Talks with Aramco on Saudi refinery soon

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Delhi
  • Published 5.01.05
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New Delhi, Jan. 5: Saudi Arabia today invited Indian companies to set up oil refineries there, mainly for the export of petroleum products to third-world countries, and has cleared Oil and Natural Gas Corporation?s bidding for gas-field development projects.

Senior officials of Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian national oil company, will visit New Delhi later this month for talks with ONGC and Indian Oil Corporation to finalise a joint venture for building a refinery in the world?s largest oil producing country.

The oil-rich Gulf nation is also keen on entering downstream oil refining and retailing market in India and will explore setting up of a refinery-cum-petrochemicals plant.

Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali Al Niami today discussed with petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar mutual investment opportunities.

?We discussed opportunities for investment in the two countries. We may invest in India and would welcome investment by Indian companies in Saudi Arabia,? he told reporters after the meeting with Aiyar.

Niami is here to attend a day-long roundtable of major Gulf oil producers and main Asian consumers.

?They (Saudi Arabia) are keen on setting up an export refinery with Indian companies,? said petroleum secretary S. C. Tripathi.

Officials attending the meeting said New Delhi also invited Saudi Aramco to set up a refinery in India that would refine crude oil produced by Gulf producers and the Indo-Saudi joint venture could retail petroleum and petrochemicals produced by the unit in India and neighbouring countries.

Tripathi said the Saudi Arabian offer was interesting and details would be discussed with Saudi Aramco officials.

Saudi Arabia has also pre-qualified ONGC for developing its gas fields.

?ONGC has been invited to bid for development of a cluster of gas fields in Saudi Arabia,? a senior official said, adding the Saudi Arabian side did not indicate the dates when they would be inviting bids for the project.

Saudi Arabia sold 23.55 million tones of crude oil to India in 2003-04 and was keen to share the $15-billion oil market here.

Saudi Aramco was one of the bidders for acquiring the government?s stake in Hindustan Petroleum Corp Limited. However, the privatisation of the country?s third largest refining and marketing company never took place.

Saudi Arabia is also willing to extend long-term crude supply contracts to India but wanted New Delhi to enter into strict take-or-pay contracts.