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Opinion

Aramco Asia says there is cause for optimism

The future of one of Asia's most important energy relationships

| Middle East
Saudi Aramco's Ras Tanura oil refinery: the future will continue to rely on existing energy sources while the contribution of alternative technologies to the evolving global energy mix grows.   © Reuters

From Anwar Al Hejazi, President of Aramco Asia.

As many countries continue to struggle with the biggest health and economic crisis of modern times, there have been fears that the COVID-19 pandemic could overshadow and perhaps derail the push toward a cleaner future for our planet.

Against this backdrop, Asia has forged an impressive path that can serve as a model for others. On the one hand, countries have taken decisive actions necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, they remain firmly focused on their long-term strategic mission -- as illustrated by the carbon neutrality goals set by China, Japan and South Korea, as well as China's Dual Circulation Strategy.

Reliable, affordable and sustainable energy systems will be critical to delivering economic prosperity across Asia and around the world. But what is also clear is that the future will continue to rely on existing energy sources while the contribution of alternative technologies to the evolving global energy mix grows. Aramco stands ready to assist economies in Asia with the transition to a low-carbon energy future.

As the world's largest integrated oil and gas company, with one of the lowest carbon footprints per unit of hydrocarbons produced, Aramco is well-positioned to play a key supporting role within the region.

Asia and Aramco already have a close energy relationship. On average, Aramco exported more than 5.1 million barrels per day to customers in Asia in 2020 -- the equivalent of around 11.3% of Asia's total oil demand. And this was against the backdrop of global uncertainty and a worldwide pandemic. All economies, especially those in Asia that rely on imported energy, require tried and trusted energy supplies to fuel their growth ambitions -- and in the COVID-19 era, energy security and reliability have never been more important.

But we are doing more than providing reliable energy supplies to the world's fastest-growing region. Our presence in Asia also contributes to this economic growth through job creation, training and broader stimulus that enables key industries to flourish, elevating communities in the process.

Looking ahead, we anticipate exporting additional crude to the region as new downstream assets commence operations, including PRefChem -- our integrated refinery and petrochemicals joint venture with Petronas, in Malaysia. Meanwhile, we continue to focus our downstream investments in the region's high-growth areas -- including China, India and Southeast Asia, which are integral to our existing business and future expansion strategy -- as well as countries that rely on crude imports such as Japan and South Korea.

Two researchers at one of Aramco's R&D centers. (Photo provided by Aramco Asia)

But our focus on Asia stretches beyond crude exports and refining, as illustrated by our recent shipment of blue ammonia to Japan for use in zero-carbon power generation -- a world first. Our expansion into international gas and LNG is one avenue through which we can help Asia meet its growing need for more energy with fewer emissions. We are serious about low-carbon energy solutions and believe there are also exciting opportunities for further collaboration in future clean fuels with partners across Asia. It is a strategy shaped by Saudi Arabia's commitment to the Circular Carbon Economy, an approach recently endorsed by Group of 20 countries that aims to reduce, reuse, recycle and remove CO2 emissions -- supporting climate change efforts by effectively decarbonizing processes that were traditionally polluting.

Our acquisition of a majority stake in SABIC, which transformed our company into a major chemicals producer globally, offers additional potential for expanding mutually beneficial relationships. From bulk petrochemicals to advanced composites, which can replace more carbon-intensive materials like concrete and steel, we can contribute to countries' carbon neutrality targets. For example, advances in cutting-edge nonmetallic materials promise more sustainable opportunities in construction, housing and renewables.

Asia is already home to forward-looking Aramco projects, such as our flagship Catalytic Crude to Chemicals process being piloted in Beijing, a futuristic technology that converts crude oil directly into petrochemicals. There is our pilot blue ammonia project with Japan and our collaboration in a CO2 Management Centre in South Korea, which is developing innovative solutions for carbon capture, conversion, storage and emission avoidance. Our experts are also contributing to the China Automobile Low Carbon Action Plan, which aims to help China achieve peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The contributions we can make to Asia's energy and chemicals materials security have never been clearer -- and the opportunities to supply more energy with less carbon have never been so compelling. Indeed, the prospects for an even closer relationship between Asia and Aramco moving forward are a genuine source of optimism, despite the turbulence of 2020.

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