Iran claimed to have the largest oil refinery in the Middle East after the inauguration on Saturday of an expansion to an existing facility by Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi, media reports said.
The Imam Khomeini refinery in Shazand near the central city of Arak will have a refining capacity of 250,000 barrels per day by September, up from 170,000 bpd, making it the largest in the region, Mehr news agency said.
It said the refinery when fully operational will also have a petrol production capacity of 16 million litres a day, a significant increase from four million litres at present.
The refinery expansion cost $3.3 billion, 33 percent of which was financed by China’s Sinopec and the rest by Iran, the report said.
Oil-rich Iran, which was slapped with stringent sanctions last year targeting its energy sector, particularly petrol imports, has a dilapidated refining capacity despite being OPEC’s second largest crude exporter.
However, Tehran says it has now reached self-sufficiency in petrol production, partly through the manufacture of fuel at petrochemical plants.
Petrol consumption in the Islamic republic has also fallen since the government cut subsidies on energy products from December 19, raising fuel prices, including petrol, by up to five times.
In January, Mirkazemi said Iran planned to raise its total production of petrol to 65 million litres a day by September, which officials say would be more than the amount consumed domestically, and help Tehran export fuel.
Before last year’s sanctions, Iran imported large volumes of petrol for domestic use.
Exporting petrol was now one of the country’s “missions,” Mirkazemi was quoted as saying on Saturday by the Fars news agency, adding that Iran was now producing “high quality petrol after it was pressured by sanctions.”
The sanctions were imposed over Iran’s disputed nuclear drive which the West suspects is aimed at building a nuclear bomb, an accusation denied by Tehran which says its programme of uranium enrichment is purely for peaceful purposes.