Giant Amiral project raising the bar in the Gulf region

The giant Amiral petrochemical complex at Jubail will be truly unique, according to Jean-Jacques Mosconi, Total’s SVP/refining and petrochemicals for the project and a speaker at this year’s GPCA Forum.

Amiral, formally launched last year by project partners Saudi Aramco and Total—with the award in October of the front-end engineering studies to TechnipFMC—is another flagship megaproject for the companies that follows on the heels of their world-class Saudi Aramco Total Refining and Petrochemical (Satorp) joint venture. The new USD 5.7-billion complex and its USD 4-billion associated downstream derivatives cluster will be fully integrated with the Satorp facilities, once the Final Investment Decision is made, and will be the first mixed-feed cracker to be fully integrated with a refinery in the Gulf region. It will eventually produce 2.7 million metric tons (MMt) of high-value chemicals.

“For feedstock, the 1.5-million metric tons mixed-feed cracker will use naphtha and refinery offgas from Satorp, ethane and natural gasoline. It will be highly integrated to the adjacent Satorp refinery, which will be able to process 460,000 b/d of crude by 2020 and 480,000 b/d by 2024, well ahead of Amiral’s start-up,” says Mosconi. Much of the originality of the scheme relies on the use of 1.1 MMt of Satorp offgas, commonly used as energy by the refinery, as petrochemical feedstock for the mixed-feed cracker, he says. “Beyond feedstocks, there will be large synergies between the refinery and the petrochemical complex: Hydrogen, wastewater treatment, services, etc. In the end, there will be one company to manage the giant refinery-petrochemical complex,” he adds.

Mosconi describes Amiral’s downstream derivatives cluster as the “cornerstone” of Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to develop, consistent with its Vision 2030 plan, a large group of derivatives and specialty chemical industries in the kingdom. “As you know, Amiral has signed Memorandums of Understanding [MOU] with Ineos for the development of a 400,000-metric tons/year linear alpha-olefins/polyalphaolefins plant using ethylene feedstock, and a 425,000-metric tons/year acrylonitrile plant using propylene feedstock; with Daelim for a world-scale polyisobutylene plant using isobutylene feedstock; and with Veolia for both the management of wastes, by incineration, and the processing and treatment of a very large scope of wastewater streams coming from both Amiral itself and the USD 4-billion cluster,” he says.

Total Mosconi photo JJM4

Mosconi adds that MOU discussions are also ongoing with Arlanxeo, Aramco’s affiliate in the elastomers business, for a styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) and polybutadiene rubber (PBR) plant using butadiene feedstock. “Discussions with other partners should be finalized soon. By its size and the diversity of the cluster portfolio, Amiral is unique,” he says.

Progress to date, following the award of the pre-FEED and FEED studies last year to TechnipFMC, includes the selection of all technologies at the end of last summer for items such as the mixed-feed cracker, butadiene extraction, aromatics, and methyl tertio-butyl ether, he says. Two world-class polyethylene units will also be developed on the basis of the Advanced Double Loop (ADL) technology owned by Total.

The partnership between Total and Saudi Aramco has benefited from the close relationship they developed via the Satorp project, says Mosconi. “Saudi Aramco and Total have always been aligned, since the very beginning of the partnership, on all the major items related to Satorp’s project execution and the running of the Satorp refinery. This deep understanding and the respect between the two companies ensured that project execution was on time and within budget, and that refinery processing has been very successful in the years after the start-up. The completion date was declared in June 2016 and the first dividends generated in 2017. The two partners intend now to increase the capacity [at Satorp] to 460,000 b/d in 2020 and 480,000 b/d in 2024 on the basis of this strong success,” he states.

Looking ahead, Mosconi describes the petrochemical sector as having enjoyed “very good business conditions in recent years.” Conditions should remain good, although not at the same level, he adds.

“Petrochemicals are definitely the key driver of downstream activities for oil and gas companies because many experts see oil demand plateauing in the future, taking into account new fuel consumption requirements linked to climate change and new customer behavior. Petrochemicals remain linked to GDP growth and are becoming the number-one component of downstream growth,” says Mosconi.

“Total shares this view, and its petrochemical strategy is to have access to advantaged feedstocks in areas of the world enjoying strong growth potential. Amiral is meeting all the criteria. Total is also developing a large ethane-based project next to its Port Arthur refinery in Texas, a propane dehydrogenation [PDH] project in Algeria and is thinking about a new development of its petrochemical platform in Korea.”

On the worldwide issue of plastics and environmental sustainability, Mosconi says Total is becoming “a significant actor” in recycling. “Total is marketing products from mechanical recycling (prepared and compounded good quality waste); and the purchase of the French company Synova (polypropylene in the automotive business) is the first step to reach a 400,000 metric tons/year level in 2025 and 600,000 metric tons/year in 2030 through organic growth completed by targeted acquisitions,” he says.

It is also launching projects in chemical recycling (poor quality wastes) in partnership with pyrolysis technologies suppliers, adds Mosconi. “The driving principle is to offtake pyrolysis oil to be upgraded within some Total refining/petrochemicals assets; the first pyrolysis unit should be operational in 2022 for 20,000 metric tons/year with a target of reaching 400,000 metric tons/year by 2030.”

Total is a member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, which is working to put in place solutions to prevent plastic waste entering the world’s oceans, with a special focus on Asia and Africa.