Iraq’s Oil Ministry is close to awarding a major design contract for a new strategic crude pipeline running from southern Iraq across Jordan to the port of Aqaba on the Red Sea.

The ministry is in final talks for the front-end engineering and design (feed) of a pipeline from Basra to Haditha, which will link up with the planned Iraq-Jordan oil export link. An award is expected shortly.

Once signed, the design work is expected to take 6-8 months to complete, which means an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) tender for the 680-kilometre pipeline could be released in the middle of 2014.

Basra, in the south of Iraq, is the main point of export, but is logistically constrained to about 5 million barrels a day (b/d). In the north, the Iraq-Turkey pipeline is now more than 25 years old, with a design capacity of 1.6 million b/d and a current operational capacity of only 600,000 b/d.

A pipeline with a diameter of 56 inches will transport about 2.3 million b/d of stabilised crude from fields in and around Basra to the node point or collection hub at Haditha in the north of Iraq. Running in parallel will be an associated fuel gas link.

A tank farm will also be built at Pumping Station-1, with enough capacity to store seven days’ worth of oil flow, or about 16 million barrels. Three intermediate pumping stations will also be required.

From here, the line will link up with a 1 million-b/d pipeline, stretching about 1,000km from Haditha to Aqaba. SNC Lavalin is also the project management consultant for the Jordan link.

The internal section from Basra to Haditha will be tendered on a EPC basis and funded through the federal budget. The international segment will be carried out under a build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) contract, which is a first for Iraq.

Twelve international EPC consortiums have been shortlisted to bid for the BOOT pipeline, but the tender has been held up pending approvals from the Oil Ministry. The tender is expected to be floated by the end of 2013.