Jizan Economic City (JEC) has been the subject of much speculation over the past four years as many planned investments failed to materialise in one of the remotest areas of Saudi Arabia.

Despite this, Saudi Aramco is continuing to play a major role in the development of JEC and the cornerstone of the city is now the $7bn refinery under construction. Aramco decided to take the scheme on after the first option of it becoming the kingdom’s only fully independent oil refinery failed to attract significant bids. This early disappointment might have meant the end of the JEC development, but Aramco decided to step in and rescue the refinery.

The next step is the power plant attached to the refinery. The US’ KBR is carrying out the front-end engineering and design (feed) and project management consultancy (PMC) for both schemes and this should help to keep the job on schedule.

Approval for the integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) plant is expected to be granted by Aramco at the end of January and this will be followed by a tender phase. The plant will have a capacity of 2,400MW and about 1,900MW will be available for other industrial users within JEC.

By investing in early infrastructure, Aramco is ensuring JEC is an attractive prospect for multinationals interested in setting up there. It may still have to wait a while before it sees if that investment will pay off.