Falling oil prices will not affect the development of oil and gas infrastructure in Bahrain, including an import terminal for natural gas and expansion of a major pipeline and refinery, the country's energy minister said on Sunday.
Global oil prices have slumped by about half since June because of oversupply fears, a move expected to squeeze the budgets of oil producers. Fitch Ratings downgraded Bahrain's credit outlook last week to negative, saying the fall in oil exacerbated an already challenging fiscal situation.
But the implementation of projects won't be affected, Abdul-Hussain bin Ali Mirza told reporters on the sidelines of an energy conference in Abu Dhabi. Among the projects is a floating platform to import liquefied natural gas (LNG), which will give the kingdom gas to fuel its industrial expansion.
"It will be the second half of 2017," Mirza said when asked when the project would be completed. He confirmed talks were held last week with a Russian delegation about possibly importing LNG from the European nation.
Russia was among a number of nations to have expressed interest in supplying Bahrain, but any agreements would depend on price and the level of gas needed by the kingdom, which would vary over time, Mirza said.
A number of bidders recently submitted proposals to build the terminal, he said, declining to be drawn on their identities or when a decision on the winner would be made.
Among the expected bidders for the $500 million scheme are consortia including Petrofac, Marubeni, Daewoo and Samsung C&T Corp, according to Project Finance International, a Thomson Reuters unit.
Other projects planned by Bahrain include the $5 billion Bahrain Petroleum Co refinery upgrade and expansion, for which a basic engineering study could be expected by the end of next year, Mirza said.
A new crude pipeline between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia could see work start in the second half of 2015, he added.
The minister had said in a speech earlier on Sunday that the new pipeline would have a capacity of around 350,000 barrels of oil per day, compared to 220,000 bpd through the current pipeline.
(Reporting by David French, Reuters; Editing by Andrew Torchia)