Kurdistan inaugurates refinery at Arbil

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, July 20 -- Iraq’s Kurdistan region, eyeing a broader plan of industrialization, has inaugurated a new refinery near the capital city of Arbil, one of several planned for the area that will jointly process as much as 200,000 b/d.

Refinery director Baz Karim said the new facility is operated by private Kurdish investors Kar Group, and will process crude from the Khurmala Dome oil field, which will initially provide 50,000 b/d of oil before rising to 100,000 b/d after 6 months.

The new refinery has an initial capacity of 20,000 b/d but is expected to increase to 40,000 b/d by yearend, with eventual plans calling for an increase to 75,000 b/d.

The Arbil facility will produce gasoline, kerosine, heavy fuel oil, diesel, paraffin, and airplane fuel, said Karim, who added that the KRG will pay Kar Group for what the refinery produces.

The new facility will enable the Kurdish region to reduce its dependence on Iraq and Turkey for its refined products, according to KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.

"We cannot rely on foreign fuel and electricity to help us cope with the heat of summer and the cold of winter," said Barzani. "We will fulfill our promise that our people must live like citizens of the developed world in terms of living standards and prosperity."

Ashti Hawrami, minister of natural resources for the Kurdistan regional government (KRG), underlined that view, saying that the Arbil refinery is one of several planned for the region which will have the capacity of producing 200,000 b/d within 2-3 years.

"Within two or three years we will see the result of this program to transfer Kurdistan into an industrial base by utilizing our gas and the surplus oil,” Hawrami said in a broadcast carried by KurSat TV, owned by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

The launch of the new refinery also coincided with remarks by KRG President Massud Barzani, who told an election campaign rally that he will not "compromise" on longstanding Kurdish claims to the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

"We are committed to the application of Article 140 (of the Iraqi constitution) and we promise that we will absolutely not compromise on this issue or on the rights of the people of Kurdistan," Barzani said ahead of Kurdish regional elections, scheduled for July 25.

He was referring to the article of the Iraqi constitution which calls for a referendum to decide the fate of Kirkuk, which the Kurds wish to make the capital of their autonomous region.

In June, Kurdistan began exporting crude for the first time, sending 100,000 b/d from the Taq Taq and Tawke oil fields via the Iraq-Turkey pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Initial exports include 40,000 b/d from Taq Taq and 60,000 b/d from Tawke (OGJ Online, June 1, 2009).

Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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