The logo of Saudi Aramco. File photo: REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
The logo of Saudi Aramco. File photo: REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Dubai — Aramco and Total have signed an engineering and design contract for a $9bn petrochemical complex in Saudi Arabia to convert fossil fuels into building blocks for plastics.

The Amiral complex will be able to produce 2.7-million tons of chemicals a year, according to Amin Nasser, state-run Saudi Aramco’s CEO.

The project would be completed by late 2023 or early 2024, said Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of Paris-based Total. Nasser and Pouyanne spoke at a signing ceremony at Aramco’s headquarters in Dhahran.

Investment in the project would reach $9bn, they said, without specifying each company’s share.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to transform its crude-dependent economy by developing new industries. Like other Middle Eastern oil producers, it is pushing into petrochemicals to earn more from its resources.

Petro states in the Persian Gulf have traditionally shipped crude oil elsewhere to be refined or turned into chemicals. Aramco wants to generate more of that profit at home instead of sending its crude as a raw material to Asia, Europe or the US.

Amiral "accelerates our broader downstream strategy of becoming a global leader in refining" and chemicals, Nasser said. By combining oil refineries with petrochemical plants, Aramco could "increase the conversion of low-cost feedstock into higher-value chemicals", he said.