Iraq hopes to complete negotiations with European investors to build a new oil refinery in the city of Karbala [Kerbala], the country's Deputy Prime Minister, Hussain al-Shahristani (pictured), said on Friday.
The projected 140,000 barrel per day (bpd) Kerbala refinery is part of a plan to build four new refineries, adding around 750,000 bpd of refining capacity at an estimated cost of more than $20 billion, according to Reuters.
"We hope to finish negotiations with European investors regarding the Kerbala refinery and to begin work this year," Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani, who has responsibility for Iraq's energy affairs, told reporters.
He said the Kerbala refinery was expected to be completed in three to four years.
Shahristani said that with the planned additional refining capacity, on top of the country's existing refining capacity of 500,000-550,000 bpd, Iraq would turn from an importer into an important exporter of refined oil products.
According to the OPEC website, Iraq produces about 453,000 bpd of refined products and uses 589,000 bpd.
Last month, Deputy Oil Minister Ahmed al-Shamma said Italy's ENI had expressed interest in the Kerbala refinery project, which was valued at $4-$4.5 billion.
The other three new refining facilities in the national refinery expansion plan would be located at Nassiriya in south Iraq, in the northern oil city of Kirkuk and at Maysan in the south.
Shahristani said Iraq was also upgrading its existing 140,000 bpd Basra refinery.