‘We are still in the early stage of concept studies, but we hope to be finished by the end of the year,’ says the source. ‘The number of facilities and the specific products are yet to be defined but we are in talkswith a number of major international companies.’

Despite a boom in foreign currency reserves, the new facilities will not be equity-financed.

‘The projects are not being developed with government money,’ says the source. ‘They will be funded on an international basis.’

Joint venture agreements with Norway’s Yara International and the US’ Dow Chemicals to rehabilitate the country’s existing facilities are on track to be signed by early 2008, says the source.

The Dow/NOC project to upgrade and expand facilities at Ras Lanuf is being carried out on a project finance basis. But the Yara/NOC joint venture to revamp the Marsa el-Brega fertiliser complex is likely to be funded on an equity basis, says a source close to the deal.

NOC said in February that the country’s downstream programme would involve investment of up to $18,000 million (MEED 16:2:07).