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A specialized American website touched on the enormous oil and gas resources available in Iraq and the extent of this country’s ability to become a global producer of high-value petrochemicals, indicating that it will benefit greatly from the huge revenues from these value-added products.
In a report published by the American “Oil Price” website, writer Simon Watankins said that there had been plans to do this several years ago, especially the “Nebras Project” for petrochemical industries. According to comments from the Iraqi Oil Ministry, talks took place last week to approve the “final concept” of this long-awaited station, and “emphasize the need to accelerate plans to implement this project.”
In January 2015, Shell signed the original deal to build the then $11 billion nuclear power plant in the southern oil hub of Basra, after signing the original memorandum of understanding in 2012.
At that time, there were high hopes on both sides for the future of the “Nebras” project, as the then Minister of Industry, Nasser Al-Issawi, said in a press conference that the nuclear power plant would enter into operation within 5 or 6 years and would make his country the largest producer of petrochemicals in the region.
For Shell, this gave it the opportunity to launch its initial operations in the Majnoon field and the West Qurna 1 field and transform it into a leading refining station in the field of manufacturing industries.
These reserves of oil and associated gas have been provided to add to the potential raw materials that will come from Shell's 44% stake in the Basra Gas Company project, which is worth $17 billion and was launched 25 years ago. The Basra Gas Project is designed to collect gas from fields in the south, including West Qurna 1, Zubair and Rumaila.
According to the writer, Nebras's design plans were for a project that could produce at least 1.8 million metric tons annually of various petrochemicals. This would make it the first and largest petrochemical project in Iraq since the early 1990s and one of only 4 such major complexes in the entire country. The other areas - Khor Al-Zubair in the south, Al-Musayyab near Baghdad, and the Baiji refinery complex in the north - were all managed by the Iraqi General Company for Petrochemical Industries.
However, since the launch of the Nebras project, problems have become clear for Shell, as has happened with many foreign oil and gas companies that have operated in Iraq. According to the independent organization Transparency International, in its “Corruption Perceptions Index” publications, Iraq is always ranked among the 10 worst countries out of 180 countries in terms of the extent and scope of corruption.
In fact, Shell was unlucky enough to sign the original memorandum of understanding for the Nebras project during the period in which Iraq lost about $14.4 billion in “cash compensation” payments, according to a statement made in 2015 by the Minister of Oil and the Prime Minister of Iraq. Later, Adel Abdul Mahdi.
This “cash compensation” includes what can be classified as bribery and corruption payments that ended up either in the hands of Iraqi officials, brokers of various exploration and development deals, or others involved in these deals. Also during this period, ExxonMobil began to face the same type of problems in its highly important joint seawater supply project.
The report confirmed that there is still a truly tremendous opportunity in the "Nebras" project that Iraq can exploit. As explained exclusively to Oil Price in 2018 by a prominent figure in one of the Russian companies that was looking to acquire the Nebras project, Shell has done a really good job so far with the Basra Gas Company, but the country needs to implement its plans. To develop a second gas center away from Basra.
The Russian source said, “This will lead to the volume of gas production reaching an average of one billion standard cubic feet per day, so that ethane can be extracted on a sustainable and reliable basis, which will provide sufficient volume for a large petrochemical plant to be viable.”
By 2019/2020, the Basra Gas Company reached the peak production rate at more than this required level (1.035 billion standard cubic feet per day), which is the highest rate in the history of Iraq.
The report concluded with what the source said that the global ethylene production facility - one of the most in-demand petrochemical products in the world, especially from China - ranges between 1 and 1.5 million tons of ethylene production, and one million tons annually, and the ethylene facility will require a supply of about 1.3 million tons annually of ethane. .
There must be sustainable and reliable supplies for at least 20 to 25 years, and in general, building all the necessary parts of an effective global petrochemical sector in Iraq will require about $40 to $50 billion.
Source: Oil Price
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