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Written by: Staff
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SAN ANTONIO, Mar 28 (Reuters) The petrochemical industry will shift from the West to Asia in the 21st century because of the surging economies of China and India, Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of India's Reliance Industries Ltd. said on Monday.

By 2050, the world petrochemical industry will grow at least ten-fold in income, Ambani said in a speech at the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association International Petrochemical Conference.

Currently, the petrochemical industry generates $1.6 trillion in annual revenue, but it is projected to see total revenue grow to $15 trillion to $20 trillion by 2050, he said.

''China and India will, separately and together, unleash an explosion of demand,'' Ambani said. He added that growing Asian economies will enrich billions of people in developing countries who will seek consumer products.

For example, Reliance expects Indian demand for disposable diapers -- the absorbent layers of which are made from petrochemicals -- to go from zero currently to 800 million units within five years.

''If it is Asia today, then the African continent cannot be far behind,'' Ambani said.

Reliance, the No. 3 petrochemical company, is India's biggest private-sector petrochemical company.

The fragmented petrochemical industry will see increasing consolidation as companies try to take advantage of economies of scale, he said.

Those companies will need to follow Reliance's example in building gigantic ''supersite'' refinery and chemical plant complexes that cost between $4 billion and $5 billion each, he said.

Reliance is more than doubling its 620,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery in Jamnagar, India, to 1.3 million bpd in a project being overseen by U.S. engineering company Bechtel Corp.

By contrast, the largest U.S. refinery is Exxon Mobil Corp.'s 564,000 bpd refinery in Baytown, Texas, which also has an adjoining chemical production plant.

The added output at Jamnagar is slated for export overseas, though Ambani did not say if the target market is the United States, as some Indian newspapers have reported.

However, he expects the refinery under construction will eventually switch to supplying India.

''Give it 10 or 12 years, then it will serve the Indian economy,'' Ambani said.

REUTERS PV KP0910

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