Saudi Aramco to sign China refinery deals as crown prince visits: sources

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Saudi Aramco plans to sign preliminary deals to invest in two oil refining and petrochemical complexes in China during the Saudi Arabian crown prince’s visit this week, reported Reuters with reference to sources familiar with the plans' statement, as Beijing seeks expanded ties with Riyadh.

The Saudi delegation, including top executives from Aramco, arrived in Beijing on Thursday for a two-day visit, part of the crown prince’s Asia tour, during which the kingdom has pledged USD20 billion of investment in Pakistan and sought additional investment in India’s refining industry.

Mohammed bin Salman will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has made stepping up China’s presence in the Middle East a key foreign policy objective, despite its traditional low-key role there. China has given few details about the visit.

Saudi Aramco, the world’s top oil exporter, will sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to build a refinery and petrochemical project in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning in a joint venture with China’s defense conglomerate Norinco, said three sources with knowledge of the matter.

Aramco is also expected to formalize an earlier plan to take a minority stake in Zhejiang Petrochemical, controlled by private Chinese chemical group Zhejiang Rongsheng Holding Group, said two sources with knowledge of this particular deal. Zhejiang Petrochemical is building a refinery and petrochemical complex in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang.

T he investments could help Saudi Arabia regain its place as the top oil exporter to China, which it has relinquished to Russia for the past three years. Saudi Aramco is poised to bolster its market share by signing supply agreements with non-state Chinese refiners.

It is not clear what new details will be in the MOU with Norinco expected during the visit, as the two companies first announced an alliance in May 2017 during Saudi ruler King Salman’s visit to Beijing.

Under that earlier MOU, the companies agreed to build a refinery capable of processing 300,000 barrels per day of crude and a facility that would make 1 million tonnes per year of ethylene, a building block for petrochemicals, at an estimated cost of over USD10 billion.

A senior Aramco executive said last June that he expected the front-end engineering for the Norinco project to be finished by mid-2019, following which the company will take a final investment decision.

Norinco public affairs officials were not immediately available for comment.

Aramco officials did not reply to a request for comment sent by email.

All the sources declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Meanwhile, the Zhejiang agreement would give Saudi Aramco control of the 9-percent stake in the project held by the Zhejiang provincial government.

The agreement follows an earlier MOU that Aramco signed in October to invest in Zhejiang’s project, which is planned as a refinery to process 400,000 bpd of crude and associated petrochemical facilities in the city of Zhoushan, south of Shanghai.

Reuters was not able to immediately reach Zhoushan Ocean Development and Investment Co Ltd, which holds the 9-percent stake in Zhejiang Petrochemical for the provincial government, for a comment.

China has had to step carefully in its relations with Riyadh due to Beijing also having close ties with Saudi’s regional foe Iran.

On Wednesday, the day before the crown prince arrives, Xi told the speaker of Iran’s parliament that China’s desire to develop close ties with Iran will remain unchanged, regardless of the international situation.

Saudi Aramco discussing investments in Reliance Industries

MOSCOW (MRC) - Saudi Aramco’s Chief Executive Officer Amin Nassar said that the company is in talks with India’s Reliance Industries Ltd for possible investments and is seeking other opportunities in the country, said Hydrocarbonprocessing.

Saudi Aramco signed an agreement in April with a consortium of state-owned Indian refiners to participate in a USD44 billion refinery project on the country’s west coast. “We are looking at additional investment in India so we are in discussions with other companies as well, including Reliance and others,” Nasser said in a panel discussion in New Delhi.

“We are looking at it. We are not limited to that investment which is the mega refinery,” Nasser said, referring to the west coast project, which would process 1.2 million bpd of crude and produce 18 million tonnes per year of petrochemicals.

Nasser is part of the entourage traveling with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is in India for a one-day visit.

Reliance Industries, controlled by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, is India’s biggest refining and petrochemicals company and runs a 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) refinery in western India. It plans to expand the capacity to 2 million bpd by 2030, according to plans shared with the Indian government.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude oil exporter, is keen to expand further into oil refining and petrochemicals. India would provide a fast growing market for oil and fuels and is already a steady buyer of Saudi oil.

