By Luke Pachymuthu
Plant is part of a drive to boost refining capacity by 1.7m barrels per day.
Saudi Aramco and France's Total plan to sell a 25 percent stake in a joint venture refinery through an initial public offer in two to three years, the venture's chief said on Wednesday.
The plant is part of a drive by the world's top oil exporter to boost refining capacity by more than 1.7 million barrels per day (bpd) from 2.1 million bpd now.
The kingdom is focusing on boosting refining, petrochemical and gas capacity after completion of a massive crude capacity expansion programme last year.
Financing deals for around $8 billion of the total $12 billion cost of the Jubail refinery would be completed in the second quarter this year, Saleem Shaheen, chief executive of Saudi Aramco Total Refining and Petrochemical Company (Satorp), told reporters on the sidelines of an industry event.
The 400,000 bpd plant would start production in mid 2013, he added. Officials at Aramco and the project have given different dates for the start up, ranging from March 2013 to late in the same year.
Shaheen said: "In the coming 2-3 years the plan is to take 25 percent of Saudi Aramco's stake for an IPO for the local public."
The exact timing of the IPO would depend on the stock market conditions at the time, he added.
Aramco owns 62.5 percent of the plant, while Total holds the rest. After the IPO, both Total and Aramco would hold 37.5 percent.
The two had planned an IPO since the project was first announced in 2006.
Financing for the plant, which will be built on about five square kilometres would include an Islamic bond, or sukuk issue, and over $1 billion from the Saudi government backed Public Investment Fund (PIF).
He said: "We expect to see closing of the financing in the coming months."
The complex refinery, which would need about 30,000 people to build, would process heavy Saudi crude, which is difficult and more expensive to turn into transport fuels than lighter oil, from the Moneefa oilfield, Shaheen said.
It would produce around 190,000 bpd of diesel, around 90,000 bpd of gasoline and 50,000 bpd of kerosene, Shaheen said.
Most of the refinery's output had already been sold on contract, he said.
It was likely that Aramco would buy most of the output, but the target market for some of the product was top energy consumer the United States, Shaheen said.
Aramco and Total will market their own share of the products that will be produced by the new refinery, Shaheen said.
He said: "Saudi Aramco will of course put in the kingdom."
He added: "And if we see that demand is high then maybe Saudi Aramco will buy the Total products on international prices."
The diesel would have a low sulphur content of 10 parts per million, he said. The kingdom's gasoline and diesel would be at 10ppm by 2013, he added. (Reuters)