Saudi Aramco takes step to integrating petrochems into United States’ biggest refinery

A Saudi Aramco employee sits in the area of its stand at the Middle East Petrotech 2016, an exhibition and conference for the refining and petrochemical industries, in Manama, Bahrain, September 27, 2016. (Reuters)
Updated 08 April 2018
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Saudi Aramco takes step to integrating petrochems into United States’ biggest refinery

HOUSTON: Saudi Aramco took the first steps to integrating a petrochemicals business into the United States’ biggest oil refinery, which is operated by its subsidiary Motiva Enterprises.
Aramco’s Chief Executive Amin Nasser signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) worth $8 billion-$10 billion with Honeywell UOP and Technip FMC to study petrochemical production technology for use in a chemical plant the company is considering building at the Port Arthur refinery.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was winding up a two-week visit to the United States, was present at the signing in Houston, Texas, on Saturday along with Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih and US Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
“These agreements signal our plans for expansion into petrochemicals,” Motiva’s Chief Executive Brian Coffman said.
Aramco, which wants to develop its downstream business as the government prepares to sell up to 5 percent of the world’s largest oil firm in an initial public offering (IPO) this year, wants to use oil as a major petrochemicals feedstock.
Coffman also said Motiva was evaluating boosting the 603,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Port Arthur refinery’s capacity to 1 million or 1.5 million bpd, which would make it the largest in the world.
 
The aromatics unit for which Honeywell UOP’s technology is being considered under one of the MoUs, would convert benzene and paraxylene, byproducts of gasoline production, into 2 million tons annually of feedstocks for chemicals and plastics.
The other MoU would allow Aramco to use Technip FMC’s mixed-feed ethylene production technologies in the United States. The technology would produce 2 million tons a year of ethylene, which is used to make plastics, Motiva said.
The final investment decision on setting up a multi-billion-dollar petrochemical plant at Port Arthur is not expected until 2019, and is “dependent on strong economics, competitive incentives, and regulatory support,” Aramco said in a statement.
Coffman did not provide a timeline for the possible expansion of the Port Arthur refinery’s crude oil processing capacity.
“That’s something we’re evaluating, we’re studying for in the future,” he said.
The 1.2-million bpd Reliance Industries refinery in Jamnagar, India, has the world’s largest crude oil processing capacity.
Aramco said last year that it would invest $18 billion in Motiva to expand the refinery and move into petrochemical production.
Other US companies, including Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. — a joint venture of Chevron Corp. and Phillips 66 — and Exxon Mobil Corp, have recently opened plants, like the one Motiva is considering, to process ethane into ethylene.
Chevron Phillips is considering building a second ethane cracker on the Gulf Coast of Texas.
The price tag for a large ethane cracker is typically over $6 billion, according to analysts. In addition to taking refining byproducts, ethane crackers provide hydrogen for refineries to use in making motor fuels.

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Motiva

Aramco-subsidiary Motiva is evaluating raising the Port Arthur refinery's capacity to up to 1.5 million bpd, which would make it the largest in the world.


IMF warns G20 economic leaders that tariffs hurting global economy

Updated 38 min 20 sec ago
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IMF warns G20 economic leaders that tariffs hurting global economy

BUENOS AIRES: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned world economic leaders on Saturday that a recent wave of trade tariffs would significantly harm global growth, a day after US President Donald Trump threatened a major escalation in a dispute with China.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said she would present the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Buenos Aires with a report detailing the impacts of the restrictions already announced on global trade.
“It certainly indicates the impact that it could have on GDP (gross domestic product), which in the worst case scenario under current measures...is in the range of 0.5 pct of GDP on a global basis,” Lagarde said at a joint news conference with Argentine Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne.
Her warning came shortly after the top US economic official, Treasury Minister Steven Mnuchin, told reporters in the Argentine capital there was no “macroeconomic” effect yet on the world’s largest economy.
Long-simmering trade tensions have burst into the open in recent months, with the United States and China — the world’s No. 2 economy — slapping tariffs on $34 billion worth of each other’s goods so far.
The weekend meeting in Buenos Aires comes amid a dramatic escalation in rhetoric on both sides. Trump on Friday threatened tariffs on all $500 billion of Chinese exports to the United States.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will try to rally G7 allies over the weekend to join it in more aggressive action against China, but they may be reluctant to cooperate because of US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union and Canada, which prompted retaliatory measures. .
The last G20 finance meeting in Buenos Aires in late March ended with no firm agreement by ministers on trade policy except for a commitment to “further dialogue.”
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said he would use the meeting to advocate for a rules-based trading system, but that expectations were low.
“I don’t expect tangible progress to be made at this meeting,” Scholz told reporters on the plane to Buenos Aires.
Mnuchin told reporters on Saturday that he has not seen a macroeconomic impact from the US tariffs on steel, aluminum and Chinese goods, along with retaliation from trading partners.
But he said there have been microeconomic effects on individual businesses, he said, adding that the administration was closely monitoring these and looking at ways to help US farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs.
The US dollar fell the most in three weeks on Friday against a basket of six major currencies after Trump complained again about the greenback’s strength and about Federal Reserve interest rate rises, halting a rally that had driven the dollar to its highest level in a year.