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ASTANA (TCA) — Kazakhstan needs to build a new oil refinery, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said during a national teleconference late last week while launching an aromatic hydrocarbon production facility at the Atyrau oil refinery.

"During a crisis, lower prices for oil and gas processing are a way out of the situation. The faster we do, the faster we develop. We need to build a new refinery and produce the finished product," the president said during the launching ceremony.

The Atyrau Refinery modernization project is being implemented in three phases by national oil and gas company KazMunayGas and is set for completion in 2015. The project will enable the refinery to increase crude oil refining capacity to five million tons a year and achieve an output that conforms to Euro-5 standards.

The expansion project is part of the State Program of Forced Industrial Innovative Development of Kazakhstan, approved in 2010. The investment in the oil and gas refinery expansion is estimated to be $1.7 billion.

The Atyrau Refinery, located in the Atyrau province, was commissioned in 1945. The refinery processes heavy crude oil from oil deposits in the western regions of Kazakhstan.

The first phase of the project involves the reconstruction of the atmospheric and vacuum distillation plant. It will enable the production of light products such as gasoline, diesel fuel or gas through the atmospheric and vacuum distillation of crude oil.

The second phase involves the construction of an aromatics complex, construction for which commenced in 2010. The complex will produce 133,000 tons of benzene and 496,000 tons of paraxylene a year. It will enable the production of petrol and diesel fuel to the Euro-4 standard.

The third phase of the expansion project will add new fluid catalytic cracker units, including other processing equipment to meet European environmental standards of oil production.

The project will increase the refinery's high-octane gasoline production to 1.7 million tons a year, while the production of diesel fuel will be increased to 1.4 million tons a year.

Kazakhstan now has three oil refineries — in Atyrau, Pavlodar, and Shymkent.

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