By YUE LI
SHANGHAI -- Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Aramco, and China Petrochemical Corp. or Sinopec Group, are expected to start their joint Yanbu, Saudi Arabia-based oil refinery operations by the end of 2014, a top executive from Aramco said Thursday.
The proposed commence date is slightly behind schedule, which according to Aramco's website was slated for September 2014.
"That project is already in the process of execution and construction. Our expectation is (to be operational) by the end of next year," CEO of Aramco Trading, Said A. Al-Hadrami, told Dow Jones on the sidelines of a CRU conference.
Aramco and Sinopec Group signed the deal to develop the 400,000-bpd refinery, known as Yasref, in January last year. Sinopec holds a 37.5% stake in the project, while Saudi Aramco owns 62.5%. Sinopec Group is Asia's biggest oil refiner by capacity.
US oil major ConocoPhillips in 2011 pulled out of the Yanbu project after deciding to cut back on refining and marketing activities.
The Aramco-Sinopec deal is part of efforts by China and Saudi Arabia to strengthen energy ties.
In 2011, Aramco agreed to an initial deal with PetroChina to supply crude oil to a new refinery in southwest China, a move aimed at cementing Saudi Arabia's position as China's top crude supplier.
China surpassed the US as the biggest importer of oil from Saudi Arabia in 2009.
Dow Jones Newswires