Baiji Refinery: What It Means For Iraq

By-Dr Thamir Uqaili*

Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) on 17 November broke a siege of the Baiji refinery, which had been encircled by Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) fighters since late June. But restoring production at Baiji, which has design capacity of 310,000 b/d, will take time. The ISF will first have to ensure that the threat from ISIS is truly over while experts will have to test all units to ensure they are operational and safe to restart.

Even if there is no substantial damage to the refinery, it will be difficult to secure crude oil supply, with the Kirkuk field in the north producing at a fraction of its capacity. The power station inside the refining complex has also reportedly been badly damaged in the battles between ISIS and the Iraqi security force defending Baiji, which will make it difficult to restore operations.

Baiji’s central role in Iraq’s downstream sector is detailed in this article, which also looks at the performance of the two other main refineries in Iraq, Basra and Daura.

IRAQ’S REFINING CAPACITY: FEDERAL REFINERIES

The following split of Iraq’s products output is based on current knowledge of refining capacities of conventional and portable skid-mounted

1,000 b/d units, noting that:

• Running capacity is influenced by fuel oil marketing difficulties andmaintenance problems

• The yield of products depends on operating conditions. The following is average performance:

-Conventional refineries (Baiji, Daura and Basra):

• Naphtha 18-20%: converted into gasoline after splitting to:

> Heavy Naphtha fed to reforming units to produce 95-96 Octane gasoline.

> Light Naphtha fed to the isomerization units to produce 86 Octane gasoline. Iso units have been added to Baiji and Daura lately to enable the production of unleaded gasoline. Natural gasoline from

gas processing in both North and South Gas Projects is added to the naphtha toincrease the gasoline pool.

• Kerosene 20-25% (including jet fuel 8%)

• Gasoil 20-25%

• Fuel oil 30-35%

-Package ‘Skid mounted’ refineries (10 scattered in different locations):

• Naphtha 18-20%

• Kerosene 18-20%

• Gasoil 18-20%

• Fuel oil 40-45%

Prior to the ISIS takeover of Mosul and much of northern Iraq in June 2014, Iraqi refineries’ typical total products output was:

-Conventional refineries:

• Jet fuel 41,000 b/d • Gasoline 77,000 b/d

• Kerosene 112,000 b/d • Gasoil 122,000 b/d

• Fuel oil 209,000 b/d

-Package Units:

• Naphtha (can be used as low grade ‘gasoline’ by military vehicles): 30,000 b/d

• Kerosene 31,000 b/d

• Gasoil 33,000 b/d

• Fuel oil 71,000 b/d

Total gasoline output was 107,000 b/d, of which 77,000 b/d High Octane and 30,000 b/d Low Octane. In addition Iraq imported 42,000 b/d of gasoline in the first half of 2014, equivalent to 55% of regular-quality domestic output.

Total diesel output was 155,000 b/d, of which 122,000 b/d was of regular quality and 33,000 b/d low grade. Imports of around 30,000 b/d equate to 24% of regular output.

To meet domestic demand, Iraq was in the months after the shutdown of Baiji importing at least as much diesel and gasoline as it produces by its refineries. In May 2013, Iran announced that it would increase exports of diesel to Iraq by around 200% to 5 million liters/day (some 32,000 b/d).

The Turkish Energy Minister also said Iraq had asked for an increase in imports of product from Turkey to 68,000 b/d from 30,000 b/d but it is not clear how much was delivered due to the crisis.

KURDISTAN REFINERIES

• Erbil Refinery: believed to have capacity of 80,000 b/d, rising to 100,000 b/d by end 2014.

• Eski Kalak package unit: 20,000 b/d, used to be federal.

• Privately owned small package units totaling around 80,000 b/d of inferior products that are locally used.

• The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) also imports some products from Turkey in exchange for crude oil.

BAIJI OPERATIONS

The refining center is fed by:

• A branch of the Iraq-Turkey-Pipeline (ITP) evacuating crude oil from the Kirkuk and Bai Hassan oil fields, currently under the control of the KRG.

• Separate line linked to Ajeel and Himreen Fields, currently under the control of the insurgents.

The KRG, which has started producing from Kirkuk’s Avana Dome and from Bai Hassan at rates estimated at 120,000-150,000 b/d, is expected to allow crude to flow to Baiji, which supplied it with 2 million liters/d of gasoline before the shutdown.

EFFECT OF CLOSURE

Baiji has typically accounted for just over 30% of Iraq’s total gasoline and diesel output. Taking into consideration the import figures, the effect of its closure means a shortage of probably less than 20% that has to be addressed by more imports until a local replacement is made available.

The additional problem of ensuring safe transport of the products, whether from locations other than Baiji center or imports, to distant users, is another challenge. The overall loss may well be higher than 30%. However, the government is no longer supplying product to areas under insurgent control which has resulted in lower domestic demand.

The Baiji power stations (1200MW design capacity but more recently running at 350MW) can be operated using either crude oil or fuel oil, neither of which are currently available. The power station is believed to have been badly damaged.

CONCLUSIONS

Baiji Refining Center ‘BRC’ is not expected to return to production soon until the entire area is secure, crude supply is restored and all units tested, which could take months.

The current instability in the country with the battle against ISIS still ongoing means the government may have to put contingency plans in place by securing additional storage in various locations and building more product pipelines to ensure that all regions under federal control receive sufficient supply.

Oil field development and export plans will have to be revised.