Progress on the 250,000-400,000-barrel-a-day (b/d) refinery is being closely watched by international oil companies (IOCs) as it was to be the first local refinery in decades to be wholly owned and operated by the private sector.

The Petroleum & Mineral Resources Ministry submitted its development plans for the refinery to the SPC at the end of March and had promised firms they would have the request for proposals for the refinery by the end of May.

Aabed al-Saadoun, an adviser to the Oil Ministry, tells MEED that no new date has been set for issuing the documents and it was premature to guess when the SPC would give approval. The Ministry had originally hoped to announce an IOC shortlist for the project in June last year (MEED 25:5:07).

Under the Petroleum & Mineral Resources Ministry’s original plan, eight shortlisted local companies were to form partnerships with foreign firms. The refinery is expected to cost $7bn-12bn to develop.

To date, three IOCs, Malaysia’s Petronas, India’s Reliance Industries and Taiwan’s Formosa Petrochemical Corporation, have indicated an interest in the scheme.

More bidders are expected once the SPC has formally given its approval.