Saudi Aramco launched a new Indian venture near New Delhi, a government statement said on Sunday, as the global oil exporter looks to tap rising demand and invest in the world's third-biggest consumer.
India's Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who jointly inaugurated the local unit with Aramco Chief Executive Amin Nasser, said the move would help pave the way for "a strategic partnership in the hydrocarbon sector" between the two nations, Reuters reported.
Saudi Aramco through its subsidiary ARAMCO Asia India, or AAI, established its formal business presence in India last year, the statement said.
Aramco is investing in refineries in major markets to lock in customers ahead of its initial public offering next year, and the India business, on top of sales, will look for opportunities to take stakes in refining and petrochemical projects in the country.
Saudi Arabia is competing with Iraq to be India's top oil supplier, with Iraq displacing it for a fifth month in a row in August, data compiled by Reuters showed.
Nasser was in New Delhi to attend the IHS-CERA conference, which opened on Sunday, which will also be attended by OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo.
Speaking on the occasion, Pradhan said India is one of the biggest markets for Saudi oil and LPG.
Saudi Aramco's Office in India will help strengthen the existing buyer-supplier relationship between the two sides to a strategic partnership in the hydrocarbon sector, he added. Saudi officials say plans to list Saudi Aramco in 2018 are on track. The plan to float around 5% of Aramco in an initial public offering is a centerpiece of Vision 2030, a wide-ranging reform plan to diversify the Saudi economy beyond oil, which is being championed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
“Work is ongoing to list Saudi Aramco in 2018,” Nasser said at an energy forum in Moscow.
“We will be looking at (evaluating) investors as we continue to make progress related to timing and location.”
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, who is also Aramco’s chairman, said on Thursday the IPO would happen in the second half of 2018, adding that the listing would be used as a “catalyst” for the opening up of the Saudi economy.
The 9th South Pars Refinery, the largest processing facility of South Pars Gas Field in the city of Asalouyeh, Bushehr Province, processed over 10.7 billion cubic meters of natural gas in the first six months of the current fiscal year (started March 21), director of the refinery said.
“The refinery has taken a big step toward sustainable gas production by enhancing capacity and completing overhaul operations on time,” Mohammad Mehdi Hashemi was also quoted as saying by ILNA on Sunday.
The refinery also produced about 50,000 tons of granular sulfur in the period, up 20% compared with the corresponding months of a year ago. Hashemi stressed that the production process at the refinery complies with all health, safety and environment requirements.
The 9th SP Refinery processes 11% of Iran’s gas and supplies 16% of the total South Pars output, the official said.
The refinery is one of the 14 plants in Asalouyeh processing natural gas drawn from the giant South Pars field that is shared between Iran and Qatar.
Hashemi added that Phase 12 of South Pars, the biggest phase of the mega project, produced an unprecedented 11.6 million barrels of condensates, a type of ultra-light crude, during the period.
Iran is making efforts to increase its gas condensates refining capacity by installing a demercaptanization unit, an important component for processing condensates at the 2nd South Pars Refinery, Shana reported in August.
In line with policies to complete the value-added chain in oil and gas industries, Tehran intends to cut down on the sales of condensates to international markets for the first time in the past 15 years to supply the much-needed feedstock to local refiners and petrochemical plants.
Based on the Sixth Economic Development Plan (2017-22), all the produced condensates should be used in local industries to generate higher value added. Mohammad Shafi-Moazzeni, the director of 3rd South Pars Refinery, said South Pars Oil and Gas Company had curbed the flaring of natural gas at the refinery by 70% in the current fiscal year.
Flaring is the burning of natural gas that cannot be processed or sold.