Transport plans underpin Iraq’s reconstruction

25 May 2023

MEED's June 2023 special report on Iraq also includes:

> GOVERNMENTSudani makes fitful progress as Iraq's premier
> ECONOMYIraq hits the spend button​​​​​​​
> POWERIraq power projects make headway
> UPSTREAM DEVELOPERSNo place like Iraq for international oil firms
> OIL & GASIraq's energy sector steadily expands
> TOTALENERGIESTotal to activate $27bn Iraq contract this year
> TRANSPORTBaghdad approves funds for metro and airport projects


Iraq’s construction and transport sectors look to be turbocharged by its bumper 2023 budget, which envisages a series of major transport investments, alongside social infrastructure and housing plans.

With its new government in place since last year’s election and fiscally cushioned by higher oil prices, Baghdad has returned its attention to rebuilding and modernising the country’s ailing transport and social infrastructure in 2023.

Between 2016 and 2020, there were reportedly 971 reconstruction projects in the country, 718 of them completed. In 2021, the Fund for the Reconstruction of Areas Affected by Terrorist Operations completed 97 projects at a cost of ID86.7bn ($59.5m).

In 2018, Baghdad also released a forward-looking list of 157 projects in need of investment, with a $88bn price tag. These projects included the upgrade and repair of roads, bridges and airports, new city projects, and the rebuilding of hospitals, telecommunications and oil-related industries.

Despite rising revenues, Iraq’s contract awards in construction and transport decreased from $4.1bn in 2021 to only $0.6bn in 2022, according to MEED Projects.

The much larger awards value for 2021 was bolstered by several major contracts including  the Ministry of Education’s selection of China’s Sinotec and Power China for the construction of 1,000 schools in different parts of the country. The contracts, worth $2bn, were part of the “oil for reconstruction” and investment deal signed between Iraq and China in 2019. Under the agreement, Chinese firms work in Iraq in exchange for 100,000 barrels of oil a day.

In 2021, the Basra Provincial Council also awarded a $312m contract to the local Al-Narjess Trading & General Contracting for the phase 2 rehabilitation of roads, drainages and sewerage networks in Zubair City.

Big transport ambitions

Although beset by delays since its 2012 commencement date, the ID7.6tn ($5.8bn) Al-Faw Grand Port masterplan is one of the most significant projects under way in Iraq. Located on the northern tip of the Gulf, it is tentatively set to be completed by 2025.

With this flagship port heading towards the finish line, Baghdad is now making moves to expand upon its logistics potential and, specifically, Iraq’s ability to connect freight from the Gulf directly to Europe.

In April, the design was completed for the high-speed ‘Dry Canal’ rail link to Turkiye planned by the Ministry of Transport (MoT).

The scheme will connect the Al-Faw Grand Port in the south with northern Iraq and Turkiye through 1,200 kilometres of new electric railway track. It is one of the region’s largest rail schemes, and aims to provide a cost-effective overland route to Europe to rival the Suez Canal.

Last year, Italian engineering services company Progetti Europa & Global was appointed to carry out feasibility studies for the project. Current plans envisage high-speed trains operating alongside conventional passenger and freight trains. The MoT plans to tender contracts for the multibillion-dollar project by the end of 2023.

In addition to the rail line, Iraq’s Ministry of Transportation is considering a new highway linking the Al-Faw Port to Turkiye.

More recently, Iraq has approved funding for the first elevated metro in its capital and the expansion of Baghdad International airport, as part of the government’s 2023 budget. 

The funds will allow work to proceed on the much-delayed Baghdad elevated train project this year, while the airport expansion could start in the second half of 2023. Plans for the metro date back to the late 1970s, and if it had been built then, it would have been the first urban railway in the Arab world. The metro was also included in the 2022 budget, with the Ministry of Finance allocating $2bn to it.

Baghdad airport currently operates three terminals, each designed for 2.5 million passengers a year. The expansion will increase the capacity to 15 million passengers.

Other airport projects are also under way. In March 2022, the foundation stone was laid for Anbar International airport, and in April of that year, then prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi gave the green light for the rehabilitation of Mosul airport. 

In 2021, China State Construction Engineering Corporation finalised a $367m deal for the revived Nasiriyah International airport in Dhi Qar, with works commencing in February 2023.

In the past few months, Iraq has also announced over 150 public service and development projects in the capital Baghdad, including 70 road developments, pavements, bridges and overpasses, estimated to cost nearly $17bn over the first two phases.

Housing capacity

Meanwhile, Iraq’s housing shortfall of three million homes is rapidly becoming a major housing crisis for the government. The situation is being exacerbated by Iraq’s rising population. According to UN projections, the country’s population is projected to swell to 50 million by 2030, from around 44 million today.

