World's 10 largest petrochemicals companies

The biggest players currently operating in the downstream sector

BASF, Chevron Phillips, Dow Chemical, DuPont, ExxonMobil Chemical, Formosa Plastics Corporation, INEOS, LyondellBasell Industries, SABIC, Saudi Aramco, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, Sumitomo Chemical, World's 10 largest petrochemicals companies, SPECIAL REPORTS, Top 10...

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It is highly likely that the CEO’s of most petrochemical companies will be pleased to see the back of 2009. This year has been a true annus horribilis for a sector ravaged by a huge drop in demand for its products due to the global economic slowdown that has happened over the past 12 months.

However, most of the big players are still making a profit, just not as big as the profits they made over the past two or three boom years. Other positive factors include lower oil prices meaning lower feedstock prices and the drop in the cost of raw materials has meant that many companies have been able to trim billions of dollars from major projects.

So with the positives rather than the negatives in mind brings you the top 10 world’s largest petrochemicals companies.

Compiling the list has proved to be difficult on occasion due to many chemicals companies being so diversified as to making it impossible to separate the petrochemicals side from the rest.

For that reason a few major companies within the sector have either failed to make the list, apologies to Bayer and Mitsubishi Chemical, or who have been relegated down the list despite having larger 2008 revenues than others further up, DuPont.

The list is based on the 2008 revenues and therefore excludes any companies owned outright by governments. Sites used to source information included all of the company websites and annual reports.

If you agree with the list or think we've left acomapny out, please leave a comment below.

  1. BASF (Germany)
  2. Dow Chemical (USA)
  3. ExxonMobil Chemical (USA)
  4. LyondellBasell Industries (Netherlands)
  5. INEOS (UK)
  6. Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Saudi Arabia)
  7. Formosa Plastics Corporation (Taiwan)
  8. Sumitomo Chemical (Japan)
  9. DuPont (USA)
  10. Chevron Phillips (USA)

(Germany - $62.30 billion)

Anyone who has ever owned a cassette recorder will be familiar with the name, but the company abandoned it’s consumer products in the 1990’s. The move has obviously paid dividends because the German company is now the world’s largest producer of chemicals.

Employing over 96,000 people worldwide, it has over 160 subsidiaries and joint ventures with customers in almost 200 countries. Not bad going for a company founded in 1885 to produce dyes.

The company itself says that its petrochemicals division is the backbone of BASF’s value-adding chain. Products such as ethylene, propylene, butadiene and benzene are produced in steam crackers from naphtha or natural gas at facility’s the company has built around the world.

Covering a wide range of industries across the petrochemicals sector BASF also has interests in oil and gas through Wintershall Holdings AG and Russian energy company Gazprom.

2. Dow Chemical
(USA - $57.51 billion)

Founded by Canadian chemist Herbert Henry Dow in 1897, the US-based company is a major provider of a wide range of chemical products and is the world’s largest supplier of plastics including polystyrene, polyurethanes, polyethylene and polypropylene.

The company has a presence in 175 countries and employs 46,000 people worldwide. Dow has a strong presence in the Middle East with a number of high profile joint ventures with some of the region’s major players.

Dow was recently in the news after K-Dow Petrochemicals, the US$17.4 billion joint venture between the company and a subsidiary of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC), was cancelled by KPC citing the global economic slowdown. The two companies are now locked in litigation with Dow asking for compensation of at least $2.5 billion.

3. ExxonMobil Chemical
(USA - $55 billion)

ExxonMobil Chemical is a subsidiary of the US energy giant and is an integrated manufacturer and global marketer of olefins, aromatics, fluids, synthetic rubber, polyethylene, polypropylene, oriented polypropylene packaging films, plasticizers, synthetic lubricant basestocks, additives for fuels and lubricants, zeolite catalysts and other petrochemical products.

Being active in all aspects of the hydrocarbons industry allows ExxonMobil many advantages not open to its direct competitors. Its major plants are integrated with refineries meaning that it can employ the most economic feedstocks and cost effective operations.

The company has manufacturing locations in more than 20 countries and its products marketed in more than 150 countries.

ExxonMobil Chemicals also has a number of high level joint ventures such as the
Saudi Yanbu Petrochemical Company (Yanpet) facility, a 50/50-joint venture with SABIC that produces more than 1.6 million metric tons of ethylene and more than two million metric tons of derivative products annually.

4. LyondellBasell Industries (LBI)
(Netherlands - $51 billion)

LBI is a privately-held company headquartered in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The company was formed in December 2007 after Lyondell Chemical was bought by Basell Polyolefins for $12.7 billion.

The company refines crude oil, produces gasoline blending components, manufactures petrochemicals and polymers, including polyolefins and advanced polyolefins; and develops technologies for the production of polymers. LBI owns around 9,600 patents worldwide.

LBI has 60 manufacturing sites in 19 countries worldwide and employs more than 15,000 people. The company has a number of joint ventures in the Middle East including the Saudi Polyolefins Company, the Saudi Ethylene and Polyethylene Company and Al-Waha Petrochemical Company, all in Saudi Arabia.

