It's no secret that Saudi Aramco’s expertise and financial strength are rooted mainly in its unrivaled upstream operations. But, as the company evolves, it is making a concerted effort to further expand its downstream business in a bid to add value and maximise profits by utilising the kingdom’s massive hydrocarbon resource base more efficiently.

Industry insiders say that in comparison to major international oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil, Aramco has made a late start on building out its downstream refining and petrochemicals segment. That disadvantage is reflected in the segment’s less-than-stellar management smarts and financial performance.

Aramco has been saying for some time that it plans to scale up its refining and petrochemicals operations to better match its massive upstream production capacity, and it has talked of investing $100 billion in petrochemicals over the coming decade to meet that target. The plans are driven by the desire to safeguard demand for its crude output.

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