The Cambridge Atlas of the Middle East and North Africa

By Gerald Blake; John Dewdney et al. | Go to book overview

Oil refineries

Alasdair Drysdale

Although the Middle East and North Africa produce one-quarter of the world's oil, they currently refine only 6% of it (see Table 11). Nevertheless, many countries have major petroleum refining and petrochemical industries and have ambitious plans to encourage downstream activities as a means of broadening their industrial bases.

Petroleum refining is by no means new to the region. The first refineries began operations in 1913 at Abadan in Iran and Suez in Egypt shortly after the discovery of oil. However, before World War II Abadan accounted for most of the region's capacity and mainly produced fuel oil for the Royal Navy. After the war, as crude oil production increased and economies expanded, additional refineries were built in Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, primarily to refine crude for the growing local market. Even countries with little or no oil of their own, like Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, developed small refining industries. Elsewhere, notably Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, refineries were built with the export market in mind. Since the early 1970s local refining has been boosted by heavy demands for feedstock in the growing petrochemical industry (Map 37). The Gulf states have embarked on ambitious projects to capture some of the forecast increases in the demand for petrochemicals, which have since proved far too high.

Since 1976, the region's refining capacity has increased by over 40% and several additional major projects are scheduled for completion before 1990. In Algeria the Skikda refinery, with a capacity of 300,000 b/d, came on stream in 1983. Libya's 250,000 b/d refinery at Ras Lanuf began operations in 1984. Egypt more than doubled its capacity. Two new facilities opened in Abu Dhabi. Iraq commissioned a refinery at Baiji in 1983 and was due to complete another one in 1985. In Kuwait, the Mina Abdullah refinery is being modernised and output increased. Saudi Arabia, which is already the largest refiner in the region with a capacity early in 1984 of 840,000 b/d, opened or planned to open three more large refineries in 1984-5 at Yanbu, Jubail, and Rabigh with a capacity of over 550,000 b/d. Its huge Ras Tannurah refinery is also being modernised.

All this expansion is causing apprehension in Western Europe and the Far East because it will aggravate the existing surplus capacity of refineries and petrochemical plants. Thus in 1984 only about 75 % of the world's refining capacity was utilised. Refineries in the Middle East and North Africa were similarly underutilised and a few

Table 11. Oil refining capacity
(000 b/d)
         Algeria      435   4
         Abu Dhabi      130   3
         Bahrain      250   1
         Egypt      369   6
         Iran      530   4
         Iraq      470   8
         Israel      190   2
         Jordan      100   1
         Kuwait      543   5
         Lebanon       52   1
         Libya     129   3
         Morocco      74   2
         Oman      48   1
         Qatar      63   1
         Saudi Arabia   840   4
         Syria   228   2
         Tunisia     34   1
         Turkey   460   4
        Total 4719 54
Source: The Middle East and North Africa, 1984-85
( Europa Publications, London, 1984), and Oil and Gas
, 31 December 1984.

projected refinery expansion and construction schemes have been cancelled.

Refineries, like pipelines, are vulnerable in times of political conflict. Egypt's Suez refineries, for example, were badly damaged in the 1967 Arab--Israeli war. Lebanon's Sidon and Tripoli refineries suffered during that country's civil war and as a result of the feud between Syria and Iraq. Refineries in both Iran and Iraq have sustained heavy damage in the Gulf war. The 610,000 b/d Abadan refinery was virtually destroyed and has been out of operation since 1980. When the war is over, Iran may build a new refinery in a less vulnerable part of Khuzestan rather than rebuild Abadan. Iraq's losses have not been so great, but its 140,000 b/d facility at Basra was badly damaged early in the war and has not been repaired.

Almost all the region's 60 or so oil refineries are located on the coast. Refineries at inland locations tend to be small, and provide largely for a local market. Other refineries are in coastal locations because of their export orientation. Relatively little of the total throughput of refined products is consumed in the area, although local demand for petroleum products is rising. Middle East refineries have an advantage over their competitors in being up to date, and capable of producing high-value light products such as gasoline. About 10% of oil exported from the Middle East and North Africa is now in the form of refined products, whose transportation tends to be more costly than that of crude oil because of the need to use smaller, more specialised ships.


