Located at Abu al-Khasib, 25 kilometres south of Basra, the plant was originally commissioned in 1976 by Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI). The plant has design capacity of about 420,000 tonnes a year of urea. The facility was heavily damaged during consecutive wars, with only about 35 per cent still operational.

According to the bid schedule, the ministry will prequalify investor consortiums by 31 July, after which detailed technical reports will be released. Investors will then have until 28 February 2007 to submit technical and commercial offers. The project is valued at about $100 million. ‘We are willing to consider all types of private sector involvement, including offering various shareholding structures,’ says a ministry official.

The plant, which requires about 40 million cubic feet a day of natural gas, will receive feedstock from an existing South Gas Company pipeline. The facility is strategically located on the edge of the Shatt al-Arab river near the Iranian border. ‘Other than the Kurdish areas, this plant is located in one of the safest areas of the country,’ says the official.