Saudi Arabia to build $11bn petrochemical complex with France’s Total
Fuel-starved France has been building up bonds with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, while also providing military support for the brutal war in Yemen
By News Desk - December 16 2022

(Photo credit: Aramco)

Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company Aramco will join forces with French supermajor oil company TotalEnergies to build a new petrochemicals complex valued at $11 billion, to start operations in 2027.

According to a statement released by the French oil giant on 15 December, construction on the Amiral complex is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2023. It will be owned and operated jointly by Aramco and TotalEnergies.

The Amiral complex will be integrated into the existing Saudi Arabia Total Refining and Petrochemical (SATORP) refinery located on the kingdom’s eastern coast, allowing it to convert off-gases and naphtha, as well as ethane and natural gasoline, into higher-value chemicals.

Last year, Aramco and TotalEnergies launched a joint project to “significantly upgrade” a network of 270 service stations across the kingdom. The French supermajor is looking to cement its foothold in West Asia.

France has been leading the charge to secure energy resources from the Gulf, hoping to avert a major disaster after the EU lost access to Russian oil and gas in the wake of a wide range of western sanctions imposed on the Kremlin.

In July, French President Emmanuel Macron rolled out the red carpet for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). After their meeting, the Elysee Palace issued a statement saying Macron  “underlined the importance of continuing the ongoing coordination with Saudi Arabia with regards to the diversification of energy supplies for European countries.”

Earlier that same month, Macron signed a strategic partnership agreement with the UAE for fuel and gas supplies, as Paris moves to reduce its dependency on Russian gas, which accounted for about 17 percent of its supplies before the war in Ukraine.

As part of its bid to secure energy resources back home, France has also been bolstering its armed presence in war-torn Yemen.

In August of this year, local reports indicated that the French Foreign Legion – a French military force comprised of foreign nationals – arrived in Yemen’s Shabwah province to secure control of the Balhaf gas facility, which is owned by TotalEnergies.

Rights groups in June filed a lawsuit in a Paris court against three French arms-producing companies, alleging that they are complicit in war crimes committed in Yemen for the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

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