Shortly after the turn of the millennium, Saudi Aramco began looking hard at the future prospects of a 3,000-acre oil refinery, located in Rabigh, 165 kilometers north of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast. Originally, Saudi Aramco thought to simply upgrade the refinery, but then began to explore other possibilities.
At its Rabigh refinery, founded in 1989, Saudi Aramco was sitting on an unusually abundant and stable supply of the feedstock that fueled the fast-growing petrochemical industry. To date, these materials had been converted into relatively low value petroleum-based products or, in the case of gases, simply burned off.
Further, the plant was situated on the shore of the Red Sea , within easy reach of the Asian and European markets, with its own deep-water port. Aramco management quickly saw an opportunity to break new ground – both literally and figuratively – in Rabigh.
At the time, Saudi Aramco did not operate any petrochemical plants, and so for its potential enterprise to succeed it needed access to state-of-the-art technology and global expertise in the marketing of petrochemical products. These all-important aspects were ultimately provided by Sumitomo Chemical, a world leader in its sector and a proven innovator in petrochemical processes. Thus, Petro Rabigh was born.