Exxon Background Series, Middle East Oil and Gas ( Exxon Corporation, New York, 1985).

International Petroleum Encyclopedia ( Pennwell Publishing Company, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1982).

Oil and Gas Journal and Petroleum Economist (various issues).


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The Cambridge Atlas of the Middle East and North Africa
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface 1
  • Maps 1 and 2 Global Perspectives 3
  • Key References 5
  • Maps 3 and 4 Structure and Relief 7
  • Key References 9
  • Maps 5 and 6 Vegetation and Soils 11
  • Key References 13
  • Map 7 Landscapes 15
  • Key References 15
  • Map 8 Temperature, Pressure and Wind Direction 17
  • Key References 17
  • Map 9 Precipitation 19
  • Key References 19
  • Map 10 Water Balance 21
  • Key References 21
  • Map 11 Fresh Water 23
  • Key References 23
  • Map 12 Irrigation 25
  • Key References 25
  • Map 13 Environmental Hazards 27
  • Key References 27
  • Map 14 the Rise of Islam and the Arab Conquests 29
  • Key References 29
  • Map 15 the Ottoman Empire 31
  • Key References 31
  • Map 16 the Region on the Eve of World War I 33
  • Key References 33
  • Map 17 Between the Two World Wars 35
  • Key References 35
  • Map 18 Ethno-Linguistic Regions 37
  • Key References 37
  • Map 19 Religion 39
  • Key References 39
  • Map 20 Literacy and Learning 41
  • Key References 41
  • Maps 21, 22, and 23 Population 43
  • Key References 47
  • Maps 24 and 25 Inter- and Intra-Regional Labour Migration 49
  • Key References 51
  • Map 26 Urban Population and Towns 53
  • Map 27 Population: Economic Structure 55
  • Key References 55
  • Map 28 Agricultural Regions 57
  • Key References 57
  • Map 29 Agricultural Indicators 59
  • Key References 59
  • Map 30 Crops 61
  • Key References 61
  • Map 31 Livestock 63
  • Key References 63
  • Map 32 Fishing 65
  • Key References 65
  • Map 33 Oilfields and Pipelines 67
  • Key References 67
  • Map34 Oil Refineries 69
  • Key References 69
  • Map 35 Natural Gas 71
  • Key References 71
  • Map 36 Minerals 73
  • Key References 73
  • Map 37 Industrial Location 75
  • Key References 75
  • Map 38 International Tourism 77
  • Key References 77
  • Map 39 Gross National Product 79
  • Key References 79
  • Map 40 Trade, Exports and Imports 81
  • Key References 81
  • Map 41 Trading Partners and Trading Associations 83
  • Key References 83
  • Map 42 Railways 85
  • Key References 85
  • Map 43 Roads 87
  • Key References 87
  • Map 44 Ports and Shipping 89
  • Key References 89
  • Map 45 Airways 91
  • Key References 93
  • Map 16 World Oil Movements 95
  • Key References 95
  • Map 47 Bab Al Mandeb and the Strait of Hormuz 97
  • Key References 97
  • Map 48 the Upper Gulf Region 99
  • Key References 99
  • Map 49 the Turkish Straits 101
  • Key References 101
  • Map 50 the Suez Canal 102
  • Key References 103
  • Map 51 Strait of Gibraltar 105
  • Key References 105
  • Map 52 Inter-State Land Boundaries 107
  • Key References 107
  • Map 53 Maritime Boundaries 109
  • Key References 109
  • Map 54 Defence 111
  • Key References 111
  • Maps 55 and 56 Palestine and Israel 113
  • Key References 115
  • Map 57 Lebanon 117
  • Key References 117
  • Map 58 Cyprus 119
  • Key References 119
  • Gazetteer All Figures Given Are for 1983 Unless Otherwise Indicated. 120
  • Sources 121
  • Bibliography 122


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