Qatar’s Third National Development Strategy (NDS-3) outlines a targeted approach to industrial development between 2024 and 2030. It underscores the value of specialised, high-productivity clusters where Qatar either excels or could develop considerable advantages. More specifically, the NDS-3 advocates for the chemical industry to expand into conventional and blue gasbased petrochemicals. It also proposes the expansion of plastics production. Furthermore, it suggests the metallurgical segment should focus on low-carbon production, with an emphasis on the aluminium industry.

Downstream Potential

Qatar boasts the world’s third-largest confirmed gas reserves, totalling 25trn cu metres as of December 2023. One of the world’s most significant industrial projects, the North Field Expansion (NFE) is set to introduce six new gas liquefaction trains, increasing production by a considerable 60%.

Qatar’s abundant gas resources and increasing production capacity should allow it to maintain a leading role as a global gas supplier. Simultaneously, it provides plentiful feedstock for the chemical and petrochemicals industry. Two major developments in 2023 illustrate this. In November 2023 the owned Chinese firm Sinopec signed a new 27-year liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply and purchase agreement with Qatar’s national energy company, Qatar Energy (QE). As part of the second phase of the NFE project, the companies will supply 3m tonnes of LNG per year to Sinopec.

Additionally, in January 2023 QE announced plans to construct a 2.1m-tonne-per-annum ethylene project in Ras Laffan, in partnership with US-based Chevron Phillips Chemical Company. This $6bn initiative represents the largest investment ever in Qatar’s petrochemicals sector, as well as the first direct investment in 12 years. In addition, the Ras Laffan project includes two polyethylene trains with a combined output capacity of 1.7m tonnes per year of high-density polyethylene polymer products, increasing Qatar’s total petrochemicals production capacity to approximately 14m tonnes annually.

Sustainability Potential

With the NDS-3 targeting blue ammonia and low-carbon metal manufacturing, it is vital for Qatar to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities to enable low-carbon natural gas and blue hydrogen production. Large-scale, concentrated LNG infrastructure is considered ideal for CCS facilities. Moreover, industrial centres like Ras Laffan, with significant manufacturing operations, could benefit from CCS due to the challenging nature of reducing emissions from industries such as steel and aluminium.

Recognising the potential benefits of combining LNG production with CCS, Qatar aims to store more than 11m tonnes of CO₂ annually by 2035. In 2022 QE affiliates Qatar Energy Renewable Solutions and Qatar Fertiliser Company signed agreements for the construction of the Ammonia-7 Project – the largest of its kind globally. This project will sequester some 1.5m tonnes of CO₂ per year. Moreover, the country is enhancing efforts to attract international attention and investment in CCS-related research and applications.

The MENA region’s first-ever CCS forum was held in Qatar in May 2023, and the country is developing local research and development capabilities. For instance, the Qatar-based Gulf Organisation for Research and Development, in partnership with University College London, is working on a project concerning CCS systems for gas-fired combined heat and power stations.

While the NDS-3’s industrial specialisation strategy is rooted in clear advantages, it is important to recognise the increasing global and regional momentum for developing CCS. As of 2022 the Middle East accounted for around 10% of global CO₂ capture capacity across three large-scale commercial facilities. These are Qatar’s Ras Laffan CCS project, Saudi Arabia’s Uthmaniyah CO₂ enhanced oil recovery (EOR) demonstration project and the UAE’s Al Reyadah CO₂ EOR project. In this competitive landscape, it will be important for Qatar to invest in, and apply, technology to supplement its feedstock availability and achieve a leading position.