Here's a post from a guest blogger, my good colleague Prema Viswanathan - Deputy Managing Editor of ICIS pricing in Asia.
Ras Tanura and Al-Jubail
Source of picture: www.absoluteastastronomy.com
By Prema Viswanathan
A Saudi Aramco official has confirmed a Reuters report earlier this week that a change of location for the giant Ras Tanura petrochemicals project is under consideration. The project would be a joint venture between Aramco and Dow Chemical.
Al-Jubail is one alternative location being evaluated, which, like Ras Tanura, is a port city on the Saudi east coast (see map above). Other media reports suggest that Ras al-Zour is also being looked into, which is 80km north of Al-Jubai.
The Aramco official told us that the review into where to build the complex would only result in a slight delay to the start-up - currently targeted for 2014 - and not five years, as was suggested by the Reuters report. He added that this review would lead to the project being improved.
Sources we spoke to in Saudi Arabia this week nevertheless claim that it won't be easy to sort out either keeping the planned complex at Ras Tanura or shifting it elsewhere.
"The project would have to be reconfigured if they shift it to Al-Jubail or any other destination, as it would be very expensive to bring refinery feeds to the facility via pipeline from Ras Tanura," said one source.
But the dilemma is that if the project stays at Ras Tanura heavy investment would also be needed in infrastructure, he added.
"The proposed shift of location makes no sense, as the integration with Saudi Aramco's Ras Tanura refinery is the main impetus behind the project," said a second source.
"This would be negated if they shift it to Al Jubail, which is already clogged with projects."
Upon completion, the complex is projected to produce 8m tonne/year of petrochemicals and gasoline products.
The current plan is for feedstock to be at least partly provided by the expansion of Aramco's existing Ras Tanura refinery, which will add 400,000 bbl/day of capacity.
The blog also understands that the project may have received an ethane gas allocation.
The refinery and petrochemical projects are expected to cost around $25bn and Dow's involvement would be the biggest foreign investment ever to take place in the Kingdom.