Posted on November 12, 2019

In light of the auspicious occasion, a gala dinner event marking 50 years of partnership between four giant companies from Norway and Doha’s based QAFCO, was held at the National Museum of Qatar on Monday, November 11th, 2019.

About 250 distinguished guests and representatives gathered in attendance, including the HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, His Excellency Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, Minister of State for Energy Affairs, President and CEO of Qatar Petroleum, Mr. Torbjørn Røe Isaksen Minister of Trade and Industry for Norway and Mr. Abdulrahman M. Al-Suwaidi, CEO of QAFCO to reflect on the successes over the past half-century and the propitious future for the Qatari-Norwegian industrial partnership. Guests and dignitaries were also treated to a special performance by Norwegian artist Eva Weel Skram. The function not only commemorated the semicentennial collaboration, but also celebrated the strengthening of a continued, strategic alliance between the two countries to further develop over the next 50 years to come.

After an abundance of gas resources were found in Qatar in the sixties, YARA, back then a part of Norsk Hydro, signed a joint-venture agreement with the State of Qatar to build a production plant to produce ammonia and urea in Mesaieed, just south of Doha. This led to the truly pioneering establishment of QAFCO (Qatar Fertiliser Company). Progressive to both nations, the formation of QAFCO was one of the first large-scale venture into the petrochemical sector and was also the first major investment a Norwegian company had contracted abroad.

Today, QAFCO is a joint venture owned 25% by YARA and 75% by Industries Qatar (IQ). QAFCO is operating six integrated ammonia-urea plants. With an annual capacity of 3.8 million MT of ammonia and 5.6 million MT of urea, QAFCO is a key player in the global fertilizer market and one of the largest exporters of urea. Yara is a major off taker of high-quality urea from Muntajat, the company that markets, sells and distributes major volumes of fertilizer out of Qatar.

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President and CEO of YARA International, Mr. Svein Tore Holsether commented: “Half of the world’s population depends on fertilizer to have food on the table. The contribution from QAFCO to global food security has been very important, and today the products are exported worldwide. We are committed to working towards sustainable mineral fertilizer production. Yara has taken the lead in developing digital farming tools for precision farming and we work closely with partners throughout the whole food value chain to develop more climate-friendly crop nutrition solutions.”

Today the collaboration has expanded into food production. On Monday 11 November 2019,  Yara, Hassad Food, and QAFCO opened the first high-tech greenhouse in Al Shahaniya to support efforts to increase food production in Qatar. The partnership seeks to increase agricultural yields, in line with Qatar’s aim to achieve self-sufficiency in a reliable and sustainable manner, with a focus on vegetables. YARA is a global leader in crop nutrition and fertigation. The organization offers best-practice farming application methods and leading technologies to support the Qataris in their effort to enable sustainable, local farming of high-quality food products. “Our joint effort will drive Qatari food-production at industrial scale with world class technology. This can inspire the rest of the food-industry, demonstrating what is possible with true collaboration”, expressed Mr. Holsether, President and CEO of Yara International.

Yara International ASA was divested from Hydro in 2004, making it a sheer fertilizer business. Hence Hydro’s ownership in QAFCO was passed on to Yara.  In 1997 Hydro became part-owner in Qatar Vinyl Company (QVC), a petrochemicals company. Ten years later Hydro spun off its petrochemical activities and today Hydro no longer has any ownership stakes in QVC.

In 2004, Hydro was invited to participate in a joint venture, Qatar Aluminum Company (Qatalum) together with Qatar Petroleum, to produce aluminum metal. A final agreement was signed in 2007 and the plant came into operation in 2010. Qatalum was developed as a 50/50 partnership between Hydro and Qatar Petroleum. In 2018, the Qatar Petroleum ownership in Qatalum was listed on the Qatar stock exchange as Qatar Aluminum Manufacturing Company (QAMCO). Qatar Petroleum holds a 51% stake in QAMCO. Qatalum, with an annual production of over 600,000 tonnes of value-add products, became the largest primary aluminium plant ever built in one phase. A fully integrated plant, it consists of a smelter, cast house and carbon plant as well as a dedicated gas-fired power plant. Qatalum joined the four Norwegian companies to host the gala dinner.

“Over the 50-year history in Qatar, Hydro has been the enabler of several world-class industrial projects and the first industrial partner to Qatar offering access to leading technologies as well as world-class competence and resources in engineering, construction, operation and commercial activities. The focus has been in efficiently and innovating natural resources into various products and solutions. Every day we strive to make aluminum part of the solution to the greatest challenge of our time,” said Mrs. Hilde Merete Aasheim, CEO of Hydro. “Since aluminum is light weighted, it reduces energy consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases when it is used in automotive, transportation, building & construction, packaging and other applications. It is 100% renewable. For recycling it requires only 5% of the energy needed to produce the metal the first time around. Its strength, flexibility and longevity make it a sustainable material that makes products last for generations. We believe aluminum is the metal of the future.”

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Hydro is the only fully integrated company in the global aluminum industry, with operations in 40 countries all over the world. By combining local expertise, worldwide reach and highly recognized capabilities in R&D, our 35,000 employees create innovative aluminum solutions throughout the value chain. KONGSBERG is a global technology power house determined to create innovative solutions and technologies to make a difference for their partners and customers. In 2017, together with Barzan Holdings, KONGSBERG established a new company for technology development programs. The company, BK Systems, has its main office in Qatar Science & Technology Park, a leading international innovation hub, where KONGSBERG holds the CEO position.

Mr. Geir Håøy, President and CEO of KONGSBERG commented: “Together with other Norwegian high-tech industry, KONGSBERG has for decades built up world-leading competence on system integration, decision support tools and digitalization solutions. Qatar has a significant focus on technology, innovation and industry, and has its own "Vision 2030" with clear objectives for these areas. Today we are the world-leading supplier of these systems and we are pleased that the Qatari authorities have chosen our solutions, technology and competence. The cooperation between Qatar and Kongsberg represents a contribution to the further development and modernization of Qatar.”

HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway took part in the celebration in Qatar and stated in his speech: “Tonight we celebrate 50 years of successful business cooperation between Qatar and Norway. Although our two countries are far apart geographically, it is great to see the extent to which our cooperation has expanded over the past 50 years. Today, Norwegian companies are engaged in a variety of Qatari industrial sectors, including the energy, maritime, and defence sectors, as well as aluminum production and agriculture”.

The Crown Prince elaborated: “We have a shared responsibility to promote sustainable economic growth. With so many prominent guests and business leaders present tonight, I am confident we will inspire each other, and that together we will be able to build a prosperous future based on solutions that respect the environment as well as the welfare of people.”

At the Golden Jubilee event earlier in the day, Norway’s Minister for trade and industry Mr. Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, conveyed his commendation: “Let me express my congratulations on the 50 Year Anniversary of industrial cooperation between Qatar and Norway! Through half a century, knowledge, innovation and technology have been building blocks for our partnership in Qatar.” Mr. Røe Isaksen concluded: “Today, we are celebrating 50 years of successful collaboration and friendship. Through five decades, we have built a sound basis – on appreciation and trust. I am looking forward to develop our future relations.”

Vast interest from countries such as Norway underscores how successfully the small Gulf nation has emerged as leading country in terms of acceptability and adapting new technologies and innovation. In line with Qatar National Vision 2030, Qatar has been striving to transform its energy-rich economy into a well-diversified knowledge-based society in order to become more sustainable. Over the last 50 years, QAFCO has had a significant impact on Qatar’s economy through the expansion of the products made in Qatar and ensure lasting client relationships which has greatly contributed to realizing this historic achievement.