Gulf petchems warned over water consumption

Gulf petchem producers need to conserve more water, says industry body.

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Gulf petrochemicals producers need to save more water resources to avoid facing strict regulations in the future, a top industry group has warned.

Water consumption by the GCC petrochemicals industry increased by 3.5 per cent last year to 1.16 trillion cubic metres, compared with 1.12 trillion cubic metres in 2010, the report from the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) showed.

Last year, the United Nations World Water Development Report said that the growth in population and consumption in the Middle East threatened the quality and quantity of available water in the region.

“The industry’s capacity has grown by more than 12 per cent over the last two years. However, GCC petrochemical companies should take steps to conserve water due to the scarcity of this finite resource in the region,” said Abdulwahab Al Sadoun, the secretary general of the GPCA.

The petrochemical industry in GCC uses significant volumes of water – either from underground sources or desalination – for producing petrochemicals or for cooling purposes.

“The sector is dependent on water in nearly every aspect of its value chain,” said Mr Al Sadoun.

He also called for GCC petrochemical producers to develop immediate strategies to conserve water.

“If the GCC leaders pass regulations on water conservation tomorrow, it will be very difficult for the region’s petrochemical producers to change their procedures overnight,” he added.

However, the region’s petrochemical producers have already taken some steps in water preservation.

The UAE’s Borouge, which uses more than a billion cubic metres of water to produce plastics, has saved 24 million cubic metres of fresh water over the past two years. The water saving was a result of introducing cold sea water, sourced from the local utilities plant, in their manufacturing processes.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Sabic has a water management system that is focused on minimising the use of fresh water. The company recycles a large percentage of water in its operations, which led to saving one million cubic metres of fresh water between 2011 and 2012, according to the report.