However, not all is good for LBI, in January the company’s US operations filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to restructure debts.

(UK - $47 billion)

The privately owned UK chemicals company is a relative newcomer starter to the petrochemicals industry.

Formed in 1997 to effect a management buyout of a former BP petrochemicals facility in Belgium INEOS has expanded exponentially over the last decade by purchasing several other businesses belonging to companies such as Amoco, BASF, ICI, Dow Chemical, Solvay and UCB.

The company is now a global manufacturer of petrochemicals, specialty chemicals and oil products and comprises 17 businesses. Its production network spans 64 manufacturing facilities in 14 countries throughout the world and INEOS employs 15,500 employees.

The company has no real interests in the Middle East, but has a number of facilities in other Asian countries including India, Thailand and China.

6. Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC)
(Saudi Arabia - $37.66 billion)

SABIC will need no introduction to anyone from the Middle East. The Saudi Arabian petrochemicals company sneaks onto the list seeing as it is listed on the Saudi stock exchange although 70% of it is still owned by the Saudi government.

The company was founded in 1976 to process some of the huge amounts of Saudi Arabian oil byproducts into chemicals. Its rise has been meteoric due to both acquisitions and internal expansion and it now processes 42 million metric tonnes and employs 16,000 workers worldwide.

The company acquired the US company GE Plastics in 2007, paying a $11.6 billion cash. The company was renamed to SABIC Innovative Plastics. The move was not a total success however.

The company’s vice chairman and CEO Mohamed Al-Mady admitted earlier this year that it may have got the timing wrong and paid over the odds. This was confirmed when the company announced a $315 million goodwill impairment charge in their last quarterly figures.

7. Formosa Plastics Corporation
(Taiwan - $31.5 billion)

The Taiwanese company was founded in 1954 and, when formed, was the world’s smallest PVC production facility. It would be a massive understatement to say that the company has grown slightly since then.

Formosa Plastics is now the largest manufacturer of PVC resins in the world as well as polypropylene and polyethylene resins, caustic and ethylene dichloride, polyolefins, olefins, EVA/LDPE and LLDPE. Basically anything plastic to come out of China and Taiwan probably started life in one of Formosa’s factories.

The company has a total of 94,000 employees worldwide and has assets in excess of $85 billion. While not particularly active in the Middle East the company has major interests in the US.

8. Sumitomo Chemical
(Japan - $16.65 billion)

Founded in 1913, Sumitomo Chemical is part of the Japanese conglomerate, or keiretsu as it is known in Japan, the Sumitomo Group, which began life in1630 when a certain Masatomo Sumitomo opened a store selling medicine and books.

The company produces a wide range of petrochemical products including polyethylene, polypropylene, propylene oxide and styrene monomer as well as resins such as polymer alloys. It employs around 25,000 employees.

Sumitomo also has extensive interests in the Middle East the largest of which is Petro Rabigh, the joint venture with Saudi Aramco.

When the US$10 billion project is completed it will be one of the largest integrated refining and petrochemical facilities in the world producing around 1.3 million metric tons per annum (mtpa) of ethylene, 900,000 mtpa of propylene, as well as 60,000 barrels of gasoline per day. Petrochemical units will convert all of the olefin production to downstream products.

Sumitomo and Aramco each own 37.5% of the project while the remaining 25% was made available as a public offering.

9. DuPont
(USA - $31.83 billion)

Even though DuPont has been moving away from the hydrocarbons industry for the past 10-15 years and now calls itself a “global science” company, the vast amount of petrochemicals it still produces is still enough for it to make the list – albeit lower down that its revenues suggest.

The American company led the polymers revolution in the early part of the last century and its range of engineering polymers, ethylene copolymers, fluoropolymers, films and sheets and polymer modifiers are used across the automotive, electrical and industrial industries.

The company employs more than 60,000 people and operates in 70 countries worldwide. In 1999 it sold its it’s shares in oil and gas producer Conoco Inc to Phillips Petroleum.

10. Chevron Phillips
(US - $13 billion)

There are no prizes for guessing Chevron Phillips is jointly owned by the two US hydrocarbon giants Chevron Corporation and ConocoPhillips. Formed in 2001 the 50/50 venture is governed by a board of directors composed of two members from each of the parent companies.

The company was actually named in a coin toss to determine which parent company name would be first and which would be last.

Headquartered in Houston Texas, Chevron Phillips is a major producer of ethylene, propylene, polyethylene, polypropylene, K-Resin SBC, Ryton polyphenylene sulfide (PPS), alpha-olefins, polyalphaolefins, aromatic compounds and a range of specialty chemicals.

The chemicals the company produces are used in over 70,000 consumer and industrial products.

The company has 4800 employees and operates 37 manufacturing and research centres.

Notable facilities in the Middle East include three world scale plants in Qatar and a recently expanded plant in Al Jubail that is one of the largest styrene factories in the world.


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