Petro Rabigh refinery to feed proposed needle coke, graphite complex

May 25, 2023
TAQAT let a contract to CLG to deliver technology licensing and engineering services for a proposed complex that will produce needle coke and synthetic graphite from feedstock supplied by the Petro Rabigh-operated refinery and chemical complex in Rabigh.

Privately held TAQAT Development Co. has let a contract to Chevron Lummus Global (CLG) to deliver technology licensing and engineering services for a proposed grassroots complex that will produce needle coke and synthetic graphite from feedstock supplied by the 400,000-b/d refinery and chemicals complex operated by Rabigh Refining & Petrochemical Co. (Petro Rabigh)—a 50-50 joint venture of Saudi Aramco and Sumitomo Chemical Co.—in the port city of Rabigh, Saudi Arabia, along the Red Sea.

As part of the contract, CLG will license the proposed 75,000-tonne/year (tpy) complex its proprietary two-step coking process to enable conversion of lower-value, heavy oil residue streams from Petro Rabigh’s refinery that would otherwise be used as fuel oil into high-quality needle coke, which in turn will be used to produce synthetic graphite, the service provider said on May 25.

Alongside technology licensing, CLG’s scope of work under the contract also covers basic design, pilot plant testing, as well as other unidentified engineering and operations support for the project.

The service provider revealed neither the value nor duration of the license and engineering contract, which was initially signed on Feb. 14, 2023, according to a recent post by TAQAT to one of its official social media accounts.

According to TAQAT’s website, the proposed complex—or cluster—will consist of two separate installations, including a plant to be developed inside Petro Rabigh’s refinery that will use the refiner’s supply of slurry-decant oil feedstock to produce needle coke.

The planned cluster also is to include construction of a separate plant that will use the precursor needle coke for production of graphite anode for electric vehicle (EV) and energy storage-system batteries, TAQAT said.

While TAQAT confirmed via its website the December 2020 signing of its agreement with Petro Rabigh’s refinery for the needle coke plant’s development and associated feedstock supply, the company recently formed a joint venture with Novonix Ltd.—a Canadian-based battery technology developer and manufacturer—to develop a 30,000-tpy graphite anode materials plant in Saudia Arabia that would receive precursor needle coke, at least in part, from the proposed Petro Rabigh plant, according to a Mar. 30, 2023, release from Novonix.

TAQAT said its proposed needle coke-graphite anode project is supported by investments of the government of Saudi Arabia under its Vision 2030 goals, which aim to have EVs account for 30% of all on-road, in-kingdom vehicles by 2030.

The TAQAT (60%)-Novonix (40%) JV’s proposed graphite anode plant—plans for which must be finalized by end-March 2024 per terms of the agreement—would directly support a localized supply chain for the EV sector, the companies said.

Petro Rabigh has yet to directly disclose any official details to global media outlets regarding its role in the proposed specialty complex.