China’s largest oil refiner has put on a brave face with its Russia investments amid Western sanctions, after its 2021 net profit more than doubled to its highest level in a decade. China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) said the US$11 billion natural gas-to-chemicals plant in East Siberia’s Amur region was “going well” in spite of Western sanctions. The venture, which kicked off in December 2020, is 40 per cent owned by Sinopec and 60 per cent by Russia’s Sibur and is expected to come online in 2024. The Beijing-based company’s “projects and operations in Russia are going smoothly, and there is no risk of [assets] impairment for the time being,” Ma Yongsheng, Sinopec’s chairman, said in a briefing on Monday. Western countries have imposed unprecedented economic sanctions against Russia and its businesses after the country’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, covering merchandise and energy trading, flights and financial dealings. The sanctions have resulted in a spike in inflation and eroded consumers’ buying power. The plant in Russia’s Amur region, just across the border from China’s northeastern-most Heilongjiang province, has been billed as what would be the world’s largest basic polymer production facility, with the capacity to produce 2.3 million tonnes of polythene and 0.4 million tonnes of polypropylene. It will mainly target the China market. Sinopec has, however, suspended talks with Russia for an up to US$500 million gas chemical plant similar to the one in Amur, Reuters reported on Friday. It cited unnamed sources as saying that China’s ministry of foreign affairs had urged the country’s state-owned oil and gas giants, including Sinopec, to refrain from buying Russian assets, to review their exposure there and to plan for potential business disruptions. China’s Sinopec begins building world’s largest green hydrogen plant Sinopec would continue to follow its strategy of procuring oil and gas from diversified sources internationally, Ma said on Monday, without commenting on the Reuters report or whether the refiner would buy more Russian products that were discounted heavily because of international sanctions. The company had bought some crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Russia last year, he said, adding that product grades, prices, logistics costs and supply stability had all been considered. Sinopec on Sunday posted a 115 per cent jump in net profit to 72 billion yuan (US$11.3 billion) for last year – its highest since 2012. It was slightly lower than the 73.2 billion yuan average forecast by analysts polled by Bloomberg. Sinopec to spend 30 billion yuan over five years to get off fossil fuels This was thanks largely to higher oil and gas prices that saw Sinopec book 30 billion yuan of gains on its inventories’ value, partly offset by a 6 billion yuan loss on imported LNG. Its refining and chemicals operations, which contributed 73 per cent of last year’s operating profit, have faced profit margin pressure amid high oil prices in the past two months, Ma said. Sinopec will seek to offset this by procuring more crude oil that offers value for money, producing more high-value-added products and boosting its oil and gas output, he added. The refiner planned to raise oil production by 0.5 per cent this year to 279.8 million barrels and gas output by 4.8 per cent to around 35 billion cubic metres. Sinopec’s shares closed the morning session 5.1 per cent higher at HK$3.9, after it said it would pay 80 per cent of its 2021 profits to shareholders through a final dividend of 31 fen per share. Its annual payout will now amount to 47 fen. The payout ratio in 2020 was 73 per cent. The company will also seek approval from shareholders to repurchase its shares. Details about the scale, timing and price would be announced later, vice-president Huang Wensheng said on Monday. As part of its goal to achieve carbon-neutrality in its operations by 2050, Sinopec aims to cut its methane emissions intensity by half by 2025 from 2020, Ma said. Methane is the main component of natural gas. Sinopec will enhance the detection and repair of methane leakages and increase its recovery and utilisation of vented gas. It recovered 717 million cubic metres last year, up nearly 20 per cent from 2020. The refiner’s other decarbonisation initiatives include hydrogen production and distribution, solar and wind farms installation, materials recycling and carbon capture and utilisation projects.