U.S. oil and natural gas operators inked deals over the weekend with Saudi Arabia that are expected to create billions in revenue as President Trump completed the first leg of a nine-day marathon trip to the Middle East and Europe.
In addition to an array of announcements that would boost investments in the U.S. defense and healthcare industries, a Who’s Who of U.S. energy leaders were in Riyadh to unveil transactions with state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co., aka Aramco, that together are worth an estimated $50 billion. Aramco, currently valued at up to $2 trillion, is considering a public launch in 2018. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, Aramco’s chairman, said last year the company was interested in pursuing international upstream ventures.
The transactions announced over the weekend “will pave way for the company to enhance its business synergy with the U.S. as well as attracting investments from its U.S. counterparts to the Kingdom,” Aramco said.
“The agreements…with major American companies underscore the purposeful collaboration between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. in areas of strategic importance linking Saudi Vision 2030 and America’s own economic depth and strength,” said Aramco CEO Amin Nasser.
The Vision 2030 program was conceived by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to move the Kingdom away from oil and make it more resilient to price shocks like the one in 2014. Saudi Arabia is the lead member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Among the biggest announcements specifically to bring jobs and revenue to the United States was by affiliates of ExxonMobil Corp. and Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC). The joint venture (JV) partners now plan to conduct a detailed study of their proposed Gulf Coast Growth Ventures project in South Texas and begin planning for front-end engineering and design (FEED) work.
In April ExxonMobil and SABIC tentatively agreed to develop a world-class ethane steam cracker near Corpus Christi, a facility that if given final approval would be able to produce 1.8 million metric tons/year of ethylene. The jointly owned project is to be sited in San Patricio County in South Texas, feeding a monoethylene glycol unit and two polyethylene units. The cracker is one of 11 projects ExxonMobil has announced as part of its 10-year, $20 billion Growing the Gulf initiative.
The FEED agreement was signed Saturday during the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum in Riyadh in the presence of Sabic CEO Yousef Al-Benyan and ExxonMobil Saudi Arabia Inc. CEO Philippe Ducom. Also in attendance were SABIC Chairman Prince Saud bin Abdullah bin Thenayan Al-Saud and ExxonMobil CEO Darren W. Woods.
“This agreement represents an important step in the progression of the Gulf Coast Growth Ventures project,” Ducom said. “We have a long and successful relationship with SABIC, which will be enhanced by this potential project that will create value for our companies and our communities.”
Also on Saturday separate memorandums of understanding were reached between Aramco and the top four oilfield service providers — Schlumberger Ltd., Halliburton Co., Baker Hughes Inc. and Weatherford International plc. Separate MOUs also were signed by Aramco and General Electric (GE), which is taking over Baker Hughes, as well as with Emerson, Honeywell International Inc., McDermott International Co., Nabors Industries Ltd. and Rowan Cos.
GE’s agreements, worth a collective $15 billion, are designed to help the Kingdom with its Vision 2030 program, said Vice Chairman John Rice. About $7 billion is to be dedicated to technology and solutions specifically from GE, including its cloud-based data analytics platform Predix, with agreements for the power and oil and gas sectors included.
A JV with National Oilwell Varco Inc. (NOV) announced over the weekend is to provide high-specification drilling rigs and advanced drilling equipment, while an updated JV with Jacobs Engineering would provide program and construction management services. NOV’s JV would be supported by a commitment from the recently announced Saudi Aramco Nabors Drilling Co. to purchase 50 onshore drilling rigs over a 10-year period. NOV would own a 70% interest, while Saudi Aramco would own 30%.
“With the formation of this joint venture, we will be harmonizing two important goals: supporting Saudi Aramco’s supply chain integration initiative and strengthening NOV’s U.S.-based, world-leading drilling technology franchise,” said NOV CEO Clay Williams. “This will create jobs and economic growth in both the Kingdom and in our operations around the globe, including the United States.”
Meanwhile, investment giant Blackstone Group LP inked a nonbinding MOU with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) for a $40 billion investment, equally split between the partners, for infrastructure projects principally within the United States.
Overall, through the equity in PIF vehicle and additional debt financing, Blackstone expects to invest in more than $100 billion of infrastructure projects, mostly in the United States. The collaboration between PIF and Blackstone culminates discussions between the two institutions that began in May 2016.
“This potential investment reflects our positive views around the ambitious infrastructure initiatives being undertaken in the United States as announced by President Trump, and the strategic opportunity for the PIF to achieve long-term returns given historical investment shortfalls,” said PIF Managing Director Yasir Al Rumayyan.
“There is broad agreement that the United States urgently needs to invest in its rapidly aging infrastructure,” said Blackstone President Hamilton E. James said. “This will create well-paying American jobs and will lay the foundation for stronger long-term economic growth. Blackstone has the talent, scale and experience to be an effective private sector partner in filling the massive infrastructure funding gap. We thank PIF for its strong endorsement of the United States and its vote of confidence in our country and Blackstone in making this investment.”
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