A contract was awarded recently for a $3.5-billion ethylene plant at the Ain Sokhna complex, 120 km east of Cairo.

Egypt is in the throes of a $19-billion petrochemical-plant construction boom. The national strategy, laid out in a 20-year master plan, is to boost domestic production capacities to 600,000 ton per year of ethylene and 1.9 tons per year of polymers, according to the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources.

Currently, Egypt’s petrochemical sector represents 27% of its total industrial production. The 2002-22 plan calls for 14 petrochemical complexes. The 2002-08 first phase involved eight plants valued at $5.6 billion. The second and third phases call for a total of 16 plants, with a total value of $13.4 billion.  A  joint venture of South Korea's SK Engineering and Construction Co. Ltd. and Shaw Group Inc., Baton Rouge, La., was awarded a contract in September to construct a $3.5-billion ethylene plant at Ain Sokhna industrial complex, 120 kilometers east of Cairo. The contract is with Egypt's private company, Carbon Holdings.

The ethylene petrochemical complex, north of the Gulf of Suez, will produce 1.35 million tons annually, says the Seoul-based SK Engineering and Construction (SKE&C) in statement.

The agreement comes almost a year after Carbon Holdings awarded Foster Wheeler, which is incorporated in Switzerland but located in Clinton, N.J., a project management contract for the project.

Foster Wheeler is providing technical support and consulting services to Carbon Holdings until a financial agreement is reached, probably by the end of the year. Then, Foster Wheeler will begin overseeing the engineering, procurement and construction process to be executed by the joint venture.

Under the national plan, Egypt has lined up an increased number of major projects as it seeks to shore up its production to meet the annual domestic demand for petrochemical products as well as the need for increased exports. Now in the pipeline is the $3.5-billion naphtha-cracker and olefins complex, to be constructed by a consortium of Egyptian and U.S. firms with financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

Also, Egyptian Methanex Methanol Co., a consortium of five companies led by Methanex, has started construction of a methanol plant at Damietta Port at a cost of $1 billion. It will produce 1.3 tons a year.

Construction is set to begin on Egypt's first-ever ethylbenzene-styrene monomer plant in El Dekila Port, located at the outskirts of Alexandria. It will have a capacity of 300,000 tons per year. Construction is expected to begin late next year on a PET plant that will produce 440,00 tons a year.