Saudi Aramcohas revealed further details of its plans to upgrade its Yanbu and Ras Tanura refineries and integrate them with new petrochemicals complexes.

According to Azzam Shalabi, Aramco’s director of new business evaluation, the search is continuing for a foreign partner on Ras Tanura – the more advanced of the two refinery upgrade and integration schemes. ‘The project has entered the marketing stage to select a potential partner,’ said Shalabi at IBC’s Fourth Middle East Petrochemicals Conference in Dubai on 18 September. ‘We are looking to maximise the value of our existing production and capitalise on synergies, as well as creating new petrochemical value chains.’

The proposed Ras Tanura facility will include a mixed feedstock ethane/naphtha cracker and an aromatics complex. Proposed units include an ethane/naphtha steam cracker to produce 1.2 million tonnes a year (t/y) of ethylene and 400,000 t/y of propylene, an aromatics complex to produce 400,000 t/y of benzene and 460,000 t/y of paraxylene and a speciality mix of purefied terephthalic acid (PTA), polyethylene teraphthalate (PET) resins, toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) or methyl diphenyl-di-isocyanate (MDI), SBR or ABS resins, and acrylonitrile (ACN).

The estimated cost of the project is $6,000 million, although given the current environment of rising engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) costs, the figure could end up higher. Tenders for the scheme’s front-end engineering and design (FEED) are expected to be issued by year-end. Projected start-up is set for 2010.

The Yanbu integration scheme is still at an early stage and is expected to come on stream in 2012. Aramco has proposed upgrading its existing 235,000-barrel-a-day refinery, in addition to building a steam cracker and aromatics complex. As with Ras Tanura, the company is looking to develop a diverse mix of petrochemical products.

Aramco is committed to integrating its existing refineries and developing its petrochemical potential. ‘Using synergies, we have reduced our investment on the Rabigh [integrated refinery and petrochemicals] project by $750 million,’ said Shalabi. ‘Operating costs are reduced by 3-5 per cent, while we will experience a 35 per cent cash-cost advantage.’

Shalabi also outlined Aramco’s desire to promote the liquid feedstock option. In the short term, the availability of gas is limited, and the company is keen to develop other more plentiful sources of feedstock (MEED 13:5:05; 18:3:05).