The head of the world's biggest petrochemicals company yesterday urged his Arabian Gulf-based rivals to spend more on technology to strengthen the industry.
"To sustain [our] level of growth, we need to bring in change.
"The only way is by adopting a technology-driven approach to remain competitive in an ever-changing market place," said Mohamed Al Mady, the chief executive of the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic).
As the shale gas revolution was leading to falling production costs for the industry in the United States, Gulf producers should be aware of "the increasing competitiveness in the world of energy, which in turn is leading to more competitive feedstocks for the global petrochemical industry", added Mr Al Mady.
New extraction techniques have vastly increased the supply of natural gas in North America, and the same methods are likely to be employed elsewhere.
At the same time, gas is an increasingly scarce resource in the Gulf, where a growing industrial base and the spiralling consumption of electricity are eating up supplies.
"We don't see a shortage of gas, however future allocations of gas are becoming considerably more selective," said Moayyed Al Qurtas, the chief executive of Tasnee, a Saudi plastics manufacturer.
Mr Al Qurtas urged his government to drive forward plans to adopt renewable energy as an alternative to gas-based power generation.
"Instead of using the gas, they can use solar or wind, and we can use the hydrocarbon for petrochemical use."
The diversification into more complex and specialised products offered a way to maintain global competitiveness, said Wim Roels, the chief executive of Borouge, the UAE's biggest petrochemicials company.
"Our focus is on being a company delivering added value to our customers, independent of our resources basis," he said.
"We've built our basic production capacity for that. We're investing in an innovation centre, we've built the marketing capabilities, and long term we believe that is the core competitive position of the company."