Zour refinery budget upped as most bids top estimates – Dashti still under fire for meeting Mughniah’s parents

Ali Al-Omair

Ali Al-Omair

KUWAIT: Oil Minister Ali Al-Omair said yesterday that the Supreme Petroleum Council, the country’s highest oil decisionmaking body, has approved a request to raise the budget for the new Al-Zour refinery. Omair told reporters the SPC approved additional funds of KD 871 million on top of the initial estimates of KD 4 billion, so the total cost is now estimated at KD 4.871 billion.

The new funding was approved after the bids for most of the tenders of the five packages forming the refinery came in higher than initial estimates. Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) had requested the new funding, which was approved by Kuwait Petroleum Corp (KPC) about two weeks ago. The awarding of the tenders is now expected to go ahead as scheduled for next month.

KNPC in February last year awarded contracts to upgrade two of the three refineries in the clean fuel project at a cost of around KD 4 billion. When the two projects are completed by 2018-19, Kuwait’s total refining capacity will increase to around 1.4 million barrels per day from the current 930,000 barrels per day.

Omair said that the two projects besides a heavy oil project and building new gathering centers are estimated to cost around $60 billion over the next five years. The projects are part of Kuwait’s strategy to raise its production capacity to 4 million barrels per day by 2020, which has become doubtful after the halt of production at the neutral zone with Saudi Arabia in which Kuwait lost an output of 250,000 barrels a day.

The minister said that Kuwait’s production is not likely to be affected by the expected increase in Iranian production following the nuclear deal because global demand is expected to pick up to account for the current surplus of 1.2 million barrels per day and as the demand is also forecast to increase further by the end of next year.

Meanwhile, Shiite MP Abdulhameed Dashti continued to come under fire yesterday several days after making a controversial visit to the parents of Emad Mughniah, the assassinated commander of Lebanese Hezbollah militia who allegedly hijacked a Kuwaiti passenger plane three decades ago.

MP Majed Mousa described Dashti’s action as provocative, especially it came after the Kuwaiti people showed strong unity following the Shiite mosque bombing. The lawmaker said that the message of the Kuwaiti people was very clear – that all sections stood united against terrorism and Dashti’s provocations will not undermine this unity. While in Lebanon, Dashti visited the Mughniah house and posted pictures on his Twitter account of him kissing the head of Mughniah’s father as a sign of respect for him.

The images caused an outrage in Kuwait, with condemnations coming from every corner including the National Assembly speaker, a large number of MPs and politicians and activists. The latest condemnation came yesterday from several Shiite writers and academics who said Dashti’s moves had a negative impact on national unity. Dashti has explained that his visit was to pay tributes to Mughniah because of his fight against Israel and claimed that his involvement in the hijacking of the plane is not established. He also said that some of those who attacked him were in fact supporters of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

By B Izzak

This article was published on 22/07/2015