Saudi Aramco to begin bitumen exports from Yanbu

  • Market: Oil products
  • 10/05/23

State-controlled Saudi Aramco will begin bitumen cargo exports in June from Yanbu on the Red Sea coast, home to the 400,000 b/d Yasref refinery.

The company's base oils arm Luberef, which will handle the export business, plans to ship its first bitumen cargo of around 5,000t from Yanbu at the end of June. It wants to export up to 500,000 t/yr from the facility. Aramco operates the Yasref refinery in a joint venture with China's state-run Sinopec.

The move would add to global supply at a time when concerns over bitumen production and availability in many parts of Europe have been heightened by the EU and UK ban on imports of Russian crude, refinery feedstocks and bitumen.

Aside from the likely exports into the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal, Aramco will be well-placed to compete with global suppliers in exporting bitumen to increasingly import dependent South Africa. It could supply cargoes to Asia-Pacific markets, depending on relative arbitrage economics.

Saudi Arabia was traditionally a significant bitumen importer, regularly buying cargoes until a few years ago in term deals from the Mediterranean region and other sources in order to meet its road-building requirements. But domestic demand has waned in recent years, accounting for just 70pc of levels seen in the late 2010s, leaving sizeable surpluses available for export markets, a Saudi market participant said.


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