"India is an investment priority for Saudi Aramco. India takes from us almost 800,000 barrels a day and by 2040 India’s total consumption will be around 8.2 million barrels per day," Nasser said. India is currently the world’s third-biggest crude oil consumer with a demand of 4.7 million bpd, according to government figures.

However, Aramco is already facing delays for the refinery project, planned for the western state of Maharashtra, as thousands of farmers have refused to surrender land for it.

Reuters reported on Tuesday the Maharashtra government is looking to move the refinery location. Yousef al-Benyan, the chief executive officer for SABIC, the Saudi Arabia-based petrochemical company that is the fourth largest in the world, was also on the panel. He said SABIC wants to expand its business and presence in India.

Sibur says 2018 net profit down 8%, hit by weaker rouble

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Russia’s largest petrochemicals company, Sibur, suffered an almost 8% drop in net income last year to 110.8 billion roubles (USD1.7 billion), it said, citing currency weakness and a disposal that had boosted the previous year’s numbers, as per Reuters.

The weaker rouble, which increases debt held in other currencies, helped to lift Sibur’s net debt to 317.6 billion roubles, up by 20 percent from 2017.

Sibur has been preparing an initial public offering (IPO) that could raise as much as USD3 billion.

Businessman Leonid Mikhelson, the head of and a major shareholder in Russia’s largest gas producer Novatek, owns 48.5 percent of Sibur, which is the largest petrochemicals producer in Eastern Europe.

The company said 2018 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose last year by a quarter to 201 billion roubles, a record high, on revnue also up 25 percent at 568.65 billion roubles.

PP imports in Belarus rose by 4.2% in 2018

MOSCOW (MRC) - Imports of polypropylene (PP) into Belarus increased to about 99,500 tonnes in 2018, up 4.2% year on year, compared to the same period of 2018. The greatest increase in imports accounted for homopolymer PP, according to MRC DataScope.

December PP imports to Belarus were about 9,000 tonnes, compared to 7,600 tonnes a month earlier, local companies raised their purchasing of propylene homopolymers (homopolymer PP) in Russia. Total PP imports into the country reached 99,500 tonnes in 2018, compared with 95,500 tonnes year on year. The demand for homopolymer PP decreased, but demand for propylene copolymers decreased.

The structure of PP imports by grades looked the following way over the stated period.

December imports of homopolymer PP to the Belarusian market increased to 7,000 tonnes from 5,000 tonnes a month earlier, shipments of homopolymer PP from Russia decreased. Overall imports of homopolymer PP reached 69,100 tonnes in 2018, up by 7.4% year on year. Russian producers with the share of about 88% of the total shipments were the key suppliers.

December imports of propylene copolymers to Belarus were 2,000 tonnes versus 2,700 tonnes a month earlier, local companies decreased their procurement of injection moulding statistical copolymers (PP random copolymers) in Russia. Total imports of propylene copolymers in the country reached 30,300 tonnes in 2018, down 2.5% year on year.


Chemical production in Russia grew by 0.2% in January 2019

MOSCOW (MRC) -- Russia's output of chemical products rose in January 2019 by 0.2% month on month. This figure increased by 2.7% in 2018, according to Rosstat's data.

According to the Federal Service of State Statistics, last month's production of basic chemicals increased by 0.2% from January 2019, up by 9.3% from December 2018. Last year, the output of chemical products and substances grew by 2.7%.

January ethylene imports was 275,000 tonnes from 274,000 tonnes and 278,000 tonnes in January and December 2018, respectively. 2.999,000 tonnes of ethylene were produced in 2018 in Russia.

Benzene production last month amounted to 122,000 tonnes against 130,800 tonnes and 124,000 tonnes in January and December a year earlier. Total production of this product for the entire last year reached 1.406,000 tonnes.

January production of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) was 110,000 tonnes (100% of the basic substance) against 113,000 tonnes and 115,000 tonnes in January and December 2018. Overall output of caustic soda grew to 1.279,000 tonnes in January-December 2018, up by 6.3% year on year.

Last month's production of mineral fertilizers was 2,019,000 tonnes (in terms of 100% nutrients) versus 2.121,000 tonnes in January and December 2018. Overall, Russian plants produced over 22.870,000 tonnes of fertilizers last year.