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The right balance: part two

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Read part one of this article here.


Oman's gasoline supply and demand have been in fairly good balance, with 2013 output reported at around 63 000 bpd, versus demand of around 55 000 bpd. Output jumped with the expansion of Oman's Mina Al-Fahal refinery and the commissioning of the SOHAR refinery, a catalytic cracking facility with an alkylation unit for added octane. Although the data on refinery output extend only to 2013, it is possible that late 2014 and early 2015 output will be constrained because of a fire at Mina Al-Fahal.

The new refinery capacity also enabled a jump in diesel output, which rose from its range of 15 000 - 20 000 bpd to 35 000 - 45 000 bpd. Oman has become a net importer of diesel, and the new refinery is now allowing some exports.

Oman's oil demand has been growing quickly, however, and it is likely that demand will soon absorb the exportable surplus. An expansion is underway at the SOHAR refinery, with a planned completion date in 2016.


Qatar's gasoline output typically is in the range of 40 000 - 45 000 bpd. This has been more than adequate to meet the needs of the domestic market. But as the trend in demand shows, the supply and demand gap has narrowed significantly over the past decade. If the trends persist, Qatar would be expected to require gasoline imports within two or three years, and it has been planning additional capacity to forestall this.

Qatar's diesel supply and demand have also been in reasonably good balance, though, once again, demand appears to be growing faster than output, with both at approximately 45 000 bpd in 2014.

Qatar is known for its massive reserves of natural gas, and the majority of the investments in downstream energy development have focused on natural gas, including LNG and GTL complexes. Qatar’s refinery at Messaieed has a capacity of 137 000 bpd, including condensate splitting. The refinery also has a catalytic cracker and a middle distillate hydrotreater. The Ras Laffan condensate splitting refinery came onstream in September 2009, with a capacity of 146 000 bpd. Capacity at Ras Laffan will be doubled in 3Q16. Qatar has grown to become an important net exporter of refined products, over half of which are imported by other Middle Eastern countries, and the completion of the new condensate splitter will allow this to continue.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the largest refining centre in the Middle East, and it is still actively investing in refining and petrochemicals expansion. Both gasoline demand and diesel demand have been moving to exceed refinery output. In 2014, Saudi Arabian gasoline demand was around 515 000 bpd, while output was approximately 440 000 bpd, up from 370 000 bpd in 2013.

Saudi Arabian diesel output typically has been in the range of 600 000 - 680 000 bpd during the 2003 - 2013 period, rising to 750 000 bpd in 2014. Diesel demand rose to approximately 760 000 bpd in 2014.

Saudi Arabia's current CDU capacity is around 2.9 million bpd. It was the first Middle Eastern country to launch an export refining industry. At the beginning of the 1980s, only three small refineries were in operation at Jeddah, Khafji and Riyadh, and one large facility was in operation at Ras Tanura. The first Red Sea export refinery to come onstream, in 1983, was the Petromin/Mobil joint venture at Yanbu. It became known as SAMREF. The Petromin/Shell export refinery at Jubail, known as SASREF, was a sophisticated hydrocracking refinery. It began in 1981, with the refinery coming into operation in 1984 and 1985. In 1988, the SASREF refinery was debottlenecked and capacity rose from 250 000 bpd initially to 305 000 bpd. In February 1989, the Saudi Arabian Marketing and Refining Company (SAMAREC) took over Petromin’s share, and in July 1993, Saudi Aramco took over SAMAREC’s share. The third export refinery was the Petromin/Petrola project at Rabigh, a simple topping facility with large yields of fuel oil. It came onstream in 1989. Rabigh was later transformed into a major petrochemical centre with the refinery integrated into petrochemical production. In 2005, Rabigh Refining and Petrochemical Company, or Petro Rabigh, was formed as a joint venture with the Sumitomo Chemical Company, Ltd, of Japan.

Three major new grassroots refineries were then planned, with capacities of 400 000 bpd each. The SATORP refinery came up to its design capacity of 400 000 bpd in August 2014. The YASREF refinery was commissioned in late 2014 and it shipped its first cargo of clean diesel in January 2015. Saudi Arabia remains the largest exporter of refined product in the region, and its continued investment in refining will enable it to continue in this role. The third 400 000 bpd grassroots refinery, Jazan, is scheduled for completion in 2018. The petrochemical industry is also in a process of major expansion, and six of the refineries are integrated with petrochemical plants. There will be some changes in the export mix, since some of the petrochemical plants will use naphtha as feedstock, reducing naphtha exports.


Gasoline demand has soared in the UAE, rising from approximately 70 000 bpd in 2003 to nearly 170 000 bpd in 2014. Gasoline production rose from 35 000 bpd in 2003 to 70 000 bpd in 2013, but receded to 60 000 bpd in 2014.

Diesel demand has grown from around 80 000 bpd in 2003 to nearly 100 000 bpd in 2014. Diesel output has varied in roughly the same range, though it fell to 70 000 bpd in 2014.

The key refining company is the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) via its refining division Takreer. The UAE had no refinery capacity until 1976, when a 15 000 bpd refinery was built at Umm Al-Nar to help provide fuel for the growing domestic market. The refinery was quickly expanded, and an export oriented hydrocracking refinery was built at Ruwais. These were completed in 1981, and they survived the time of global refinery overcapacity. By the late 1990s, the UAE was the site of the most ambitious refinery expansion programme in the region. Most of the refining uses condensate feedstock. Takreer added two 140 000 bpd condensate splitters at Ruwais. Dubai’s ENOC operates a 140 000 bpd condensate splitting refinery.


Yemen relies on imports for the majority of its fuel needs. Gasoline production is approximately 10 000 bpd, versus demand of 30 000 bpd. Domestic product quality is considered poor.

Yemen's diesel output has also languished, falling below 20 000 bpd. Demand is approximately 50 000 bpd, so the country imports more than half of its diesel fuel.

Yemen has only two refineries, both with hydroskimming configurations. In the Persian Gulf region, Yemen is regarded as the poorest country, with the lowest per capita GDP, estimated at just US$3800 in 2014. The main refinery is at Aden, which was accorded a nameplate capacity of 170 000 - 180 000 bpd, subsequently rated down to 120 000 bpd and rated down again to approximately 80 000 bpd. The refinery was repaired and re-rated at 155 000 bpd, though throughput has never reached this level. The refinery has been a target of terrorist attacks, and its management has been accused of corruption. As a result of this it was unable to attract financing for modernisation, and there was also a failed attempt to privatise it. The second refinery is a small hydroskimmer located near the Marib oilfield. Other private refinery projects have been proposed and have been through various levels of licensing and permitting, but none have been built. If any near or midterm investments succeed, they may focus instead on upgrading existing capacity.

Read part three of this article here.

Written by Contributing Editor, Nancy D. Yamaguchi. This is an abridged article taken from Hydrocarbon Engineering’s January 2016 issue.

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