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Saudi Aramco looks east for new downstream oil opportunities

Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as the crude supplier of choice for Asia-Pacific and is quietly cornering the region's refining market as well, writes Digby Lidstone

SAUDI ARABIA sent its first tanker of crude oil to a refinery in China's southern province of Fujian in spring 2008. In terms of the global ebb and flow of crude, the cargo was insignificant. But for state-owned Saudi Aramco, it was symbolic of a shift in focus from western to eastern markets. It also marks a shift in downstream strategy. Bound from Ras Tanura, the 0.9m barrels of oil were transported to Fujian Refining and Petrochemical, a $5bn joint venture between Aramco, ExxonMobil and China's state-owned Sinopec. The plant exemplifies Saudi Arabia's new approach to its downstream businesses – taking stakes in foreign facilities and building downstream assets close to home. Of the new

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