GPIC: staying competitive

GPIC: staying competitive

GPIC: Gearing up for growth

Armed with a revamped strategic plan; a road map laid out to tap new areas of growth, and with a plant turnaround round the corner, GPIC is all charged up to tackle the market instability head on, GPIC president Dr Abdulrahman Jawahery tells Pummy Kaul

January 2018

In order to remain competitive in the challenging global market, Bahrain-based Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (GPIC), has revised and updated its corporate strategic plan ranging till 2020 to GPIC Corporate Strategy 2030.

“We revamped our Vision, Mission and Core values to be in line with our future aspirations and stakeholders needs and updated our corporate strategy 2020 to GPIC Corporate strategy 2030,” GPIC President Dr Abdulrahman Jawahery told the Gulf Industry in an exclusive interview.

Admitting that 2016 and 2017 have been very challenging for GPIC, Dr Jawahery said: “The continuity of market instability, financial crunch and escalating energy costs has provided GPIC a golden opportunity to come up with an innovative business strategy knowing that business as usual will not be sustainable.”

The new GPIC Corporate Strategy Plan 2030, has been approved by the company’s board of directors (BOD) and a high level council, GPIC 2030 Strategy Implementation Council (SIC) has been formed to ensure the implementation of the new strategic plan.

“We are tapping in potential areas of growth, including debottlenecking of our existing facilities for improved energy efficiency and enhanced production capacities. We have also embarked on a new $8.8 million Urea Formaldehyde (UF 85) plant at our existing site to make the supply chain of our raw materials and chemicals more robust and sustainable,” he said.

In addition, GPIC has also started export of methanol to downstream industry in Bahrain, he revealed.



The contract for a 22 metric tonnes per day (mtpd) Urea Formaldehyde (UF-85) plant has been awarded to JGC Gulf International Company, Saudi Arabia at a lump sum cost of $13 million. The actual production is expected to start during the third quarter of 2018.

The project, which would contribute in securing GPIC’s needs of raw materials and chemicals for manufacturing process would manufacture Urea Formaldehyde, a necessary and key component in the production and manufacture of urea granules. GPIC now imports this from other countries.

“The project reflects our commitment towards society while ensuring sustainability of its operation through economic efficiency, effective use of its products, conservation of natural resources, minimising impacts on environment and bio-diversity,” Dr Jawahery said.

According to him, this plant will be designed and constructed for GPIC’s captive consumption, making the existing operation more reliable without being dependent on the external agency.

The new plant would run at low cost to produce the critical raw material needed for urea manufacture.

Dr Jawahery: GPIC has continued to build on its success

Dr Jawahery: GPIC has continued to build on its success

In 2017, GPIC was also among the first industrial organisations in the Kingdom of Bahrain to acquire the “Port Operator License” in July 2017 by the Ports & Maritime Navigation Affairs.  This license allows GPIC to solely operate and manage its jetty for the export of urea to the international market.

“This license provides our stakeholders and clients clear assurance that GPIC’s Marine Terminal was built to the highest international standards for export terminals, and meets all marine and industrial safety requirement for loading large bulk carriers,” he said. 



GPIC, which plans to carry out a total turnaround of its plant early this year, said its projected production and exports for 2018 is expected to be less compared to 2017. The turnaround of the plant, which has been in operation for almost three years continuously, will be carried out in the first quarter of 2018, Dr Jawahery revealed.

“The total planned production of ammonia, urea and methanol in 2018 will be 1.48 million tonnes, out of which 1.12 million tonnes will be available for export,” he said.

GPIC’s total production capacity sits at 1.6 million tonnes (mt), with roughly 40 per cent being urea, followed by ammonia and methanol around the same capacity percentage. Its 2017, production of urea reached 699,596 mt, followed by ammonia at 464,227 mt and methanol at 442,327 mt respectively.

“Our output capacity for 2018 as it stands, reflects just over 640,300 mt for urea, with methanol at an expected 418,640 mt and ammonia at 425,000 mt.  Of course, our major turnaround is planned for the first quarter of 2018 and therefore our capacity output in 2018 reflects these differences in production figures,” he added.

GPIC implements a process of overhaul to its plants every two years, in cooperation with manufacturers and international and local specialists. The company imports the latest equipment and devices to perform these operations, as well as coordinating with various government agencies and private institutions to facilitate and secure processes and access and transfer equipment. Throughout these complex procedures, the most important issue is the maximum security and safety for all participants.



The company is exploring new opportunities for its exports across the globe, following a dramatic swing witnessed in the traditional markets.

“The traditional markets have witnessed a dramatic shift and the company is exploring potential new emerging opportunities and customers coming to the front from a number of key regions around the globe,” Dr Jawahery said.

GPIC exported a total of 1.23 mt of ammonia, urea and methanol in 2017, representing an increase of 4.2 per cent over 2016. Taiwan was the largest market with 17 per cent, followed by India and the US by 14 per cent and 12 per cent respectively.

“Markets like Taiwan, India, the US, Brazil and countries in East Asia have shown sound and growing trends in imports for GPIC’s products, whilst more traditional markets have witnessed an internal consolidation of their imports in general, resulting in a shift in market purchasing patterns,” he  revealed.

GPIC Board and management: the driving force

GPIC Board and management: the driving force

The company’s exports records by product showed 454,667 mt of methanol, 6.3 per cent over 2016; 709,791 mt of urea, 3.9 per cent over 2016 and 74,021 mt of ammonia, 14 per cent more than what it planned to export during the last year. The products were shipped by 72 vessels to their final destinations, he added.



