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Middle Eastern oil producer Oman denied on Wednesday that it was part of an oil refinery project worth US$3.85 billion in Sri Lanka, announced by Sri Lanka officials on Tuesday.
“No one on this side of the panel is aware of this investment in Sri Lanka,” Reuters quoted Salim al-Aufi, undersecretary of Oman’s ministry of oil and gas, as saying at a news conference on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Sri Lankan officials told reporters that the oil and gas ministry of the Sultanate of Oman would control 30 percent in the oil refinery project in Sri Lanka, while the majority holder would be Indian privately held Accord Group via Singapore-based investment vehicle Silver Park International Private Limited.
“This is the biggest foreign investment in the country’s history,” the Associated Press quoted Sri Lanka’s deputy minister of international trade, Nalin Bandara, as saying on Tuesday at the announcement of the project.
Yet, it appears that Oman was neither involved in this investment nor was it aware of it, because al-Aufi said on Wednesday, “It came as news to me,” as carried by Reuters.
The project is for the construction of an oil refinery with a processing capacity of 200,000 bpd. Construction is expected to start within days and complete in 44 months, according to the Sri Lankan officials. Most of the refined oil products are expected to be exported from the Hambantota port, which is controlled by a Chinese company.
Growing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka has been a concern for India, which views the Indian Ocean as its strategic and historic area of influence.
China, for its part, was on track until recently to be the largest investor in Sri Lanka, so a large-scale Indian investment would be a challenge to its investment ambitions, Reuters notes.
Amid all of this, it appears that Oman—one of the smaller Middle Eastern oil producers and not a member of OPEC—wasn’t aware that it was involved in plans to invest in a refinery in Sri Lanka.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.