, RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan 21 – Chinese President Xi Jinping and Saudi King Salman on Wednesday inaugurated a joint-venture refinery, symbolising Beijing’s deepening involvement in the Middle East and Riyadh’s need for economic diversification.
The event took place in the Saudi capital on the second day of Xi’s first visit to the region. He later left for Cairo and will also travel to Saudi Arabia’s rival Iran.
The YASREF refinery, in Yanbu Industrial City on the Red Sea, is 62.5-percent held by Saudi oil giant Aramco, while China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) holds the balance.
“YASREF represents both companies’ focus on driving downstream growth,” the refinery said in a statement.
Billboards on a highway outside the ceremony showed Xi and Salman waving against a backdrop of the refinery.
Saudi Arabia is China’s biggest global supplier of crude, and state-owned Saudi Aramco says expansion into refining and chemicals fits the kingdom’s goal of economic diversification.
The policy has been given added urgency by a plunge in the kingdom’s oil revenues.
YASREF is one of five joint-venture refineries in Saudi Arabia. Another four are overseas, including one in Fujian, China.
The YASREF refinery shipped its first diesel one year ago and has a capacity to refine 400,000 barrels of Arabian crude per day.
Saudi Aramco and Sinopec also signed a framework agreement on cooperation, reflecting confidence “in the potential opportunities we can create together,” said Saudi Aramco president Amin Nasser.