Oil for building expertise as exchanges grow

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Oil for building expertise as exchanges grow


The Saudi Aramco Ras Tanura refinery is located in eastern Saudi Arabia. Provided by the company

Korea’s economic relationship with Saudi Arabia looks to have a bright future as more local companies open offices in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia is Korea’s No.1 trading partner among countries in the region, and it provides more of Korea’s petroleum than any other country - 31.8 percent of Korea’s crude oil imports, or 265 million barrel worth $16.8 billion, came from Saudi Arabia last year.

That same year, Korean builders won construction projects worth $7.2 billion in Saudi Arabia. Forty-four Korean companies including Daelim, Daewoo Engineering and Construction, GS Global Corporation, Hyundai Heavy Industries, SK Engineering and Construction and Samsung C&T Corporation, run Saudi Arabian operations either through their own offices or in joint ventures with local firms according to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

Saudi Arabia’s biggest export partners last year were the United States, China, Japan, Germany and Korea. Its top exports to Korea include crude petroleum, naphtha, liquid petroleum gas, materials used in synthetic fibers and petrochemical byproducts, according to the Korea International Trade Agency.

Top Korean exports to Saudi Arabia include transformers, tires, air-conditioners, motor vehicles and polyester fabrics. Saudi conglomerates with operations in Korea include Saudi Aramco and SABIC, all specializing in petroleum or petrochemicals.

The state-owned national oil company Saudi Aramco, which owns a large share of local refinery S-Oil, has been a particularly prominent client of Korean construction firms.

“We’re now building a 400,000-barrel oil refinery in Saudi Arabia, and Korean companies including Daelim, Samsung and SK are our contractors,” said Bander Damdam, a senior project engineer at Saudi Aramco. “We have representatives at each Korean company involved in the joint project. We have offices at SK, Daelim, Samsung, S-Oil, Hyundai and GS. At all the contractors we are working with, we have offices in Korea.”

Although Damdam declined to reveal just how valuable Saudi Aramco’s projects are to Korean builders, he said he expects the number of those joint projects to continue to grow.

“Last year there were four projects with Korean companies. There are five projects this year and next year there will be three new projects,” Damdam said. “So Saudi Aramco has continuing relationships and partnerships with Korean contractor companies. Korean companies are so strong and effective in participating in the Saudi Arabian market. They’re always bidding on new projects.”

By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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