(MENAFN - The Peninsula) Qatar has revived plans to build a 2bn oil refinery in Tunisia after years of delays, Qatari and Tunisian officials said yesterday, expanding the North African country's refining capacity more than four-fold.
Qatar Petroleum initially won a bid in 2007 to develop Tunisia's first privately built, owned and run refinery as part of a joint venture with Britain's Petrofac, but the project never got off the ground. Keen to bolster relations in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, Qatar recently agreed to lend Tunisia 500m at favourable rates.
Qatar has also revived talks with Tunisia, a net hydrocarbon importer, over the refinery to be located in Skhira, 60km from the southeastern city of Sfax. "Qatar will implement the Skhira refinery project," Qatar's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs H E Dr Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah told reporters in Tunisia.
Attiyah said the cost of the project was "very large" and it may require another partner, but declined to give more details. A Tunisian government official put the cost of the new refinery at 2bn, adding that it would have an initial capacity of 120,000 barrels per day, building eventually to 250,000 barrels a day.
The Skhira refinery will be Tunisia's second after the state-owned facility at Bizerte, which has a much smaller capacity of about 34,000 barrels per day. The refinery is expected to reduce Tunisia's reliance on fuel imports, which have risen in price in recent years, straining the country's budget, and could eventually allow Tunisia to export refined fuel. The refinery will include processing units, storage, and offices. It will provide up to 1,200 jobs. It was not clear when work would begin or when the refinery would come online.
Earlier, Tunisian President Mohamed Moncef Marzouki and Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali met Qatar's minister. A session of talks was held between the Qatari Minister and Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdul Salam. Talks discussed developing a mechanism to follow up and implement projects that have been agreed upon between the two countries, under the direction of the Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and the Heir Apparent H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
The Minister said that the projects include many areas such as energy, mining, infrastructure, tourism and real estate sector as well as food industry. The Tunisian Foreign Minister said that relations with Qatar have developed and advanced much in all areas and at all levels to reach advanced stages due to the existence of a common political will of the leaderships of both countries.
The talk, he said, is no longer about the agreements, but about the implementation of projects agreed upon in various fields, such as housing and tourism (Tozeur desert resort in the south of Tunisia), as well as technical cooperation in health and engineering. He said that the Tunisia-Qatar relations are strong to serve the interests of both countries and the interests of the Arab nation in general.
Dr Al Attiyah also met Tunisian Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Riyad Beltayeb and discussed cooperation between Qatar and Tunisia, and ways to boost them further. The meeting was attended and Qatar's Ambassador to Tunisia H E Saad Nasser Al Humaidi and the delegation accompanying the Minister.