin project. Arvand is the largest polyvinyl chloride (PVC) producer in the world.[40][41] Bandar Imam Khomeini, Abadan and Qadir are the three other petrochemical complexes producing PVC in Iran with an aggregate production capacity of over 405 thousand tons per year.[40]
Amir Kabir Project Bandar Imam (Petzone) 1998 700 petrochemicals including heavy polyethylene (300K tpy), ethylene, propylene[9] new projects: $309 million Privatized company.[42] 6th olefin project. Privatized co.
Shahid Tondguyan Petrochemical Co. Bandar Imam (Petzone) 1998 PTA, PET-F (bottle grade), PET-G (fiber grade), PET (staple grade), PET (POY grade) One of the largest companies in Iran.[38]
Khuzestan Petrochemical Co. Bandar Imam (Petzone) 1997 liquid epoxy resin, solid epoxy resin, polycarbonates
Non-Basic Services Co. services
Fajr Petrochemical Co. (Phase. 1) Bandar Imam (Petzone) 1999 electricity, steam, nitrogen, oxygene, air, aragon, various waters utilities required by the process plants in the Petzone.
Mobin Centralized Utility Assaluyeh (PSEEZ) 2000 electricity, steam, nitrogen, oxygene, air, various waters $359 million utilities required by the process plants in the PSEEZ.
Kermanshah Petrochemical Co. Kermanshah 1986 amonia, urea
Bisootun Bisootun in Kermanshah 1999 LAB, HAB
Jam Petrochemical Complex Assaluyeh (PSEEZ) etylene: 1.320 million metric tpy to be increased to 4.2 million in few years, butadiene (115K tpy). The complex also includes a light polyethylene unit with annual production of 300,000 tons, a poly-propylene unit (with production of 300,000 tons per annum), an ethylene glycol unit (443,000 tons) and heavy polyethylene (300,000 tons).[43] new projects: $148 million 10th olefin. World's largest ethylene unit.[44] Privatized co. Certification: ISO-9001:2000, OHSAS-18001:1999, ISO-14001:2004, IMS.
Pardis Petrochemical Complex Assaluyeh (PSEEZ) 2000 1000 1.75 million tonnes of urea and 680,000 tonnes of ammonia per annum[45] $210 million (1st phase) and $450 million (2nd phase) 2nd phase was completed in July 2010.[46]
Zagros Petrochemical Complex Assaluyeh (PSEEZ) 2004 methanol (1.650 million tpy) $341 million Participation of Ghadir Investment Company (Ghadir Urea) in 4th & 6th Olefin.[47] Privatized co. Zagros Petrochemical is the world's largest methanol producer. As of 2011, it had a production capacity of 3.3 million tonnes per annum.
Pars Petrochemical Complex Assaluyeh (PSEEZ) 1998 include ethane, propane, butane, gasoline, ethylene benzene and styrene monomer[48] (1.245 million tpy) $535 million participation in Aryasasol. The styrene monomer plant in Pars Petrochemical complex is the largest such plant in the world which produces 600,000 tons of this product annually.[48] Privatized company. Major shareholder as of 2010: Armed Forces Pension Fund (SATA)[49]
Mehr Petrochemical Plant Assaluyeh (PSEEZ) petrochemicals including HDPE (300K tpy) $231 million partner: Japan.
Morvarid Petrochemical Plant 500,000 tpy ethylene[45][46] $422 million privatized co.
Marun Petrochemical Complex Bandar Imam (Petzone) petrochemicals including low density polyethylene and olefin. Oxygen and nitrogen production line inaugurated in 2012.[50] affiliate: Laleh (LDPE project) - under implementation. Privatized company. Major shareholder as of 2010: Armed Forces Pension Fund (SATA)[49]
Arya Sasol Polymer Co. Assaluyeh (PSEEZ) 2009 400,000 tons of ethylene, 90,000 tons of C3 cut, 300,000 tons of medium and heavy polyethylene, and 300,000 tons of light polyethylene $3.5 billion 9th olefin. Partner: South Africa (Sasol). Privatized co.
Nouri (Borzouyeh) Petrochemical Complex Assaluyeh (PSEEZ) 1999 380 4.5 million tons of petrochemicals, including benzene, liquefied petroleum gas, raffinate, heavy aromatics (2.5 million tpy), orthoxylene and paraxylene world’s largest aromatics producing complex.[51]
Fanavaran Petrochemical Co. Bandar Imam (Petzone) 1998 1 million tons of methanol per year, 140,000 tons of carbon privatized. Methanol to project [MTP] - vinyl acetate monomer project [VAM]. Fanavaran Petrochemical, Iran’s second largest methanol producer, was the first to be privatised.
Abadan Petrochemical Co. Abadan 1966 PVC, caustic soda, DDB privatized co. See also Abadan Refinery
Polica Nowin Industrial Polymers Co. Karaj 2003 pipe, soft granule, joints & fittings, mixed powder privatized co.
Farabi Petrochemical Co. Bandar Imam (Petzone) 1973 dioctyle phetalat (DOP), phthalic anhydride (PA) privatized co.
Iran-Carbon Ahwaz 1974 industrial coke privatized co. Certification: ISO-14001: 2004, ISO-9001: 2000.
Petrochemical Development & Management Co. services
Rahavaran Fonoon Petrochemical company near Bandar Imam and Petzone 1998 educational and training services
VenIran Petrochemical Company (VIPC) Assaluyeh (PSEEZ) planned 1.6 million tonnes of methanol per year 500 million euros Joint-venture with Venezuela.[52]

Foreign investment[edit]

In accordance with the government policy on rapid development of the petrochemical industry, many steps have been taken to make foreign investments in this industry more attractive for our future joint-venture partners. Such actions include creation of special industrial economic zones, revision of legal to taxes and tariffs, guarantee of capital and profit transfer, and providing the required utilities and the needed infrastructure for industrial and commercial operations. The availability of a highly trained but inexpensive work-force, cheap feedstocks and a sizable internal market, will also work in Iran's favor, to attract foreign investment.[10][53] In 2008, Iran agreed to invest $125 million in the Philippines’ petrochemical market.[54][55]

Special industrial economic zones[edit]

To provide a suitable environment for attraction of foreign and local investments in the petrochemical industry, NPC has made a great effort to develop two special economic zones, one in Bandar Imam in the town of Mahshahr called "Petrochemical Special Economic Zone (Petzone)" and the other in Assaluyeh named "Pars Special Economic/Energy Zone (PSEEZ)". Lavan Island is to become Iran's third petrochemical hub because of its large gas reserves.[56]

As of 2010, the most important Petrochemical projects in the Pars Special Economic Energy Zone are: 9th Olefin, ‏10‏th Olefin, ‏4‏th Methanol, ‏4‏th Urea and Ammonia, Ethane recovery, Styrene Monomer and Polystyrene, Petrochemical Port, centralized utilities, ‏6‏th Methanol and DME. ‏11th Olefin, ‏12‏th Olefin, ‏6‏th Urea and Ammonia, ‏8‏th Urea and Ammonia and HDP Assaluyeh.[47]

Petrochemical Exporting Countries Forum (PECF)[edit]

Iran has proposed the creation of a Petrochemical Exporting Countries Forum (PECF) which aims at financial and technological cooperation among members, as well as product pricing and policy making in production issues. According to the Managing Director of the National Petrochemical Company (NPC), Abdolhossein Bayat, Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Russia, Qatar, and Turkey are potential members of PECF.[57]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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