NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Saudi Aramco, the world’s top oil exporter, is in talks on possible investments in Indian projects involving companies including Reliance Industries, operator of the world’s biggest refining complex, its chief executive said on Wednesday.
Major oil producers like Aramco are targeting Asia, where fuel demand is growing, as a stable outlet for their oil, and are splashing out on improvements in refining capacity there.
Saudi Aramco and UAE national oil company ADNOC last year teamed up with state run Indian refiners in a plan to build a 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) refinery and petrochemical project in Maharashtra state.
“We are looking at additional investment in India so we are in discussions with other companies as well, including Reliance,” Aramco CEO Amin Nasser told reporters at an industry event in New Delhi.
Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid al-Falih said he wants Saudi Aramco and SABIC, the Kingdom’s petrochemical company, to be household names in India.
Falih and Nasser are traveling with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is in India for a one-day visit.
Falih said the Maharashtra refinery was not the end of Aramco’s planned Indian investments. “Saudi Aramco is also looking for other opportunities in India because one investment no matter how large is not big enough.
“It is the drive of (the) Royal Highness that India is number one on our priority for investment outside Saudi Arabia,” Falih added.
Reliance Industries, controlled by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, is India’s biggest refining and petrochemicals company and runs a 1.4 million bpd refining complex at Jamnagar in western India. It plans to expand capacity to 2 million bpd by 2030, according to plans shared with the Indian government.
Falih in December attended the wedding of Ambani’s daughter and since then Ambani has travelled to the Kingdom at least twice, discussing joint investment among other issues, according to tweets by Falih and Aramco.
Saudi Arabia is keen to expand further into refining and petrochemicals.
“India is an investment priority for Saudi Aramco. India takes from us almost 800,000 barrels a day and by 2040 India’s total consumption will be around 8.2 million barrels per day,” Nasser said.
India is the world’s third-biggest crude oil consumer with a demand of 4.7 million bpd, according to government figures.
However, Aramco is facing delays in the refinery planned for Maharashtra, as thousands of farmers have refused to surrender land for it. Reuters reported on Tuesday the Maharashtra government is looking to move the refinery’s location.
Reporting by Nidhi Verma and Alasdair Pal; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and David Holmes