With a plethora of proposed petrochemicals projects in the pipeline around the world, it’s not inconceivable to think that there could be an increased global growth driver for gases on the horizon.

As the economic downturn hit hard and the global financial scene changed, a number of project developments were thought to be in doubt as banks reined in their financing proposals.

In the Middle East however, it's thought that a note of optimism is in the air and many companies are still moving onwards with their petrochemical projects.

gasworld has observed keenly, as respected Middle Eastern news agency MEED has delivered a number of encouraging news items from the region.

The trusted news site reports that Saudi Aramco is moving ahead with petrochemicals projects worth $29bn, despite the economic slowdown in the kingdom and the wider region.

Meanwhile, further development of the petrochemicals sector in nearby Kuwait is thought to depend on the development of new gas supplies, according to a senior Kuwait Petroleum Company (KPC) executive.

Among Kuwait's plans for the development of its petrochemicals sector, is a $1.2bn expansion of a third joint venture (JV) olefins complex between Equate and the US' Dow Chemical Company, which is due to be tendered in 2010.

It's believed that the US-Kuwaiti JV will complete the construction of two major petrochemicals plants at Shuaiba in May 2009, according to a report from MEED.

Meanwhile, the US' ExxonMobil Corporation has also indicated that it remains in talks with Qatar Petroleum, over plans to build a 1.3 million tonnes per year (tpy) petrochemical cracker at Ras Laffan. Discussions are thought to be ongoing concerning configuration and design concepts for the project, though the scheme is expected to be finished in 2012.

Access to cheaper feedstock is believed to be part of the reason for the renewed optimism in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, as the region's petrochemical companies steal a march on their international competitors.

Even despite the global financial chaos and a geneal decline in demand across most industries, Saudi petrochemicals producers will apparently see through the major projects that are planned up to 2014.

Figures from MEED Projects estimate that around 81 petrochemical projects are either planned or underway in the kingdom, of which 32 are due for completion in 2009 - with a total value of around $11.6bn