Aramco Boosts Fuel Trading in Fight for Asia. Africa Sales

Saudi Aramco is seeking to boost its fuel-trading volume by more than a third as the world’s biggest crude exporter expands its capacity to refine oil to grab a bigger share of growing markets in Asia and Africa. Aramco. as Saudi Arabian Oil Co is known. is building refineries in the kingdom and in Asia to help it increase sales and purchases of gasoline. diesel and other products to more than 2mn bpd. said Ibrahim al-Buainain. chief executive officer of Saudi Aramco’s trading unit. Saudi Aramco Products Trading Co. Owning refineries gives the unit. known as Aramco Trading Co. options for buying and selling fuel that some of its competitors don’t have. “The key is that you need to own assets.” al-Buainain said early this month in an interview in Dubai. “Having information on the market by itself isn’t enough anymore.” Aramco has stakes in 5.4mn bpd of refining capacity. from Saudi Arabia to South Korea to the US. The company targets doubling that capacity within a decade even as it battles other crude producers for market share. Such an increase would make Aramco the biggest crude processor. It’s pursuing the expansion while also planning an initial public offering. which the government asserts will be the world’s largest. Aramco Trading. or ATC. benefits from its parent’s global network of refineries and access to tankers and storage sites. and it currently trades 1.5mn bpd. al-Buainain said. It has 2.6mn barrels of storage capacity at the UAE port of Fujairah and 1mn barrels of storage at Yanbu on the Saudi Red Sea coast. he said. The company also blends fuels at those facilities to better meet customers’ requirements. he said. “You make money because you can optimise.” al-Buainain said on the sidelines of the Middle East Petroleum and Gas Conference. “You make a bigger shipment instead of a smaller one. you use blending to tailor products to markets and meet the product specifications you want.” Vitol Group. the world’s biggest independent oil trader. and other trading companies are considering expanding further into refining. storage sites and fuel-retailing chains to increase profit. Chris Bake. an executive committee member and head of origination. said at the same conference. “We look at integrating into the downstream a little further. integrating into refining a bit.” Aramco Trading. which started operating in 2012. will reach its targeted volume once its parent completes refining projects including a facility at Jazan on the Red Sea and some international ventures. al-Buainain said. He didn’t specify a date for achieving the target. Aramco has said the 400.000-bpd Jazan refinery will start next year. While about two-thirds of Aramco Trading’s transactions go toward supplying the Saudi domestic market and selling its parent’s refinery output. al-Buainain said he sees opportunities elsewhere in the Middle East as well as in Africa and Asia. Saudi Arabia has reduced crude output this year as it leads an international effort to curb oversupply. The kingdom pumped 10mn bpd in March compared with 10.48mn in December. according to data compiled by Bloomberg. ATC has about 200 employees. mainly at its headquarters in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran. It plans this year to double the staff at its first international office in Singapore to about 20 people. al-Buainain said.

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