Saudi Aramco continues to make progress on its ambitious refining capacity expansion program. Testing is now under way at the $14bn Saudi Aramco Total Refinery and Petrochemicals (Satorp) joint venture and first commercial production is expected in second quarter 2013. The Saudi state firm also organized a signing ceremony for contracts awarded recently for construction of the Jazan refinery and terminal, at which government and company officials marked progress on Saudi Aramco’s industrialization drive.

Satorp is expected to begin commissioning the first of two 200,000 b/d capacity crude distillation units at its refinery in Jubail by the end of 2012, but has said that it was not scheduled to be fully operational until third quarter 2013. Even while the joint venture is focusing on starting up the refinery units successfully, the partners are discussing a potential expansion into petrochemicals. A 1.2-1.5mn tons/year ethylene cracker has been mooted, but planning is at a very preliminary stage. (CONTINUED - 732 WORDS)