(EnergyAsia, April 5 2012, Thursday) — China’s Sinopec and Saudi Arabia’s SABIC have begun work on building a 260,000-tonne/year polycarbonate plant in China’s Tianjin city.

Their equal joint venture firm, Sinopec SABIC Tianjin Petrochemical Company (SSTPC), is investing RMB11 billion to develop a petrochemical complex on a 67-hectare plot in the Tianjin Binhai New Area. (US$1=RMB6.3).

Comprising two 130,000 tonnes/year units of phosgene free production systems, the new plant is expected to start up in 2015. It can produce four major classes of polycarbonate, including the mixed grade, extrusion grade, optical grade, and molding grade polycarbonate.

SABIC said the plant will use the world’s leading non-phosgene polycarbonate manufacturing technology that meets with China’s national energy savings targets and carbon emissions policy.

The groundbreak ceremony earlier this week was attended by Saudi and Chinese officials including Prince Saud, SABIC’s chairman, Mohamed Al-Mady, SABIC’s vice chairman and CEO, Fu Chengyu, Sinopec’s chairman, Wang Tianpu, Sinopec vice chairman and President, and Zhang Gao Li, a senior member of the Communist Part of China’s Central Committee and Tianjin Party Secretary.

Established in October 2009, SSTPC started up its first petrochemical plant with a capacity to produce one million metric tonnes of ethylene a year in January 2010.

Mr Fu said: “This project is the fruitful result of the cooperation between Sinopec and SABIC. It is also an important move for Sinopec to adjust our product mix, to elevate our target product market, and to expedite the change of the ways of economic developments. The construction of the complex will further enhance the competitiveness and lead China’s way in the petrochemical sector.

“It also brings both parties to form a closer tie in strategic cooperation, as well as to tighten the bilateral relations between China and Saudi Arabia.”

Prince Saud said: “(This) ground-breaking ceremony is an important milestone for SABIC. It marks another collaboration we have with Sinopec, and our closer connection with the Chinese people. SABIC and Sinopec have shared ambitions of establishing long-term strategic partnership that contributes towards enriching the economies of Saudi Arabia and China in the areas of scientific research, technology, reform and product marketing.”

Polycarbonate, an engineering plastic with high purity and transparency properties, is widely used in automotive parts, home appliances, and information technology, building material and medical products.

China relied on imports to meet the bulk of its 1.13 million metric tonnes of polycarbonate that it consumed in 2010.

SABIC estimates that Chinese demand for polycarbonate will reach 1.78 million metric tonnes by 2015, for an average annual increase of nearly 10%.