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Exclusive: Saudi Aramco eyes partnerships as it expands refining, petrochems

Reuters  |  DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia 

By Rania El Gamal

DHAHRAN, (Reuters) - Saudi plans to boost investments in refining and petrochemicals to secure new markets for its crude, and sees growth in as central to its downstream strategy to lessen the risk of a slowdown in demand. Aramco, the world's biggest producer, is expanding its footprint globally by signing downstream deals and boosting the capacity of its plants, ahead of an initial public offering next year - the largest IPO in history.

The state giant is moving ahead with multi-billion-dollar projects in China, and and aims to finalise new partnerships this year, Abdulaziz al-Judaimi, Aramco's for downstream, told

plans to raise its refining capacity to between 8 million and 10 million barrels per day, from some 5 million bpd now, and double its petrochemicals production by 2030, he added. pumps around 10 million bpd of

"Our strategy is very simple. We want to be at 8 to 10 million barrels per day of participated (refining) capacity ... (and) we are going forward by trying to be a top in by 2040," Judaimi said.

"The market that we want to grow in ... has to be growing, a strong market, with good demand and of course these assets have to be integrated to the whole of the downstream," he said in an interview at in

To help it reach these targets, Aramco has entered a 50 percent joint venture with three Indian refiners to build a $44 billion, 1.2-million-bpd refinery integrated with petrochemical facilities on

Aramco has said it may introduce a strategic partner to share its 50 percent stake in the Indian refining venture.

Judaimi said Aramco was working with (ADNOC) towards securing a partnership. It would be the first time for the two national oil companies to join hands in an international venture.

"We are now finalising the MOU (with ADNOC) that would cover certain commercial principles between us," he said, adding that the memorandum of understanding would be finalised this year. He said front-end engineering for the project could start by early 2019.

Apart from India, Aramco is also taking a 50 percent stake in Petronas' huge RAPID project in the southern Malaysian state of

Aramco hopes this will help it dominate supplies in and Malaysia, two of the world's fastest-growing after China, and where growth potential is bigger than in other, more developed regions. Aramco is eyeing three separate refining and petrochemical projects in China, Judaimi said.

"has to have the lion's share ... We believe markets east of the will continue to grow, including the as well," Judaimi said, adding that the is "another market we want to grow in".

In April, Aramco said it was integrating a petrochemicals business into its subsidiary Motiva, the United States' biggest

Aramco is strengthening its refining role in China, one of its biggest customers. It has a refinery joint venture with and and is in talks with CNPC to finalise the purchase of a stake in a 260,000-bpd refinery in

Judaimi said he expects to take a final investment decision on the refinery, which is operational, by the end of this year.

"We are in the final stage of negotiations. It's like building a house - the last touches take much longer."

Aramco plans to build a 300,000-bpd refinery with China's Judaimi said he expects to finish front-end engineering for the project by mid-2019, following which the company will take its final investment decision.

Judaimi said Aramco had also started negotiations for a third refinery in

"It's a smart refinery with higher conversion of liquids into chemicals," he said, declining to give details.

'LAST MAN STANDING'

Aramco has been integrating its refining with petrochemicals to help the company expand its market share and refined products portfolio.

The company is betting on growing demand for fuel in and Southeast but also shifting more into petrochemicals in case those consumption forecasts prove too optimistic.

"In the long term, we are thinking of investing more into chemicals," he said.

"We know the world needs ... as populations grow they need more plastic," he added.

One centrepiece of Aramco's push into chemicals is a project it is building at home with (SABIC), the world's fourth-biggest petrochemicals company.

The $20 billion project with SABIC is to build a complex that converts into chemicals directly, bypassing the refining stage. Judaimi said Aramco would make a final investment decision by the end of 2019.

"This is a very critical programme and we are going to do all we can to make it happen," Judaimi said.

"We believe we are the last man standing in terms of Our cost position on the upstream side, our reliability, our location and our infrastructure are all competitive advantages to us."

(Reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Dale Hudson)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, June 12 2018. 18:48 IST
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