Foreign investors eyeing oil business

By Wang Yu (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-24 09:15

Foreign investors are eyeing more opportunities as China's demand for oil refining and petrochemicals increases.

According to a think-tank affiliated to China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), China's oil demand will hit 455 million tons while the country's total refining capacity will surpass 400 million tons by the end of the 11th Five-Year Plan period, set from 2006 to 2010.

"From this year to 2010, the average annual oil demand of China will grow at 6.5 percent per year. One forecast shows demand reaching 455 million tons in 2010," Gong Jinshuang, a veteran researcher at the Economic and Technology Research Institute of CNPC, China's largest oil and gas producer, said on Friday.

According to a national industrial deployment plan, there will be many refineries and ethylene crackers on stream by 2010 and China will witness 18 million tons of ethylene produced by 2010.

The country's refineries will run at 90 to 95 percent capacity by 2010, Gong said. Ethylene output of China was 9.41 million tons last year, up 24.5 percent year-on-year.

To seize opportunities arising from the downstream sector of the oil industry, not only State-owned giants, but also foreign investors are gearing for more investment.

Mustafa Al-Sahan, general manager in charge of China investment at Sabic Asia Pacific Pte Ltd, told China Daily that his firm plans to invest $5 billion to set up an integrated refining and petrochemical project in Dalian, Northeast China.

The industrial complex is expected to include a 10-million-ton refinery, a one-million-ton ethylene cracker and an 800,000-ton aromatics plant, according to the blueprint.

Al-Sahan said the project will be a joint venture formed by several parties, holding equal stakes. So far, there are already two parties involved, Sabic and a private Chinese company.

Sabic is looking for another State-owed energy giant to join, Al-Sahan added.

The project is still subject to approval by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planner.

Sabic has invested in a petrochemicals plant in Tianjin, in partnership with Sinopec, Asia's top refiner.

The Tianjian project has been given the green light by the NDRC and is expected to be on stream by the fourth quarter of next year, the Sabic chief for the investment in China said.

CNPC and Sinopec are either planning or expanding their refining and petrochemical projects, such as in Sichuan, Fujian provinces and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region, to better meet the country's future fuel and industrial demand. China now is the world's fastest growing major oil market

Al-Sahan said the downstream segment of the Chinese oil industry has good potential because of the robust future demand.

He said Sabic will not produce gasoline, which is oversupplied in the market, but oil and petrochemicals that are in big demand.

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