Our partnerships in refining and marketing ventures in China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States enable us to traverse the length of the value chain from wellhead to consumer, adding value to our resources at every step.
In 2016, we continued to pursue and evaluate international opportunities to expand our refining and chemicals capability for greater downstream integration to propel additional value creation.
Growing sales and marketing
Expanded sales and marketing activities are key components of our strategy to strengthen integration across our downstream business and create additional value while diversifying risk. Guided by this approach, we registered eight new customers in 2016 and explored sales opportunities in the Baltics, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. We also renewed our agreement for the Okinawa storage facility to support supply and distribution in Asia and are working to expand storage capacity by 2 million barrels, to 8.3 million barrels, by mid-2017.
In 2016, we signed key business principles with the Jadwa Industrial Investment Group and LUBEREF, our affiliate that operates two base oil refineries in Jiddah and Yanbu’ on the Kingdom’s Red Sea coast, for the right to lift and market the base oil produced at LUBEREF. Base oils are used to create lubricants for automotive, industrial, and marine applications.
We plan to integrate base oil producing affiliates and establish global base oil product slates under the Saudi Aramco brand for Groups I, II, and III, with the capacity to produce 4.7 million tons per year, representing 14% of global base oil demand. In late 2016, our sales and marketing subsidiary, Aramco Trading Company (ATC), began volume exports of Group I base oil under the new brand name aramcoDURA®.
In addition to commencing exports of aramcoDURA®, ATC celebrated five years of successful operations and remained focused on creating more value from trading operations and maintaining reliability and profitability from our refined products portfolio. ATC pursued efficiency gains by optimizing freight contracts, hiring a new lead logistics provider, and increasing the number of local and international hubs to offer greater storage options and shipping flexibility.