Saudi Aramco takes step to integrating petrochems into United States’ biggest refinery

A Saudi Aramco employee sits in the area of its stand at the Middle East Petrotech 2016, an exhibition and conference for the refining and petrochemical industries, in Manama, Bahrain, September 27, 2016. (Reuters)
Updated 08 April 2018

Saudi Aramco takes step to integrating petrochems into United States’ biggest refinery

HOUSTON: Saudi Aramco took the first steps to integrating a petrochemicals business into the United States’ biggest oil refinery, which is operated by its subsidiary Motiva Enterprises.
Aramco’s Chief Executive Amin Nasser signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) worth $8 billion-$10 billion with Honeywell UOP and Technip FMC to study petrochemical production technology for use in a chemical plant the company is considering building at the Port Arthur refinery.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was winding up a two-week visit to the United States, was present at the signing in Houston, Texas, on Saturday along with Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih and US Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
“These agreements signal our plans for expansion into petrochemicals,” Motiva’s Chief Executive Brian Coffman said.
Aramco, which wants to develop its downstream business as the government prepares to sell up to 5 percent of the world’s largest oil firm in an initial public offering (IPO) this year, wants to use oil as a major petrochemicals feedstock.
Coffman also said Motiva was evaluating boosting the 603,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Port Arthur refinery’s capacity to 1 million or 1.5 million bpd, which would make it the largest in the world.

 

The aromatics unit for which Honeywell UOP’s technology is being considered under one of the MoUs, would convert benzene and paraxylene, byproducts of gasoline production, into 2 million tons annually of feedstocks for chemicals and plastics.
The other MoU would allow Aramco to use Technip FMC’s mixed-feed ethylene production technologies in the United States. The technology would produce 2 million tons a year of ethylene, which is used to make plastics, Motiva said.
The final investment decision on setting up a multi-billion-dollar petrochemical plant at Port Arthur is not expected until 2019, and is “dependent on strong economics, competitive incentives, and regulatory support,” Aramco said in a statement.
Coffman did not provide a timeline for the possible expansion of the Port Arthur refinery’s crude oil processing capacity.
“That’s something we’re evaluating, we’re studying for in the future,” he said.
The 1.2-million bpd Reliance Industries refinery in Jamnagar, India, has the world’s largest crude oil processing capacity.
Aramco said last year that it would invest $18 billion in Motiva to expand the refinery and move into petrochemical production.
Other US companies, including Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. — a joint venture of Chevron Corp. and Phillips 66 — and Exxon Mobil Corp, have recently opened plants, like the one Motiva is considering, to process ethane into ethylene.
Chevron Phillips is considering building a second ethane cracker on the Gulf Coast of Texas.
The price tag for a large ethane cracker is typically over $6 billion, according to analysts. In addition to taking refining byproducts, ethane crackers provide hydrogen for refineries to use in making motor fuels.

FASTFACTS

Motiva

Aramco-subsidiary Motiva is evaluating raising the Port Arthur refinery's capacity to up to 1.5 million bpd, which would make it the largest in the world.


Oil falls below $57 on virus impact and OPEC+ delay

Updated 19 February 2020

Oil falls below $57 on virus impact and OPEC+ delay

  • Contagion ‘is spooking market players,’ analysts say after Asian shares fall and Apple issues warning

LONDON: Oil fell below $57 a barrel on Tuesday, pressured by concerns over the impact on crude demand from the coronavirus outbreak in China and a lack of further action by OPEC and its allies to support the market.

Forecasters including the International Energy Agency (IEA) have cut 2020 oil demand estimates because of the virus. Though new cases in mainland China have dipped, global experts say it is too early to judge if the outbreak is being contained.

Brent crude was down 82 cents at $56.85 a barrel in mid-afternoon trade after rallying in the previous five sessions. US West Texas Intermediate crude fell 70 cents to $51.35.

“Risk aversion has returned to the markets,” said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.

“OPEC+ has shown no sign yet of reacting to the virus-related slump in demand by making additional production cuts.”

The virus is having a wider impact on companies and financial markets. Asian shares fell and Wall Street was poised to retreat on Tuesday after Apple said it would miss quarterly revenue guidance owing to weakened demand in China.

“This has spooked market players and triggered a sharp pullback in risk assets,” said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM.

The IEA last week said that first-quarter oil demand is likely to fall by 435,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the same period last year in the first quarterly decline since the financial crisis in 2009.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, including Russia, have been considering further production cuts to tighten supply and support prices.

The group, known as OPEC+, has a pact to cut oil output by 1.7 million bpd until the end of March.

The next OPEC+ meeting next month is set to consider an advisory panel’s recommendation to cut supply by a further 600,000 bpd. Talks on holding an earlier meeting in February appear to have made no progress, OPEC sources said.

As well as OPEC+ voluntary curbs, support for prices has come from involuntary losses in Libya, where output has collapsed since Jan. 18 because of a blockade of ports and oilfields.