Qatar is the second top global exporter of urea, Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) said and noted urea constitutes the biggest share of GCC agri-nutrient production, accounting for 43.6% of its total in 2022.

Three other GCC countries - Saudi Arabia, Oman and UAE also rank among the global top 10 for urea exports, GPCA said in an update.

According to GPCA, Saudi Arabia is the 5th largest global exporter followed by Oman (6) and UAE (9).

Being an export-oriented and natural gas abundant region, the GCC stands as one of the primary global producers and exporters of urea, GPCA noted.

GCC’s top five urea export partners (as of 2022) were India ($3.18bn), followed by Brazil ($2.33bn), US ($1.67bn), Australia ($1.43bn) and Turkey ($1.01bn), the update showed.

It said Qatar’s urea production will scale up with the commencement of operations of the new Ammonia-7 plant, expected in 2026.

QatarEnergy will develop and manage an integrated CCS in the new Ammonia-7 plant, which is expected to sequester 1.5mn tons of CO2 per year that can be used in the production of sustainable fertilisers, including urea.

Total global production of urea in 2022 stood at 180mn tons. Global urea market demand stood at $131.54bn in 2022.

Global urea production capacity is projected to grow at a CAGR of 5.15% between 2021 and 2030.

Urea accounts for approximately 62% of the global demand for nitrogen fertilisers. The Asia-Pacific region dominates the global urea market, accounting for 45% of total global production in 2022.

According to GPCA, the first fertiliser plant in the GCC commenced operations in 1966, when Petrochemical Industries Company (PIC) started up in Kuwait with a capacity of 200,750tons per year (tpy) of urea and ammonia.

Qatar’s foray into urea production was in 1973, when Qatar Fertiliser Company (Qafco)’s first fertiliser plant commenced operations with a capacity of 365,000 tpy of urea.

Qafco 3 plant came to life in 1997. This plant doubled Qafco’s existing urea capacity, producing 730,000 tpy.

Qafco 4 plant entered production in 2004. This increased Qafco’s urea production capacity to 2.993mn tpy.

Qafco’s 5th plant, completed in 2011, boosted the Qatari company’s urea production capacity to 4.3 mtpy.

GCC has “competitive advantages” for urea production and exports owing to its strategic location and competitive and abundant natural gas resources, GPCA noted.

The GCC’s strategic export location, situated in between both Europe and the Far-East allows for shipments to key international markets.

The GCC is home to an immense quantity of natural gas, with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE ranking in the global top 10 for natural gas reserves. Its abundance sees the GCC benefit from low cost of urea production, GPCA said.

According to Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association, urea contributes to GCC economic diversification by reducing dependence on oil revenue, creating jobs and industrial development and providing value addition.

The GCC’s reliance on oil-based exports exposes the region to market volatility. By diversifying their economies through using natural gas, an alternative revenue stream is provided that is less susceptible to oil price fluctuations.

By investing in urea production, GCC countries can create employment opportunities and develop a pool of skilled workers capable of contributing to a more proficient urea industry.

Urea production represents a value-added industry that allows GCC countries to add value to their natural gas reserves by using them as a feedstock for urea production, GPCA added.

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