* New hi-tech refinery to be built near Caspian
* Turkmenistan plans to triple oil refining by 2030
* Turkmen Jan-Aug oil products exports rise 15 pct yr/yr
By Marat Gurt
ASHGABAT, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Japan’s JGC Corp has been chosen to prepare a feasibility study for a new oil refinery in western Turkmenistan, local industry officials said on Thursday, adding that construction works would start in 2015.
“This will be a completely new refinery, whose output will meet rigid international technological standards,” Tachberdy Tagiyev, general director of the state-run Turkmenbashi Oil Processing Plants Holding Company, told an energy conference.
He said the new plant would be built in the town of Okarem in the Balkan region near the Caspian Sea.
Turkmenistan, a Central Asian nation of 5.5 million which borders Afghanistan and Iran, is the world’s fourth-largest holder of natural gas reserves.
The ex-Soviet desert nation, which also boasts ample reserves of crude oil, set an ambitious target in March last year, to build three new oil refineries and boost capacity at its two existing plants by 2030 to achieve a projected threefold rise in refining.
A government official had earlier told Reuters that the new, third refinery, would have an initial capacity of 3 million tonnes of crude a year, set to rise to 5 million tonnes.
Turkmenistan currently processes most of its annual crude oil output of over 10 million tonnes at two refineries.
The country plans to boost its crude output nearly sixfold to around 67 million tonnes by 2030. It aims to boost processing to 20 million tonnes in 2020, 25 million tonnes in 2025 and 30 million tonnes in 2030.
“Thanks to a number of companies from various countries, within a short period of time we have built a number of ultra-modern technological facilities, which has boosted the volume of oil refining, with the depth of crude processing reaching 80 percent,” Tagiyev said, giving no further detail.
In a rare official disclosure of energy sector statistics in the reclusive nation, Tagiyev told the conference that Turkmenistan had exported oil products worth $2.24 billion in January-August, a 15 percent rise over the same year-ago period.
A government official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that Turkmen refineries had processed around 4.6 million tonnes of crude since the start of 2012. Tagiyev said the country was now exporting some 65 percent of its oil products.
Several international majors, including Total, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil, are vying for some of the 32 licensed blocks that Turkmenistan holds within its portion of the Caspian Sea.
The government estimates its Caspian oil reserves at about 11 billion tonnes.
State oil firm Turkmenneft is the main producer in the country, although several foreign companies are also drilling, including Dubai-based Dragon Oil and Malaysian state oil company Petronas