Middle East may build polysilicon plants - Fluor

27 March 2009 22:10  [Source: ICIS news]

NEW YORK (ICIS news)--The Middle East may soon announce plans to build its first polysilicon plant, with others to follow, an executive with US construction and engineering firm Fluor said on Friday.

“The Middle East has a lot of the right components to be another really good market for solar,” said Peter Oosterveer, Fluor’s new group president of energy and chemicals.

Polysilicon is a key raw material in the manufacture of photovoltaic cells, which convert solar energy to electricity.

Demand for the material has grown quickly in recent years. That, in turn, has led to a number of construction projects focused on polysilicon manufacturing.

Fluor has had a hand in many of them, and the segment accounted for 35% of the company’s $5bn (€3.7bn) chemicals backlog at the end of 2008, according to Oosterveer.

Although there are opportunities for polysilicon plants in both Abu Dhabi and Qatar, Fluor is focusing on Saudi Arabia, where it has a strong presence, he said.

“The parties we have started to work with are predominantly people we know from within Saudi Arabia,” he said. “For instance, small chemical companies or people in senior positions within chemical companies who are doing something on the side.”

Saudi Arabia has very good infrastructure, including a large base of operational experience and capabilities in chemical manufacturing, Oosterveer said. Also, the government is encouraging diversification into specialty chemicals, and capital is readily available.

Fluor has already worked on two polysilicon projects for Saudi Arabian customers that were cancelled, but another, which will have a capacity of about 5,000 tonnes/year, is in the works and may be announced soon, he said. The sponsor of the project is a new joint venture between a western company and two Saudi Arabian partners.

There are currently no polysilicon plants in the Middle East, according to the Fluor executive.

“I think Saudi Arabia will be the first to do it at any meaningful scale,” he added.

($1 = €0.74)

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By: Clay Boswell
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