DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – Saudi Aramco plans to boost investments in refining and petrochemicals to secure new markets for its crude, and sees growth in chemicals as central to its downstream strategy to lessen the risk of a slowdown in oil demand. Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer, is expanding its footprint globally by signing downstream deals and boosting the capacity of its plants, ahead of an initial public offering next year – the largest IPO in history. The state oil giant is moving ahead with multi-billion-dollar projects in China, India and Malaysia and aims to finalize new partnerships this year, Abdulaziz al-Judaimi, Aramco’s senior vice president for downstream, told Reuters. Aramco plans to raise its refining capacity to between 8 million and 10 million barrels per day, from some 5 million bpd now, and double its petrochemicals production by 2030, he added. Aramco pumps around 10 million bpd of crude oil. “Our strategy is very simple. We want to be at 8 to 10 million barrels per day of participated (refining) capacity … (and) we are going forward by trying to be a top leader in chemicals by 2040,” Judaimi said. “The market that we want to grow in … has to be growing, a strong market, with good demand and of course these assets have to be integrated to the whole value chain of the downstream,” he said in an interview at Aramco’s headquarters in Dhahran. To help it reach these targets, Aramco has entered a 50 percent joint venture with three Indian refiners to build a $44 billion, 1.2-million-bpd refinery integrated with petrochemical facilities on India’s west coast. Aramco has said it may introduce a strategic partner to share its 50 percent stake in the Indian refining venture.Judaimi said Aramco was working with Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC) toward securing a partnership. It would be the first time for the two national oil companies to join hands in an international venture.