For the site, Aramco has suggested four options – Jubail, Juaymah and Ras al-Zour in the Eastern Province and the Red Sea city of Yanbu. The proposed refinery will have capacity to process 400,000 barrels a day (b/d) of Arabian crude. The project 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 project will also involve the construction of offsites and utilities and buildings.

The refinery will take about three years to build. Aramco plans to proceed on a fast-track basis, with WorleyParsons due to complete its study by 1 September. The refinery is set to produce clean fuels, which are increasingly in high demand due to tighter product specifications in key export markets. The refinery will primarily target exports to Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean.

In early 2005, Aramco approached up to 10 IOCs to gauge their interest in taking an equity stake in an export refinery. Companies approached included the UK’s BP, Italy’s Eni, Chevron Corporationand ExxonMobil Corporation, both of the US, the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, France’s Total, Indian Oil Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL), alsoof India, and at least one Chinese company (MEED 18:3:05).

Aramco already has two joint venture refinery projects in the kingdom, one with ExxonMobil Corporationin Yanbu, the other in Jubail with Shell.