Iraq’s Oil Ministry has pushed back the deadline for commercial proposals for the planned $5bn new refinery at Karbala in the south of the country.

Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) bids for the 140,000 barrel a day (b/d) refinery are now expected to be submitted in mid-November, according to sources close to the project.

International EPC consortiums submitted technical proposals in May to the State Company for Oil Projects (SCOP), a subsidiary of the Oil Ministry. The consortiums include three led by:

Bidding firms say they plan to ask for further extensions, but the Oil Ministry is keen to push ahead with the project as soon as possible.

The refinery is one of a five new downstream facilities planned by the government, as part of its plan to increase the country’s refining capacity by more than 700,000 b/d by 2019. The plan envisages at least $50bn being spent over the next 10 years.

So far it is the only one to receive any bids and funds allocated in the 2013 budget. The construction of two other refineries will be funded by private investors.

Earlier in October, the Oil Ministry signed an agreement with Switzeland’s Satarem for a 150,000 b/d refinery in the Missan province and investors will have the chance to bid for the development of the 300,000 b/d Nassiriya refinery in mid-December.