Al-Falih said that Saudi Aramco planned to:

Grow its crude oil production market share

Maintain substantial spare oil capacity to help ensure price stability

Invest heavily in domestic oil and gas facilities

Resume major investments in export refinery capacity

Execute a series of power generation projects, and

Sharply increase gas production.

The speech also projected Saudi Aramco would spend about $18,800 million on materials and services in 2003-07.

Al-Falih said that trends in world refining would make investing in the sector attractive again soon. ‘We in Saudi Aramco are beginning to look at the refining platform for future growth,’ he said. ‘Global refining capacity is being absorbed and a need for additional capacity is forecast by 2005.’

At present, Aramco has refining capacity of 2 million barrels a day (b/d) and aims to export 840,000 b/d in 2004. ‘We feel that capacity should be not where sales are in Saudi Arabia but where the resources are,’ he said. ‘We see Saudi Arabia as a natural location for the next wave of refineries to be built to meet global energy demand.’

Al-Falih said immediate plans call for investment in the 400,000-b/d Rabigh refinery on the Red Sea coast. ‘Our objective is to create a platform for industry, to improve the profitability of the topping refinery, integrate it with the petrochemical industry and achieve a lot of savings,’ Al-Falih said. The estimated cost of the refinery upgrade and other projects in Rabigh is $3,000 million-5,000 million. Aramco is planning to carry out the project with a partner and has shortlisted three companies for negotiation. A selection is expected in early 2004 (MEED 12:9:03).

Saudi Aramco is also seeking to develop investment opportunities at the 500,000-b/d Ras Tanura refinery, the largest in the kingdom. Al-Falih said that projects being considered include a mixed xylene unit, a cumene unit, an isobutane facility and a petroleum coke and pitch plant, but stressed that planning was at a preliminary stage.