Jubail & Yanbu Review

Yasref ... units coming alive

Yasref ... units coming alive

Yasref products to hit market soon

The testing of the units at Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining Co (Yasref) will take place over the summer, and crude will be introduced into the system around September 1

SAUDI Arabia’s $10 billion Yanbu refinery is expected to export its first oil products by the fourth quarter, and will ramp up to full capacity by early 2015, says an official with knowledge of the start-up procedure.

The 400,000 barrel per day facility, owned by state giants Saudi Aramco and China’s Sinopec, will begin commissioning operations in May, the source says.

The testing of the units at Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining Co. (Yasref) will take place over the summer, and crude will be introduced into the system around September 1, says the source. Oil Minister Ali Naimi visited the site in January, saying it would start up in the third quarter.

The first commercial oil products, likely diesel, will be available for export to the global market around November, the source adds.

The facility will use Arab Light to ramp up the single crude distillation unit to about 60 per cent throughput, the source says. Yasref is a deep conversion refinery, designed to run 28° API Arab Heavy crude, but Aramco will process the lighter crude while the secondary units, especially the coker, are not yet on line. Arab Light produces a lower yield of fuel oil than Arab Heavy. Once the coker is operational, the refinery will produce no fuel oil, only petroleum coke – a higher-value product.

“It will take some time to bring on the coker. I would say by the end of the year,” says the source.

Aramco also used Arab Light for the early phases of the 400,000 bpd Saudi Aramco Total Refining and Petrochemical Co (Satorp) plant in Jubail, located on the kingdom’s east coast, when it began operations in mid-2013. It switched to Arab Heavy by the end of the year when the coker came on stream.

The source says that additional units will be brought on throughout the rest of 2014. The facility should be running at full capacity and producing the full slate of on-spec products by the first quarter of 2015, the source added.

The facility will produce 263,000 bpd of high-quality diesel and 90,000 bpd of gasoline, in addition to 6,200 tonnes per day (tpd) of petroleum coke and 1,200 tpd of sulphur. Unlike Satorp, Yasref does not have additional petrochemical units to produce paraxylene and propylene.

Yasref, owned 67.5 per cent by Aramco and 37.5 per cent by Sinopec, is at the Yanbu Industrial City located some three hours north of Jeddah on the remote Red Sea coast. The sleepy city is already home to Aramco’s 225,000 bpd refinery and the 400,000 bpd Saudi Aramco Mobil Refinery Co, owned by Aramco and Exxon Mobil. It is also one of the kingdom’s main oil export terminals.

In 2012, Yasref’s cash costs were estimated at $8.5 billion – but Aramco says at the time the financing costs push the price tag closer to $10 billion. Sinopec inked an initial agreement to join the project in 2011 after ConocoPhillips pulled out of the project at the last minute.

Yasref will also provide a platform for increased industrial development in the Yanbu area supporting the expansion of the domestic economy and providing job opportunities for Saudi nationals, as well as local enterprises. It is estimated that the refinery will create 1,200 direct and 5,000 indirect employment opportunities. Additionally, Yasref’s primary contractors will hire and train many Saudi engineers and technicians in various technical and administrative fields during the project’s execution phase.

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