Alpha II gets the green light

New MMA plant will be the largest ever built

Lucite International (LI) parent company, Mitsubishi Rayon Co., Ltd (MRC) and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) have announced the formation of a joint venture company to build and operate two plants – one for Methyl Methacrylate (MMA), and the other for Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) – at one of SABIC’s manufacturing affiliates in Jubail, Saudi Arabia.

The next phase of this project will focus on the basic engineering design, completion of: supply agreements, regulatory approvals and necessary details for the JV incorporation, implementation and execution activities.

The MMA plant will be the largest ever built, with a 250kte annual capacity. It will use LI’s Alpha technology, which was first commercialised with its Alpha 1 plant which began operation in Singapore in November 2008. LI is a subsidiary of MRC acquired in 2009. The PMMA plant will be based on MRC technology and will have an annual capacity of 40kte.

MRC and SABIC have entered into this new partnership to further their strategic goals. MRC, the global leader in the methacrylates industry, will strengthen its leadership position by utilizing readily available raw materials in Saudi Arabia and building up a new production facility in the Middle East region. SABIC will broaden its specialty portfolio by drawing on the technological expertise of MRC.

Commenting on the partnership deal, Masanao Kambara, MRC President, said: “This partnership with SABIC will help us to meet long-term supply commitments to our MMA and PMMA customers. As the global leader we have a responsibility to ensure reliability of supply and this investment will enable us to deliver continuous improvement.”

Koos Van Haasteren, SABIC Executive Vice President, Performance Chemicals, commented that the joint venture operation would be the basis for a strategic entry into the acrylics business. “We will be building on a breakthrough technology, with a strong partnership and integrated feedstock,” he said. “Moreover, the global market for MMA is growing at a rapid pace. New applications are driving this increase in demand and we are committed to meeting our customer growth requirements worldwide”.

The MMA/PMMA joint venture is aligned with Saudi Arabia’s National Industrial Clusters Development Program, which seeks to expand and diversify its manufacturing sector and create opportunities in downstream industries such as construction, automotive, electronics, medical technologies and appliances. It can therefore be concluded that this project will have a positive impact on value creation in Saudi Arabia, enabling industry to move further downstream.