GPIC, which generally budgets around BD20 million ($53 million) each year to undertake its short-term and long-term capex projects, said that due to volatile markets and global economic instability, it consolidated and prioritised its capex investment in 2017.

“The volatile markets and global economic instability have resulted in all companies across every industry, consolidating their costs.  GPIC is by no means immune to these factors either, and has during the course of 2017 consolidated and prioritised its capex investment accordingly,” Dr Jawahery said.

However, the planned overhaul of its plants is leading the company to enhance its capex investment substantially.

“Of course, early this year we have our planned major turnaround and, capex investment in the enhancement of our entire facility and operations, is substantial,” he said.

“Our four key categories of investment in terms of capex are: Safety, Health & Environment; Reliability; Information Technology and, Administration.  We have a number of short-term and long-term capex projects within each of these categories and also, every turnaround we plan, involves independent Inspectors and Insurance Surveyors who give guidance on areas of our plant operations we could seek to improve in the future,” he elaborated.  

The company also continues to undertake a number of Reliability Capex projects throughout its plants such as replacing the Synthesis loop Waste Heat Boiler in its ammonia plant; upgrading obsolete Honeywell Experion DCS Hardware for all plants; replacement of Poly Ethylene lined Urea Sea Water header with cement lining, Replacing Ammonia and Methanol Reformer tubes spring supports with improved design, and replacement of Ceramic Wool Blanket Insulation on the North and West walls of its Ammonia Primary Reformer.

“We have of course, in earlier years, carried out a major debottlenecking initiative, installed a Carbon Dioxide Recovery plant and replaced various components of our plants to conserve energy and enhance reliability,” he added.

Elaborating further on the impact of low oil prices on GPIC, Dr Jawahery said: “GPIC produces three main products, two of which granular urea and ammonia are classified as nitrogenous fertilizers while the third one methanol is regarded as a petrochemical. All the three GPIC products need natural gas as a direct feedstock for their production.

“Historically speaking natural gas has generally correlated to the International crude oil prices.  In recent years, the falling crude oil prices have significantly affected the natural gas based petrochemical industry creating several challenges for companies especially those that are planning new investments. The volatile crude oil market has dramatically affected the petrochemical feedstock choices, trade patterns, capital spending plans, new plant locations, operating rates, and production technologies.

“Methanol is a glaring example of how a discreet petrochemical, which is not even a downstream product of crude oil suddenly  got closely connected crude oil price dynamics and the overall energy complex through the emergence and growth of the methanol-to-olefins (MTO) industry in China.

“Already the largest methanol consumer in the world, MTO now makes up around a third of the China market’s demand, accounting for more than 17 million tonnes/year. Plants that produce ethylene and propylene (MTO) as well as some that produce only propylene (MTP) compete with traditional naphtha crackers in the olefins market. When crude oil prices decrease, so too do those of ethylene and propylene, and methanol must also compete with a cheaper naphtha feedstock.

“This competition creates a ceiling price for methanol in China, above which the increasingly important MTO demand will disappear. And while MTO only currently exists in China, the huge size and influence of the Chinese market means that the link created by it between methanol and crude oil effectively also holds true for the rest of the global market. Crude oil has thus become what is essentially a substitute feedstock for methanol. Yet it also has the ability to influence the methanol market by impacting demand.”



In 2017, GPIC continued to build on its success and received recognition for its relentless and driven attitude to sustainability, corporate social responsibility and beyond excellence results.

GPIC was recognised with the coveted ‘Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’ Gold Category (RoSPA) Award; the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Business Innovation Award (1st Cycle) and its Business Excellence Award (9th Cycle) Award in 2017. 

More recently, the company also received, the Saudi Arabia Award for Environmental Management in the private sector by the Rabat, Morocco-based Agricultural Management Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO). 

GPIC also launched the third installment of their Green Drive initiative in support of the United Nations Green Wave Initiative and continues to lead the industry in environmental best practice.

The company has also ensured the highest standards in women empowerment and continues to work very closely with the Supreme Council for Women to deliver a first class strategy in this regard.



GPIC achieved well over 22 million accident-free man-hours in 2015 and in 2017 so far, it has reached over 24.5 million accident free hours.

“The company’s Safety, Health and Environmental (SHE) achievements continue to shape the industry’s standards in the region and globally,” he added.

The table top exercises conducted each year are evidenced in the company’s record of 24.5 million safe man-hours to date for its workforce and contractors without any lost time accident reaching over 5,400 days.                       

According to him, the highest standards in safety training continues to be provided  each year in GPIC to both operational and non-operational personnel and the company also focuses strongly on the training of contractors to the same standards through the development of its unique state of the art training programme called IMIST (The international Minimum Industry Safety Training). This certified training tool is being used at GPIC to enhance the safety knowledge and capacity building of contractors. Through this platform a number of contractors have been trained, which will go a long way in enhancing contractor safety at GPIC and the industry in general.

Furthermore, Integrated SHE and environmental audits are continuously carried out throughout the year and GPIC has furthered its corporate social responsibility through the continued teaching and lectures it conducts in schools, universities and on behalf of the Ministry of Education, the total number of students benefiting from this programme has crossed 27,500 since 2001.   

During the year 2017, the company also undertook a series of targeted cost optimisation projects initiated by every department across the organisation. This resulted in further enhancements to processes, systems and cost effective operational practices of the company.

GPIC holds many ISO certifications reflecting this aptitude for excellence, such as: ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management; ISO 22301:2012 Business Continuity Management; ISO 50001:2011 Energy Management System;  OHSAS 18001: 2007 Occupational Health & Safety Management; ISO / IEC 27001:2013 Information Security Management; Responsible Care  14001:2013 & ISO 14001:2004, to name a few.

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