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Saudis erecting key industrial city in 'dunedocks'

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In the early 1970s it was just a backwater Arabian Gulf fishing town with a population of 8,000 and not much more than sand dunes and salt flats to the south, west and north. Today, Al Jubayl is fast on its way to becoming one of Saudi Arabia's major industrial cities.

Perhaps only in Saudi Arabia, where 1980 oil revenues are estimated to have exceeded $100 billion, could a government undertake to construct an entire industrial city from scratch.

Jubayl industrial city, a planned complex of 80 square kilometers (32 square miles) of primary and secondary industries complete with an airport, seaport, 500 kilometers (320 miles) of roads, and a residential area to house 373,000, is rising from the desert north of old Jubayl to assist the government in squeezing every last riyal out of each barrel of Saudi crude.

The concept was the dream and vision of the late King Faisal, who advocated rapid industrialization and a plan to better utilize natural gas associated with crude oil production. These gases had been flared for years.

Under the government program, the associated gases -- methane, ethane, butane , propane, and natural gasoline -- will be collected and used as fuel, for desalination plants, power generation and industries, and as feedstock for petrochemical complexes. In addition, butane, propane, and natural gasoline will be exported.

Specifically, the gas program will supply Jubayl with methane for a 500,000 -ton-a-year fertilizer plant and two methanol plants each with 650,000 -ton-a-year capacity; and ethane for four planned ethylene and polyethylene plants with production ranging from 260,000 tons per year to 656,000 tons.

A steel mill is also planned to take advantage of cheap and abundant gas as fuel for its expected production of 850,000 tons a year.

Plans also call for construction of three large export oil refineries.

After these so-called industries are established, expected to go on stream in the mid-'80s, the government's Ministry of Industry and Electricity will oversee private development of manufacturing and fabricating facilities for plastics and steel products into consumer goods.

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