THE petro-chemical company founded by a Hampshire billionaire has signed an agreement to build its first plants in the Middle East.

INEOS – founded by Sir Jim Ratcliffe – has signed an agreement with Saudi Aramco and Total.

Saudi Aramco and Total are preparing to build a five billion US dollar petro-chemical facility in Saudi Arabia called Project Amiral, as part of the Jubail 2 complex. The three INEOS plants will be part of it.

Sir Jim, chairman of INEOS, said: “The timing is right for us to enter this significant agreement in Saudi Arabia with Saudi Aramco and Total. We are bringing advanced downstream technology which will add value and create further jobs in the Kingdom.”

INEOS says the project will be the first plant of its kind in the Middle East when it begins operating in 2025.

A new 425,000-tonne acrylonitrile plant will use INEOS’ technology and catalyst. It will be the first plant of its kind in the Middle East when it starts up 2025.

INEOS will also build a 400,000 tonne LinearAlphaOlefin (LAO) plant and associated world-scale PolyAlphaOlefin (PAO). It says units will be the most energy efficient in the world when they begin production in 2025.

INEOS says the location in Saudi Arabia will give it access to competitive raw materials and energy, as well as infrastructure, to better serve customers directly in the Middle East and markets across Asia.

The project represents a continuation of INEOS’ growth strategy following the announcement of a 3bn euro investment into a new plant at Antwerp, £1bn investment across the UK, acquisitions in China and capacity increases in the US Gulf Coast, Alabama and Chocolate Bayou facilities.

Paul Overment, chief executive of INEOS Nitriles, said: “Global demand for acrylonitrile continues to grow ahead of GDP, to meet the demand for lighter, stronger, energy efficient materials such as ABS, composites and carbon fibre. This first investment in the Middle East consolidates our position as the market leader and shows a clear and ongoing commitment to meet our customers’ needs wherever they are in the world.”

Ineos began life in Lyndhurst, where it still has registered offices, and Sir Jim, who lived in Beaulieu, fought a long-running planning battle with the National Park Authority (NPA) over proposals for an opulent waterfront mansion.

He spent six years trying to persuade the NPA to allow him to redevelop a secluded two-hectare site overlooking the Solent at Thorns Beach, near Beaulieu, which was occupied by a two-bedroom bungalow. His persistence finally paid off in August 2017, when permission was granted.

The former Team Sky cycling squad was rebranded Team INEOS after Sir Jim took it over earlier this year. He has been linked with a bid for Chelsea FC and also finances the successful Pig Group of hotels which started life in the New Forest and has since expanded across the south.

He was named the richest person in Britain in the 2018 Sunday Times Rich List, but slipped to third place this year after his estimated fortune slipped £2.9billion to £18.15bn.