‘Discussions are on going with potential partners in the US and Europe about the final configuration, including the final product slate, of the proposed refineries,’ says an Aramco official. ‘The selections should take place in February or March.’

Saudi Aramco is understood to have shortlisted at least two international oil companies (IOCs) – Total of France and the US’ Chevron Corporation – for the equity stake in the Jubail refinery, one of two grassroots export schemes proposed to be set up in partnership with an IOC. Aramco is also holding discussions with three shortlisted IOCs – Chevron, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil Corporation, both of the US – for the equity stake in a new refinery at Yanbu.

Estimated to cost at least $5,000 million each, the facilities will have nameplate capacity of 400,000 barrels a day (b/d) each. Both projects will involve the installation of naphtha hydrotreaters and splitters, twin catalytic reformers, isomerisation units, distillate hydrotreaters, vacuum distillation units, hydrocrackers and fluid catalytic crackers (FCCs). The facilities will take about three years to build and are set to produce clean fuels – gasoline, diesel, petroleum coke, bitumen and vacuum gas oil (VGO). Parsons E&C, part of Australia’s WorleyParsons, has already carried out a study recommending the utilisation of three process streams to be driven by a varying mix of feedstock for the refineries.

Aramco plans to raise heavy crude production from new and existing offshore oil field developments to meet rising domestic demand for projects such as the export refineries as well as for new power plants in the kingdom, according to the Aramco official. ‘Offshore is Arab heavy and there is growing demand from the local power sector and the two proposed export refineries,’ he says. The next offshore field planned to be developed by Aramco is Manifa, which is set to produce about 300,000-600,000 b/d of Arabian heavy crude (MEED 13:1:05).