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South Africa awaits Aramco move on planned refinery, petchem project

London — South Africa has agreed "in principle" to the construction of a new refinery backed by Saudi Aramco though the timing for the project remained unclear, South Africa's energy and minerals minster said Thursday.

"In principle, we have agreed to it," Gwede Mantashe told reporters on the sidelines of an industry event in Cape Town.

"What is left now is to see contractors on site. I will only be convinced when the contractors are on site."

South Africa and Saudi Arabia reached a framework agreement for a new refining and petrochemicals complex in January as part of Saudi Arabia's $10 billion investment plan for South Africa.

Mantashe said the government has agreed with Aramco's plan to build the plant at Richards Bay in the northeast despite the government's preferred site being Coega in the Eastern Cape. He gave no further details on the scale of the plant which would reduce South Africa's need for refined product imports.

South Africa imports around 40% of its crude requirements from Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Aramco is also looking to diversify its crude storage options by using the Saldanha Bay terminal in South Africa with a capacity of around 50 million barrels and between demand centers in Asia and Europe.

-- Robert Perkins, robert.perkins@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Dan Lalor, daniel.lalor@spglobal.com