DUBAI: Saudi Aramco has reaffirmed its commitment to expansion in China after an erroneous report that it had pulled out of a $10 billion refining and petrochemicals project in the country.
Last week, Bloomberg reported that the Saudi oil giant had decided to stop investing in the project in the northeastern province of Liaoning, which was announced last year during a royal visit to China, in partnership with local energy companies.
But Aramco said: “A Bloomberg news article reporting the suspension of Aramco’s joint venture project with Norinco … is inaccurate.”
It added: “China remains an important market for Aramco and we intend to continue to grow our presence in that region. The project in Liaoning province is in the design phase and we continue to work with our partners in China.”
Energy analysts say China, as the biggest trading nation in the world that is recovering faster than most others from the coronavirus pandemic, is one of Aramco’s top priorities, not just for crude exports but also for big downstream infrastructure projects like the one at Liaoning.
The project was announced last year during the visit to China of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Under the plan, Aramco would be the main supplier of crude to the refinery, which has capacity to process 300,000 barrels of oil per day, making it one of the biggest in China.
Bloomberg published Aramco’s statement but declined to comment further on the matter.
Separately, Aramco also announced the establishment of an internal corporate development organization to “optimise the company’s portfolio.”
The new unit is mandated to “create value, assess existing markets and secure greater access to growth markets and technologies through portfolio optimization and strategic alignment,” Aramco said.
The company’s president and CEO Amin Nasser said: “We continue to leverage our capabilities in assessing our existing portfolio, identifying new opportunities and adapting to a rapidly evolving global landscape.”
The new unit will be headed by Aramco Senior Vice President Abdulaziz Al-Gudaimi, reporting directly to Nasser.
One of the new department’s first responsibilities is likely to be the optimization of Aramco’s downstream operations, which have been expanded significantly with the $69 billion acquisition of petrochemical group SABIC earlier this year.