Saudi Aramco to build $7bn steam crackers refinery in S.Korea

By Arya M Nair, Intern Reporter
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Aramco steam cracker plant in South Korea
Representational image

Saudi Aramco, the national oil company, has made its first-ever biggest investment in South Korea to develop one of the world’s largest refinery-integrated petrochemical steam crackers through its S-OIL affiliate, in line with the company’s strategy to maximize the crude to the chemicals value chain.

The $7 billion Shaheen project aims to convert crude oil into petrochemical feedstock and would represent the first commercialization of Aramco and Lummus Technology’s TC2C thermal crude to chemicals technology, which increases chemical yield and reduces operating costs. It follows an earlier $4 billion investment into the first phase of the petrochemical expansion completed in 2018.

Located at S-Oil’s existing site in Ulsan, the new plant is planned to have the capacity to produce up to 3.2 million tons of petrochemicals annually and include a facility to produce high-value polymers. The project is expected to start in 2023 and be completed by 2026.

Amin Nasser_Aramco shaheen project in Korea
Amin Nasser
CEO & President Saudi Aramco

“The global petrochemical landscape is rapidly evolving with demand growth anticipated to accelerate, driven in part by rising consumption from Asia’s emerging economies. That is why S-Oil’s Shaheen is well-positioned to meet the rising demand for the materials that will be required across the region’s key industries. By further integrating refining and chemical processes through the first commercialization of Aramco’s thermal crude to chemicals technology, we aim to create a more efficient, competitive and sustainable platform for growth, while paving the way for further downstream expansion.”

The steam cracker is expected to process by-products from crude processing, including naphtha and off-gas, to produce ethylene, a building block petrochemical used to make thousands of everyday items. The plant is also expected to produce propylene, butadiene and other basic chemicals.

The new steam cracker is planned to use mixed feedstocks, outperforming naphtha-based crackers in terms of overall efficiency and performance. Upon project completion, S-OIL chemical yield based on volume could almost double to 25 percent, which demonstrates the impact of this cutting-edge technology, complementing Aramco’s strategy to expand its liquids to chemicals capacity to up to 4 million barrels per day.

Related: Saudi Aramco, Odoo sign MoU to accelerate digital transformation of SMEs


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