Commissioning and ramp-up of Iraq’s 140,000 b/d Karbala refinery has been anything but smooth. Weeks after Iraqi officials celebrated throughputs hitting full capacity (MEES, 29 September), units have again been taken offline. Whether this is due to an abundance of caution or further setbacks is unclear, with officials painting contrasting pictures.

The highly-anticipated project is slated to provide a much-needed boost to Iraqi gasoline production, reducing the need for imports. Central to this is the refinery’s 31,000 b/d fluid catalytic cracker (FCC) which, by upgrading VGO, should enable the refinery, combined with gasoline-pool feed from other units, to produce 55,000 b/d of 90 and 95 RON gasoline. However, an Iraqi official tells MEES that the refinery’s current output indicates that the unit has been taken offline, less than a month after starting up. “I believe it has stopped due to technical issues,” he says. (CONTINUED - 972 WORDS)