An adviser to the state-run energy firm confirms that the scope of the project has been downgraded by the company to 200,000 b/d from the initial 500,000 b/d target, in line with widespread speculation. He adds that previous plans for a petrochemicals unit are not expected to proceed.

Ipic signed an agreement with the US’ ConocoPhillips in 2006 to carry out a feasibility study on the refinery, but the US firm pulled out of the scheme last year, saying rising construction costs made it unviable (MEED 14:9:07).

“When we started with Conoco, we were looking at the aromatics complex [but] with this one, it is not part of the equation,” says the Ipic adviser. “It will be 200,000 b/d maximum.”

He confirms that the US’ Occidental Petroleum and a European oil major are in talks with Ipic to develop the refinery.

“We are in talks with two potential partners and expect some progress later this year,” he says.

Ipic signed a co-operation agreement with Occidental in March and has previously signed memorandums of understanding with Germany’s Wintershall, Austria’s OMV and the UK/Dutch Shell Group.

Occidental is already active in the UAE, having a stake in the Dolphin Energy project.