Aramco CEO hails new era for downstream sector

The rise of specialty chemicals and an emerging conversion industry are adding new dimension to Saudi's petrochemical sector

Amin H. Nasser became Aramco's CEO in 2015 replacing Khalid Al-Falih who was appointed chairman.
Amin H. Nasser became Aramco's CEO in 2015 replacing Khalid Al-Falih who was appointed chairman.

Saudi Aramco’s president and CEO, Amin H. Nasser, hailed a new era of industrial diversification in the Kingdom.

The downstream sector in Saudi Arabia is set to enter a new phase with the production of specialty chemicals and in-Kingdom expansion of small to medium enterprises that produce high-value finished and semi-finished products in the petrochemicals conversion sector, Nasser said.

This approach will unlock opportunities for the Kingdom’s economic diversification, job creation and innovation potential, and create a world-leading downstream industry, he added.

Speaking at the 4th Saudi Downstream Forum, taking place on 8-10th March in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, Nasser said: “To date, the Kingdom’s downstream economic growth has achieved global leadership in the manufacture and export of commodity products.

"While Saudi Arabia certainly needs its commodities production strength, we also need to radically alter the downstream equation to derive greater benefits in-Kingdom, through knowledge-based and innovation-driven small and medium sized enterprises.

"Saudi Arabia is already a global leader in petroleum and petrochemical commodities, but today we have a tremendous opportunity to also become a leader in downstream conversion.”

With most of the Kingdom’s petrochemicals presently being exported as commodities, major opportunities exist to add value by turning them into high-value, semi-finished and finished products.

Diversification into specialty chemicals is expected to increase returns from the current level of about $500 per tonne to about $2,000 per tonne by 2040.

Aramco’s strategy is to strike a better balance between its unparalleled upstream capacity of 12mn barrels of crude oil per day and its current refining capacity of 5.4mn barrels per day of crude oil in-Kingdom and worldwide.

Saudi Aramco has an ambitious plan to raise the Company’s total global refining capacity throughput to between 8 to 10mn barrels per day.

The energy heavyweight is collaborating with the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, and the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority to build value parks and locate service providers adjacent to petrochemical facilities, such as Rabigh PlusTech Park at Petro Rabigh on the west coast and the PlasChem Park adjoining Sadara in Jubail Industrial City 2.

In his keynote remarks, Nasser called on the industry to do much more to support the development of home-grown downstream technologies - an area in which the Kingdom can make major advances - such as breakthrough crude oil-to-chemicals technologies that will make oil a viable petrochemical feedstock.

Aramco is currently developing and testing highly advanced oil-to-chemicals technologies, he said.

Also speaking at the Saudi Downstream Forum, Warren Wilder, vice president of chemicals at Aramco, said: “International partnerships and collaboration are a hallmark of Saudi Aramco’s successful strategy to optimize the full value and economic potential of the Kingdom’s hydrocarbon reserves.

"We continue to look for opportunities in growing markets, and many of these opportunities will involve the integration of petrochemicals with new refineries.”

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