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Aramco runs local refineries at full capacity, eyes new projects: executive

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Aramco on track for Jazan refinery startup in 2019

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Dhahran — Saudi Aramco, which temporarily lost half of its oil production following the September 14 attacks on two key oil facilities, is running its local refineries at full capacity and is forging ahead with plans to start up new refineries, the company's senior vice president for downstream Abdulaziz al-Judaimi said on Monday.

"Domestic refineries are operating at full capacity," Judaimi told reporters at the company's headquarters in Dhahran.

"We met every customer requirement [after the attacks]," he said, adding that Aramco did not buy crude to meet demand.

The attack on Abqaiq, the world's biggest oil processing capacity and Khurais, the country's second largest oil field, cut the company's output by some 5.7 million b/d.

Saudi Arabia's wellhead crude production stands at 9.9 million b/d, with production capacity of 11.3 million b/d, the country's oil minister Abdulaziz bin Salman said earlier this month.

The country intends to return to full oil production capacity of 12 million b/d by the end of November.

Aramco has five domestic refineries with total processing capacity of 1.9 million b/d.

New refineries

Aramco is on track to start up by the end of this year a new 400,000 b/d domestic refinery and petrochemical project in Jazan, Judaimi said.

The company is also starting up a joint venture refinery in Malaysia next year, he added. According to Aramco's bond prospectus released in April, the refining and petrochemical joint venture with Petronas -- the Malaysian national oil company -- collectively known as PRefChem, was supposed to start this year.

The PRefChem joint venture includes a 300,000 b/d refinery, an integrated steam cracker with capacity to produce 1.3 million mt of ethylene located in Johor, Malaysia. Aramco was supposed to provide a significant portion of PRefChem's crude supply under a long-term supply agreement. Jazan and PrefChem will help Aramco reach a gross refining capacity of 5.6 million b/d, it said in the prospectus.

The company currently owns and has stakes in four refineries abroad with a total refining capacity exceeding 2 million b/d.

Aramco also expects to close by 2021 a deal to buy a 20% stake in the oil-to-chemicals business of India's Reliance Industries, a deal that will add another 1.4 million b/d of refining capacity to the Saudi company's portfolio, Judaimi said.

Acquisitions

Aramco's long term goal is to have up to 10 million b/d of refining capacity, he added.

Aramco has been scouring the globe for opportunities to set up refining and petrochemical projects.

In April, Saudi Aramco acquired a 17% stake in South Korea's Hyundai Oilbank from Hyundai Heavy Industries. Oilbank has a processing capacity of 650,000 b/d.

This deal makes Saudi Aramco the second-largest shareholder of Hyundai Oilbank, following Hyundai Heavy Industries Holdings with a 74.1% stake in Hyundai Oilbank.

In September, Aramco signed a memorandum of understanding that facilitates its planned acquisition of a 9% stake in the Zhejiang integrated refinery and petrochemical complex in China.

In February, Aramco signed an agreement to form a joint venture with NORINCO Group and Panjin Sincen to develop an integrated refining and petrochemical complex located in China as well.

SABIC deal

Aramco is also in the process of finalizing the acquisition of a 70% stake in SABIC, the Middle East's biggest petrochemical company, as the state-run firm forges ahead with beefing up its petrochemicals portfolio, Judaimi said.

"We are near the finish line on the SABIC acquisition," he said.

Aramco officials had said the company partly delayed its initial public offering of up to a 5% stake last year due to its acquisition of SABIC for $69 billion.

-- Claudia Carpenter, claudia.carpenter@spglobal.com

-- Dania Saadi, dania.el.saadi@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Kshitiz Goliya, kshitiz.goliya@spglobal.com