PetroRabigh Petrochemical Complex, Saudi Arabia

In August 2005 Saudi Arabia's Saudi Aramco and Japan's Sumitomo Chemical agreed to form a 50:50 joint venture to develop a petrochemical complex in Rabigh, Saudi Arabia. The venture is called PetroRabigh. The 3,000-acre site where the construction took place already has a refinery owned by Saudi Aramco.

The existing refinery is at the centre of one of the world's largest integrated petrochemicals complexes. The existing topping refinery was modified to include a vacuum distillation unit, vacuum gas oil hydro treating unit and alkylation/isomerisation unit.

At the end of the first quarter of 2006 Rabigh Refining and Petrochemical Company (PetroRabigh) broke ground for the petrochemical production complex in Rabigh, Saudi Arabia. The complex was completed and inaugurated on 8 November 2009 and has total output of 18.4mtpa of high value petroleum-based products and 2.4mtpa of ethylene and propylene-based derivatives.

The complex has required an estimated investment of $10bn. In June 2008, Saudi Aramco adjusted its figures to include funding for phase two of the PetroRabigh plant to be built by Dow Chemical. A feasibility study for phase two of the project is being conducted and is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2010. If considered economically viable, the phase two work will be completed by the third quarter of 2014.


During March 2006 financing agreements were signed between PetroRabigh and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) and a consortium of banking groups, for the funding of the project.

In addition, Nippon Export Insurance (Nexi), an independent administrative institution, agreed to insure the project.

"A feasibility study for phase two of the project is being conducted and is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2010."


Oil company Saudi Aramco provides the project with 400,000bpd of crude oil, 95m cubic feet per day of ethane and about 15,000bpd of butane.

Construction of a high olefin fluid catalytic cracker

Japan's JGC was awarded the contract to build the high olefin fluid catalytic cracker (HOFCC) for the PetroRabigh petrochemical complex. The contract covered the engineering, procurement and construction of the facility. The production unit produces 1.3mtpa of ethylene and 900,000tpa of propylene.

This award to JGC followed on from the front end engineering and design contract previously awarded in November 2004.

Deep catalytic cracking technology

During March 2006, Shaw Stone & Webster announced that it had been selected by PetroRabigh to provide Deep Catalytic Cracking (DCC) technology for a grass roots high olefin fluid catalytic cracker. The proprietary technology is used for the production of 1.3mtpa of ethylene and 900,000tpa of propylene. Shaw Stone & Webster claims to be the only licensed provider of the DCC technology outside China.

Polymer plant contracts

During March 2006 Maire Tecnimont (formerly known as Tecnimont) was awarded a contract by PetroRabigh, to provide the engineering, procurement and construction for six plants. Tecnimont said that the contract, worth in excess of $1bn, was the most important it had ever won in terms of absolute value. Tecnimont led a consortium comprising Sumitomo Chemical Engineering for the offshore activities, while onshore activities were carried out by Tecnimont Arabia in a consortium with Saudi Arabia's AICO.

The contract comprised two 350,000tpa polypropylene (PP) units, a 250,000tpa easy-processing polyethylene (epPE) unit, a 350,000tpa linear low density polyethylene (lldPE) plant, a 300,000tpa high density polyethylene (hdPE) unit and a 50,000tpa butane-1 plant.

Polymer plant production technology

Technology provided by Sumitomo is used for the PP, epPE and lldPE units. Technology for the hdPE unit was supplied by Basell. Axens was asked to provide technology for the butane-1 facility.

Mono ethylene glycol and propylene oxide

During February 2006 Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding in consortium with Sumitomo Chemical Engineering, was awarded a contract to build a 600,000tpa monoethylene glycol (MEG) plant and a 200,000tpa propylene oxide (PO) facility. The value of the contract was not disclosed.

Mono ethylene glycol production technology

Shell provided Omega Process technology for the mono ethylene glycol plant.

Cogeneration and desalination plant projects

JGC in a consortium with Marubeni Corporation, Itochu Corporation and Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power Projects have developed an oil-fired cogeneration and desalination plant for the Rabigh refinery and the PetroRabigh petrochemical complex. The engineering, procurement and construction of the facilities was carried out by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Utilities and offsites

During the first quarter of 2006 Foster Wheeler announced that it had been awarded the engineering, procurement and construction contract for utilities and offsites on PetroRabigh's refining and petrochemical complex. The contract included all interconnecting process and utility piping for the complex, flare, water air and power systems, instrumentation and control rooms and main electrical distribution substations. The value of the contract was not disclosed.


The project sponsors said that the Rabigh project would build on Saudi Aramco's existing refinery in the town of Rabigh on Saudi Arabia's Red Sea Coast. Once completed the project sponsors claim that the petrochemicals complex will be one of the most profitable of its kind in the Kingdom. At the same time the Rabigh project promotes the development of downstream industries and helps contribute to sustainable economic development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The project is also helping to strengthen relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan.

Supporting construction management and engineering activities

Saudi Arabia Kentz was awarded a contract to support Foster Wheeler Arabia, the programme management contractor in the development of PetroRabigh's petrochemical complex.

As well as providing personnel and supporting resources, Saudi Arabia Kentz carried out various engineering activities. The scope of work included survey and design work associated with the off-sites and utilities, permitting support, site facilities support and project management support. Mechanical completion was in the beginning of 2008.

Deaerators for independent water, stream and power plants

Stork Thermeq, part of Stork Power Services, was awarded a contract by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to design and build deaerators for Petro Rabigh's independent water, steam and power projects. The contract, said to be one of the biggest orders received by Stork Thermeq for deaerators at the time, was valued at €2m.

Invensys infusion system

In October 2007 Invensys Process Systems were awarded a contract to install an InFusion-based plant information management system for the new refining and petrochemical complex.

"The complex was eventually inaugurated on 8 November 2009."

The InFusion technology, which is object and service oriented, allows easy access to real-time data from the process and utilities units and also easier integration of data from different areas of the facility and easier data interpretation.

The system allows the development of a totally integrated information system across the plant.

The information system includes a Real Time Data Base and Historian which will be integrated with Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), data reconciliation, a plant-wide material balance and production accounting system.

It also incorporates environmental safeguards such as alarm monitoring, emissions monitoring and performance management.

Latest developments

On 7 September the Board of Directors at the Rabigh Refinery and Petrochemical Company (Petro Rabigh) said that it had looked at some "technical issues that may lead to the rescheduling of the start up of some units to the first quarter of 2009, and an additional cost of $300m, which represents 3% of the total project cost".

The refinery and petrochemical complex was scheduled to become operational in the third quarter of 2008.

At the same time the Board of Petro Rabigh announced that they had decided to transfer ownership of the current Saudi Aramco Refinery at Rabigh to Petro Rabigh. The complex was eventually inaugurated on 8 November 2009.

Sumitomo Chemical and Saudi Aramco each hold a 37.5% stake in Petro Rabigh, while the remaining 25% is owned by public investors, following an IPO which took place in early 2008.