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Uzbekistan MTO: plastics in the steppe

DOWNSTREAM CENTRAL ASIA AND CASPIAN

Uzbekistan MTO: plastics in the steppe

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is a man with a mission: to add value to everything he can. Uzbekistan is emerging from its hermit status under the previous president, Islam Karimov, who died in 2016, and since then Mirziyoyev has implemented one reform after another, where the goal has been to make better use of the country’s resources and move the country up the value chain to create better paid jobs for the burgeoning young population.

Source: Intellinews

The most obvious example is the cotton crop, which has traditionally been the country’s bread and butter. A major foreign exchange earner for two decades since the country’s independence in 1991, Mirziyoyev radically banned the export of raw cotton and then privatised the entire sector in 2021, forcing the owners to invest into new machines and move up the value chain to make textiles and thread amongst other things.

Now Mirziyoyev is at it again: Uzbekistan has launched the construction of a petrochemical plant from scratch to supply the country with over a million tonnes per year (tpy) of plastic.

The Gas Chemical Complex MTO (methanol to olefin) Central Asia Karakul Complex is a petrochemical complex being built near the ancient Silk Road city of Bukhara and is a showcase of the “New Uzbekistan” transformation.

The plant will transform methane into methanol and use that as the feedstock to make ethylene, propylene and various polymers (PP, PET, EVA, LDPE and HDPE) that when at full production is expected to make 1.1mn tpy of plastics. The facility will be unique in Central Asia and supply regional markets as well as Uzbekistan’s own domestic market.

The country produces about 30bn cubic metres of gas a year – not quite enough to power its own economy – but it currently imports all its plastics.

The project started in 2019 when the government studied the country’s needs and looked at a total of 47 different types of plastics before settling on five that it intends to make itself, using its own gas production as a feedstock from the Mubarak gas fields. The GCC MTO was formally created by presidential decree in August 2021.

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