Saudi Aramco and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic) are planning to only invite signatories of Aramco’s general engineering services plus (GES-plus) contract to bid for the front-end engineering and design (feed) work at their planned joint-venture project.  

The scheme involves the construction of a petrochemicals plant producing aromatics located adjacent to Aramco’s Yanbu refinery on the Red Sea coast of the kingdom.

“The decision has been made to only open this up to GES-plus members,” says a source familiar with the project. “The feed will go out at the end of the year or maybe early 2013 at the latest.”

The GES-plus involves the provision of detailed engineering and project management services to Aramco.

Every successful signatory of the GES-plus has to form partnerships with local engineering companies to ensure Saudi nationals are gaining the requisite experience on the kingdom’s megaprojects.

There are currently five international contractors signed to the GES plus. They are:

  • Foster Wheeler (US)
  • Jacobs Engineering (US)
  • KBR (US)
  • Mustang Engineering (US)
  • SNC Lavalin (Canada)

The Yanbu refinery is due to undergo rehabilitation as part of Aramco’s clean fuels programme. The scheme will lower the sulphur content of the refined products and will also provide new streams of feedstock that can be used for petrochemicals production.

The Yanbu refinery has a capacity of 235,000 barrels a day. This makes a petrochemicals plant viable in terms of economies of scale.

Aromatics are one of the most basic petrochemicals and consist mostly of benzene. Benzene is used to produce heavy chemicals such as cumene. Aramco is establishing a reputation as a major petrochemicals producer with several high-profile projects in the kingdom that involve joint ventures with major international chemical companies. These include the PetroRabigh project with Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical on the west coast of the kingdom and the Sadara Chemical Company, which is a joint venture with the US’ Dow Chemical.

Sabic is the world’s second-largest diversified chemical company. It is 70 per cent owned by the Saudi Arabian government, with the remaining 30 per cent of its shares traded on the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul).