Aramco’s plans to vastly expand its petrochemical operations are part of the kingdom’s effort to remake its economy as oil’s future clouds
GELEEN, Netherlands—Saudi Arabian Oil Co. has been the world’s single largest crude producer for decades. It wants to be a lot more than that now, as a new petrochemical complex shows.
Among the Dutch corn fields here is a tangle of pipes, vats and catalyzers that the company uses in its Arlanxeo plant to transform what was oil into synthetic rubber for products ranging from auto-engine hoses to plastic wine corks.
Aramco, as it is commonly known, until recently focused on pumping great quantities of oil and, like the Standard Oil companies of John D. Rockefeller, processing it through its refineries. Aramco now aims to vastly expand its petrochemical operations, turning itself into a modern integrated energy company along the lines of Exxon Mobil Corp.
Thousands of miles away, near the Saudi Arabian city of Al Jubail on the Persian Gulf, an army of workers is finishing the $20 billion Sadara petrochemical complex, an Aramco joint venture with Dow Chemical Co. Sadara will use ethane refined by Aramco nearby to make a petrochemical called butadiene to ship world-wide to facilities, likely including its Dutch plant.