ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Thamer al-Ghadhban, Iraq's oil minister, said on Thursday that a new refinery in the southern city of Karbala will begin operations in 2022 and will have a production capacity of 150,000 barrels per day (bpd).
Ghadhban made the comments while speaking to journalists in Baghdad and gave no further details, as reported by Reuters.
In 2014, Iraq awarded a $6.04 billion contract to a consortium from South Korea led by Hyundai Engineering and Construction to build the facility. Workers started on the project in 2016.
The oil minister said in mid-April that the Iraqi government would build another refinery, also with a planned production of 150,000 bpd, in the disputed province of Kirkuk.
In separate remarks made on Thursday, Ghadhban claimed that Iraq has contingency plans for any interruption to its Iranian gas imports, but hopes no such disruption would take place in the future.
Iran and Iraq maintain robust political and economic relations. Over the past decade and a half, Baghdad has relied considerably on Tehran to fulfill its economic needs by importing food products and other goods.
The current level of trade between Iraq and Iran stands at about $12 billion annually, according to Iranian media.
After the US re-imposed sanctions targeting Iran’s financial and energy sectors in November, Iraq found itself in a difficult position. Baghdad maintains strong relations with both Washington and Tehran but imports a large portion of its gas from Iran to run the nation's power grids.
Iraqi local media reported this week that the oil giant Exxon Mobil had evacuated its staff from Iraq due to increasing tensions between the US and Iran.
Ghadhban, however, told Reuters that international oil companies were operating as normal and assured that oilfields in the south and north of the country were safe and secure.