Chemical and petrochemical decade

An entire ecosystem is required to ensure the efficient workings of a gas-based economy. This involves the downstream side of the business, such as fertilisers, as well as value-added services like marketing and promotions. Whatever the stripe of the business, in Qatar it is big business. Daniel Cliff reports

Gas is big business. Downstream gas industries are big business. Getting the products to market is big business too. Naturally enough, for a sector that plays so dominant a role in the Qatari economy, the Government has a big hand in making sure that all sectors are profitable, modern and the most competitive that they can be.

Qatar is currently exploring and evaluating various potential opportunities to establish value added projects and industries, diversifying the national economy and providing high tech jobs. These projects and industries will make available the needed raw material feedstock for the petrochemicals conversion projects that will be developed by the private sector.

Alwaseeta, also known as Qatar Intermediate Industries Company, is a big part of the gas infrastructure jigsaw. Ali Hassan Al-Sidiky, vice chairman and managing director of Alwaseeta says, “We are really the missing link between the primary industry, which is handled by Qatar Petroleum and the Qatari government and the secondary downstream industry managed by the private sector. We link
the two together. We used to be called Qatar Holding and rebranded as Alwaseeta, which means ‘intermediate’ in Arabic, to share this message.” Without doubt the rebranding has helped Alwaseeta in establishing a distinct identity in intermediate industries and the greater economy of the region.

Alwaseeta was conceptualised by QP and established by the Supreme Council of Ministers in 2005 with instructions to identify, invest in, build and develop a broad-range of intermediate and downstream industrial projects. The aim is to contribute to the transformation of Qatar’s business landscape into manufacturing and industrial clusters that produce a wide range of products destined for local, regional and global markets and for the use of the private sector.

“Any product that comes out of petrochemicals used to be exported, but since 2011 some of these products have been allocated locally and developed further into intermediate industries. Muntajat, the marketing firm, takes some of the products and markets them. Some of them come to us and we use them as feedstock to develop further intermediate products. Other products include metals. Qatalum is a primary company specialising in aluminium. We are developing projects to use Qatalaum’s products to produce downstream derivatives of aluminium that can then be made into consumer products,” says Al-Sidiky.

One of the core drivers behind Alwaseeta is a constant search to see how it can help in the diversification of the Qatari economy. “We try to develop intermediate industries that use high technology and produce high quality but varied intermediate products,” Al-Sidiky adds. In doing so the firm aims to create more opportunities in the private sector among local companies to develop more business and to enhance their businesses using Alwaseeta products and benefit end users. The net result is growth in the local economy allowing firms to import less and use locally made and locally sourced products. Since Qatar is rich in resources, this inevitably means identifying projects that use raw materials that are readily available in Qatar.

“We are always looking for self-sustaining business opportunities,” says Al-Sidiky. “The core areas we look at are both hydrocarbon resources and non-hydrocarbon. In non-hydrocarbons, Alwaseeta is targeting metals, particularly aluminium, new technology and ‘green’ environmentally-friendly technology.”

In line with Qatar National vision 2030, it is critical that Alwaseeta ensures that its green footprint is fully in line with international standards. This involves a complex system of checks and measure to ensure that all the major boxes are ticked in terms of environmentally aware business practices. This covers sectors like waste management where Alwaseeta uses a waste-to-energy conversion process to extract natural gas and then uses waste trucks fuelled by compressed LNG. “While evaluating technology, we ensure that waste generation is kept to a minimum,” says Al-Sidiky. “We also aim to eliminate landfill and incineration using the latest environmentally friendly processes.”

As with every fast growing sector in Qatar, the search for overseas partners who can bring expertise and technology to bear continues. Al-Sidiky adds, “We are always looking for foreign partners who can bring technology to bear and help reduce the cost of our projects, especially in the downstream sector. This is tough sometimes with issues around JVs and patents and IP and so on but we are trying to manage these through incentives and partnership structures.

Indeed the list of JVs undertaken by Alwaseeta is impressive: SEEF, Qatar Melamine Company and Gasal. There is no secret to how Alwaseeta chooses its partners. “We look for partners, who can bring both technology and financing to the table,” says Al-Sidiky. “We are always happy to talk to partners who are interested in expanding their market in the Middle East region in association with us. Our evaluation is done on the basis of the value addition and what it would create in terms of technology, operational expertise and niche market. Naturally we also undertake thorough due diligence before selecting a partner.”

As with all Qatari firms, there is a strong encouragement that jobs are found for promising young nationals and this process is known as Qatarisation. How Alwaseeta ensures that this drive becomes a natural part of its growth pattern is also no secret. The firm endeavours to use high tech systems in order to create best working environment to develop young talent. This message is spread constantly by the firm using recruitment drives in local high schools and colleges while also making sure the firm has a high profile presence in the many career fairs that take place throughout the year in Qatar.