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Ras Tanura Refinery Marks 60 Years

Source: www.gulfoilandgas.com 10/26/2005, Location: Middle East

Sixty years ago, Ras Tanura Refinery went online, replacing a 3,000 barrel per day "tea kettle" refinery built just a few years before. That refinery, with a capacity of 50,000 barrels per day (bpd), has since grown to become one of the most complex in the world, with a distillation capacity of 550,000 bpd of crude oil and gas condensates, and consisting of an NGL plant, crude stabilization, water desalination, electrical power and steam generating facilities.

"Over the years, the refinery has undergone several expansions and upgrades to meet the Kingdom's growing demand for refined products," said Ibrahim K. Al-Naimi, manager of Refinery Operations. The refinery, he said, is energy self-sufficient, generating the steam and electricity it needs to operate its plants and facilities. But, of course, that's not its greatest feature. The refinery produces about 40 percent of the Kingdom's fuels, primarily gasoline, kerosene, diesel and fuel oil.

During the height of World War II, demand for fuel was high. Despite hardships and war-related shortages, Ras Tanura Refinery went online in 1945. Within months, the facility had exceeded projected capacity and was well on its way to becoming the world-class industrial complex it is today.

Through the years, Ras Tanura Refinery has grown to better meet the needs of the ever-changing marketplace. In 1984, a comprehensive modernization effort was under-taken, which included the construction of a 250,000 bpd two-stage crude unit and a sulfur plant that produces 300 metric tons per day.

The most substantial upgrade in the refinery's history was completed in 1998-99. It included a 44,000 bpd hydrocracker and a 60,000 bpd visbreaker unit, which increased gasoline and kerosene production. A 40,000 bpd continuous catalytic reformer, which produces a higher-octane product used in gasoline blending, was also installed and commissioned, along with various support facilities.

In September 2003, the refinery added a 200,000 bpd gas condensate splitter. The splitter capacity has subsequently been increased to 225,000 bpd, bringing the refinery's crude processing capacity to 550,000 bpd. Further improvements since that time have increased Ras Tanura Refinery's ability to capture more high-value "white" products - such as diesel, naphtha and kerosene - instead of lower value fuel oil production.

Ras Tanura Refinery's future continues to look bright. As Saudi Aramco's flagship refinery, it will almost certainly be expanded and upgraded to keep up with demand. There is an ambitious plan to integrate the refinery into a major petrochemical complex within the next few years, which will lead to increased revenue and profit margins for Saudi Aramco and the Kingdom, as well as provide additional job opportunities for Saudis.

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