Middle Eastern oil producer Oman has denied that it is a part of an oil refinery project worth US$3.85 billion in Sri Lanka, announced by Sri Lanka officials this week. “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.
Sri Lankan officials, however, told reporters that the oil and gas ministry of the Sultanate of Oman would control 30 per cent in the oil refinery project in Sri Lanka, while the majority holder would be the privately held Accord Group from India via its 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. Yet, it appears that Oman was neither involved in this investment nor was it aware of it, according to a Reuters report.
The project is for the construction of an oil refinery with a processing capacity of 200,000 barrels per day (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.