The last package for the Jizan refinery and integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plant has been awarded and as the scheme approached its construction phase the sheer enormity of the task in hand becomes apparent.

There had been some uncertainty as to the exact scope of the air separation unit (ASU)/oxygen supply package, due to the various changes in scope for the IGCC power plant overt the last two years.

The facility will be world’s largest industrial gas complex and will supply 20,000 tonnes a day (t/d) of oxygen and 55,000 t/d of nitrogen, and is essential to the success of both the refinery and IGCC power plant.

The US’ Air Products and the local Acwa Holding will be the developers and owners after securing an estimated $2.1bn deal for the complex.

What this shows is that Saudi Aramco is actively looking for partners in Jizan and also willing to turn down a lower offer if it meant other companies were willing to make an investment.

The Jizan Economic City is a long-term project and Aramco knew what they were getting into from the very start. However, there have been several projects that were mooted for the industrial zone that have not progressed.

Having an established US player, as well as a local company that has a deep understanding of third-party ownership through its extensive portfolio of Saudi Arabian independent power projects, is a coup.  

However, the size of the gas complex proves how far the whole project has progressed since its early incarnation of a simple 400,000 barrels a day (b/d) hydro-skimming refinery.

The Jizan project is now arguably the most challenging refinery scheme ever attempted by Aramco. The sheer complexity of marrying a state-of-the-art refinery with the world’s largest IGCC power plant and industrial gas complex is going to offer serious challenges to the stakeholders.

Once complete, the project will be one of Aramco’s crowning achievements of the past decade, not least because of the remote location and the fact that it is a solo effort. There is still a long way to go, however.

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