Ras Tanura in Saudi - private companies bunkered by feedstock shortage?
By John Richardson
The gas feedstock shortages in Saudi Arabia - which we have commented on before - are such that no private company will receive any allocations in the future, claimed an industry source.
"It's only going to be for Saudi Aramco and SABIC from now on," he added.
Several privately-owned propane de-hydrogenation (PDH)-polypropylene (PP) plants have recently been commissioned in the Kingdom, whereas private ownership of crackers has never really got off the ground.
Saudi Arabia's Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Ali Al-Naimi, was reported to have said last December that the Kingdom was working on making more ethane available for petrochemicals.
But several well-placed sources we have spoken to have said that this was unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Al-Naimi pledged that investments in the sector would be maintained as Saudi Arabia tries to raise its petrochemicals capacity from approximately 60m tonne/year at the moment to 80m tonne/year by 2015.
This suggests that the way forward to more petrochemicals could well be naphtha - making the decision on how the feedstock will be priced into petrochemicals in the future crucial. An announcement is expected next year.
Of the $120bn that Aramco has pledged to spend in the Kingdom over the next five years, half will be invested in petrochemicals including the naphtha crackers that are part of the huge Ras Tanura project with Dow Chemical.
Media reports say that plans to expand the refinery at Ras Tanura - which would provide the feedstock for the crackers - has been shelved indefinitely.
Reports earlier in the week suggested that the petrochemicals portion of the project could be moved due to issues surrounding terrain at the current site, which is on Saudi Arabia's west coast.
Aramco and Dow have not made any comment.