Executives from joint-venture partners Saudi Aramco and Sumitomo Chemical joined the Kingdom’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources on Nov. 8 to inaugurate Phase One of the Petro Rabigh petrochemical complex in this Red Sea port city. Minister Ali I. Al-Naimi welcomed guests and spoke of the importance of the project to the Kingdom’s economic development plans. He also noted that the high-quality refined products of the new facility will add value to the Kingdom’s hydrocarbon stream and that the project is a model for cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Japan.
“The project will fulfill three major imperatives related to our nation’s economy,” he said. “First, it will add significant value to the Kingdom’s endowment of hydrocarbons by transforming them into clean and efficient refined products and a wide range of petrochemical streams, which in turn will become building blocks for other conversion industries.”
The second imperative, he said, is job creation, through direct employment and, most importantly, through the industries that will use Petro Rabigh’s products for their own products.
“Finally,” he said, “there will be additional opportunities for investment by the private sector, not only in Petro Rabigh, but in the conversion industries and the firms that provide them with goods and services in a ripple of prosperity.”
The project, a major upgrade and expansion of Saudi Aramco’s existing Rabigh Refinery, is a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Sumitomo Chemical Co. Ltd. of Japan. Saudi Aramco will supply the project with crude oil, ethane and butane feedstock, and will market the refined output of Petro Rabigh. Sumitomo will provide its proprietary petrochemical technology and marketing base of petrochemical products.
Petro Rabigh is one of the world’s largest integrated refining and petrochemical production facilities. It is among the 15 largest refineries in the world based on crude distillation capacity.
Saudi Aramco president and CEO Khalid A. Al-Falih also emphasized the significance of the project.
“Today with the launch of the Petro Rabigh Project, we initiate a fresh, strategic stage where Saudi Aramco enters the petrochemical sector hand in hand with one of the most important companies in that sector,” Al-Falih said.
“Sumitomo has a long history in the petrochemical industry, and we are happy to be in partnership with this company. This facility represents a meeting point between these two giants in industry and innovation.”
He noted that businesses taking advantage of the adjacent Conversion Industries Complex also will be an economic boon for the Kingdom.
“These industries will contribute to supplying national markets with the necessary products to support the industry as well as contribute to the Kingdom’s efforts to diversify its economic resources,” Al-Falih said.
Sumitomo Chemical chairman Hiromasa Yonekura also expressed optimism about the future of the joint venture. “It is a blessing to have a partner like Saudi Aramco, who places high value on integrity, trust and fairness, just like the Japanese do,” he said in an interview with Arab News.
Petro Rabigh chairman and Saudi Aramco senior vice president of Industrial Relations Abdulaziz F. Al-Khayyal, in his remarks, emphasized the partnership between Japan and Saudi Arabia, and those countries’ rich histories and cultures.
“Our two countries share values of reverence for wisdom and tradition, long and patient time horizons for strategy, discipline in pursuit of excellence, and a sense of stewardship for the natural environment,” he said. “Now, as a result of those common values and a shared sense of commitment, Petro Rabigh has progressed from concept to reality in less than 30 months, as the largest integrated refining and petrochemical complex ever built at a single time.”
Al-Khayyal outlined some of the products that will come from Petro Rabigh’s output, including life-saving medical supplies; packaging to make foods safer, longer-lasting and more affordable; textile fibers for clothes and upholstery; and automobile parts. “In fact, the list of products that will have a source here goes on and on, and will touch every aspect of daily life.
“I would like to note that one of our products will be anti-malaria mosquito nets, featuring insecticide-impregnated fibers that were first developed by Sumitomo Chemical,” he said. “And on behalf of the company’s employees and shareholders, I also have the privilege to announce that Petro Rabigh will be donating 1 million of these life-saving nets to at-risk communities across Africa in the name of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz.”
Petro Rabigh is in Rabigh, on the west coast of Saudi Arabia, about 125 kilometers from Jiddah. Ziad S. Al-Labban, who first joined Saudi Aramco in 1982, was named president and CEO on Aug. 1.