FILE - In this Feb. 26, 1997 file photo, Khaled al-Otaiby, an official of the Saudi oil company Aramco, watches progress at a rig at the al-Howta oil field near Howta, Saudi Arabia. According to an assessment published Monday, April 1, 2019, by Moody’s Investors Services, the net profits of Saudi Aramco reached $111 billion last year. That places Aramco ahead of some of the world’s most profitable firms. In their first-ever grade assessment for Aramco, Fitch Ratings issued the firm an A+ rating, while Moody’s gave it it’s A1 rating ahead of its upcoming bonds sale. (AP Photo/John Moore, File)
CAPE TOWN - Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil producer in the world that is considering building an oil refinery and petrochemical complex in South Africa, this year committed to two similar projects in China and Pakistan.

When questioned on the progress of the proposed project in South Africa, the Department of Energy (DOE) would only refer Business Report to a statement it had issued on the matter in January, which stated that the Saudi Arabian oil producer and the Central Energy Fund were jointly undertaking studies on the feasibility of establishing a new oil refinery in South Africa.

The Saudi Arabian group is focussing increasingly on downstream petroleum and chemical product production.

The China Daily reported on its website on Tuesday that Saudi Aramco had finalised plans to build a 300000 barrel-per-day refining and petrochemical complex along with Norinco Group and Panjin Sincen, a petroleum product company, in Panjin, Northeast China.

This is in addition to another commitment the Saudi group has made this year to establish a $10billion (R141.97bn) oil refinery and petrochemical complex in Pakistan.

In January this year Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe met with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources.

This was to follow up on progress made during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to Saudi Arabia in July 2018, where the kingdom pledged to invest $10bn into South Africa.

Ramaphosa also last month met with the managing director of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan, to discuss the way forward for the new investment into the South African economy.

Investments in the South African energy sector were at the centre of the pledge by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco did not reply to questions yesterday.

Saudi Arabia supplies about 40percent of the crude oil consumed in South Africa. The possibility of Saudi Aramco using the tanks at Saldanha Bay to store crude oil was also under consideration - Saldanha could offer a strategic location for Aramco in oil trading. Saudi Aramco also wanted to use the South African platform for expansion into Africa.

The need “to accelerate the pace on some of the initiatives” was expressed by the ministers in this meeting, the DOE said.