ALSO READIndia, Saudi Aramco agree to partner on $44 billion refinery-petchem project India prepared to give Saudi Aramco 50 percent stake in planned mega refinery - source Saudi Aramco to buy 50% stake in $44-bln oil refinery in Maharashtra India ready to give Saudi Aramco 50 percent stake in planned mega refinery - source Saudi Aramco picks up 50% stake in Maharashtra refinery
By Nidhi Verma, Promit Mukherjee and Florence Tan
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Saudi Aramco on Wednesday signed an initial deal with a consortium of Indian refiners to build a $44 billion refinery and petrochemical project on India's west coast, as the kingdom moves to secure buyers for its crude in a market awash with oil.
Top executives of Aramco and India's Ratnagiri Refinery & Petrochemicals - a joint venture of Indian Oil Corp, Hindustan Petroleum Corp and Bharat Petroleum Corp - signed a memorandum of understanding to take equal stakes in the project in Maharashtra.
The project includes a 1.2-million-barrels-per-day (bpd) refinery integrated with petrochemical facilities with a total capacity of 18 million tonnes per year, the officials said on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum.
Aramco, the world's biggest oil producer, is expanding its footprint globally by signing new downstream deals and boosting the capacity of its existing plants ahead of an initial public offering that is expected later this or next year.
The plant will be one of the largest refining and petrochemical complexes in the world, built to meet fast-growing fuel and petrochemicals demand in India and elsewhere.
"Large as this project may be, it does not by itself satisfy our desire to invest in India ... We see India as a priority for investments and for our crude supplies," Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said.
"We're very much interested in retail ... We want to be consumer-facing," he said.
Aramco may introduce at a later stage a strategic partner to share its 50 percent stake, Falih said.
Aramco, like other major producers, wants to tap rising demand growth and invest in the world's third-biggest oil consumer. Last year it opened an office in New Delhi.
India outlined plans in February to expand its refining capacity by 77 percent to about 8.8 million bpd by 2030.
During a visit to New Delhi in February, Falih had said Saudi Arabia would sign oil supply deals as part of any agreements to buy stakes in Indian refineries, a strategy it has adopted to expand its market share in Asia and fend off rivals.
The company is further strengthening its refining role in China, one of its biggest oil customers. Aramco has a refinery joint venture with Sinopec and Exxon Mobil, and is building a 300,000-bpd refinery with Norinco.
"Because of our significant supplies to the Chinese market we are looking at additions," Nasser said, adding his company hopes to close a deal with CNPC this year to buy a stake in a 260,000-bpd refinery in Yunnan.
Nasser said he was not worried by rising supplies from regional rivals to India.
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