Saudi Arabia set two new records in July, producing its highest ever level of refined products and also exporting more than 2 million barrels a day (b/d) of oil products for the first time in its history, according to the latest data from the kingdom.
While the oil industry has been closely watching Saudi crude oil production, the Opec producer has quietly ramped up output from its refineries, producing a total of 3.062 million b/d, setting a new record high.
It also exported 2.084 million b/d, up nearly 100,000 b/d compared to June, and 640,000 b/d compared to a year ago.
This is combined with 7.2 million b/d of crude oil exports, which was slightly down from June shipments.
The figures were published on 18 September by the Joint Organizations Data Initiative (JODI), a database compiled by the Riyadh-based International Energy Forum that collects oil figures from 114 countries.
While Saudi Arabia can boost its revenues with record high product exports, the kingdom continues to burn considerable volumes of crude oil. The crude burn is seasonal, rising to a peak in summer as the population turns to air conditioning to escape the searing heat.
In July, this amounted to 580,000 b/d, up nearly 25 per cent from 468,000 b/d in June. Nevertheless, this is down from 657,000 b/d last July, after considerable efforts by state-owned Saudi Aramco to increase gas production and processing capacity. In July 2015, Saudi Arabia was burning nearly 900,000 b/d, almost 10 per cent of its total production.
“This year  we made progress on several new gas processing plants. Designed to boost supplies of natural gas, the plants are expected to enable increased exports of higher value liquids, provide feedstock for the petrochemicals industry and reduce domestic reliance on liquid fuels for power generation,” Aramco said in its 2017 annual review published in August.
Aramco processed an average of 12.4 billion cubic feet a day (cf/d) of raw gas in 2017, supplying 8.7 billion cf/d to the country’s gas network. This was up from 12 billion cf/d in 2016, and just over 10 billion cf/d from five years ago.
New gas processing facilities are currently being built to replace even more crude for power. For example, Aramco expects to complete the Hawiya gas plant by 2021, adding another 1 billion cf/d of gas. The Fadhili gas plant project is also expected to come on stream next year, with a capacity of 2.5 billion c/d.
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