Iraq’s plans for new downstream oil projects include a world-scale petrochemicals plant, four fertilizer plants and three oil refineries, according to National Investment Commission (NIC) Chairman Sami al-Araji. A $20bn olefins and polyolefins complex would be built at Basra, with a view to start-up in 2020, he told MEES on the sidelines of the Symexco Iraq Finance 2012 conference held in London on 18-19 September. The plant would be built in two stages, said Dr Araji, the first having 2mn tons/year combined output capacity and the second taking total production capacity to 7mn t/y. He added that Chevron had expressed interest in building the plant and had held preliminary talks with NIC.

Whether Chevron’s interest in the Basra petrochemicals project proceeds further than preliminary talks could depend on relations between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Although the two governments are working to resolve their differences over oil investments, Baghdad has threatened to annul the contracts of any international oil firms which sign KRG oil contracts. ExxonMobil was the first US firm to invest in the KRG upstream, and Chevron followed suit on 19 July by announcing that it had acquired interests in two blocks in Kurdistan. The US major took over Indian firm Reliance’s 80% interest and operatorship of the Rovi and Sarta blocks (MEES, 6 August). Unlike ExxonMobil, Chevron does not already hold upstream interests in Iraq, but the issue could lead the Iraqi Ministry of Oil to block Chevron’s pursuit of the Basra petrochemicals project. (CONTINUED - 656 WORDS)