Baghdad is advancing various large residential schemes to address this, the largest expected to be awarded this year being the mixed-use New Babylon City project. This is being developed by the Ministry of Housing at an estimated cost of $1.03bn. State entities are also taking matters into their own hands. Basra Oil Company, for example, is developing a $156m residential complex for its employees.

Yet such projects alone are unlikely to meet the soaring demand for affordable housing, which looks set to remain a key priority for the government for the foreseeable future.
Eva Levesque
Related Articles
  • Oman 500MW solar project secures financing

    8 December 2023

    Oman's Manah 1 solar photovoltaic (PV) independent power producer (IPP) project has signed financing deals worth $302m with France's Societe Generale, the Export-Import Bank of Korea (Korea Eximbank) and Bank Muscat.

    The Manah 1 IPP developers and investors, comprising Korea Western Power Company (Kowepo) and France's EDF Renewables, signed the deal on 6 December.

    According to a local media report citing a Kowepo statement, the Korea Eximbank plans to provide $170m in project financing.  

    A team comprising EDF Renewables and Kowepo started mobilising to construct the 500MW Manah 1 solar IPP project in Oman, as MEED reported in September.

    The solar power plant will span over 7.8 square kilometres in Oman’s Al-Dakhiliyah governorate. 

    The developer intends to deploy over 1 million bifacial photovoltaic (PV) modules mounted on a single-axis tracker system for the plant.

    A project company, Wadi Noor Solar Power Company, has been formed to deliver and operate the project for 20 years.

    The company will work with Australia-headquartered Worley, which has recently been appointed as the owner engineer for the project.

    Oman Power & Water Procurement Company (OPWP) signed the 20-year power-purchase agreements (PPA) for the Manah 1 and Manah 2 solar IPP projects in March this year.

    Both plants are expected to be operational by 2025.

    A team of Singapore’s Sembcorp Industries (Sembcorp) and China-headquartered Jinko Power Technology was awarded the 500MW Manah 2 solar PV IPP contract.

    Manah 1 and 2 were previously named Solar IPP 2022 and 2023.

    To be located 150 kilometres southwest of Muscat, the Manah 1 and 2 solar projects comprise the second utility-scale renewable energy projects to be tendered by OPWP, after Ibri 2, which has been operational since 2021.
    Jennifer Aguinaldo
  • Masdar and OMV sign green hydrogen agreement

    8 December 2023

    Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) and Austrian energy and chemicals firm OMV have signed a preliminary agreement to partner in the production of green hydrogen for the decarbonisation of industrial processes in OMV’s refineries.

    The non-binding heads of terms (HoT) agreement forms the basis of a joint agreement to develop an industrial large-scale electrolysis plant, which will be powered by renewable energy, Masdar said in a statement on 8 December.

    The statement added that the partners will collaborate to develop the project and plan to make a final investment decision in the second half of 2024.

    The HoT signing follows an initial memorandum of understanding (MoU), which the two parties signed in Abu Dhabi earlier this year.

    The agreement with OMV is a step in the right direction towards building a robust hydrogen value chain and supports Masdar's ongoing aim of 1 million tonnes of green hydrogen per annum globally by 2030, according to Masdar's chief green hydrogen officer, Mohammad Abdelqader el-Ramahi.

    Green hydrogen oasis

    According to MEED data, there are at least 12 known and planned green hydrogen projects in the UAE, with a budget of at least $12bn.

    In addition to the planned $5bn green hydrogen hub planned by Masdar and French utility developer and investor Engie, the other major planned green hydrogen projects in Abu Dhabi involve its largest industrial firms, including Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa), Emirates Steel, Fertiglobe and Brooge.

    One of these projects, the 150MW green hydrogen-based ammonia production facility planned in Ruwais, is expected to reach a financial investment decision (FID) shortly.

    The UAE's Green Hydrogen Strategy envisages the production of 1.4 million tonnes a year (t/y) of hydrogen by 2031, with green hydrogen accounting for 70 per cent of the target.

    This is expected to increase to 7.5 million t/y by 2040 and 15 million t/y by 2050.
    Jennifer Aguinaldo
  • Sheikh Mohammed inaugurates Dubai CSP plant

    7 December 2023

    Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has inaugurated the fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (MBR) Solar Park in Dubai.

    The 950MW fourth phase of the MBR solar park required an investment of AED15.78bn ($4.34bn).

    It uses hybrid technologies: 600MW from a parabolic basin complex, 100MW from the CSP tower, and 250MW from solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.

    The independent power producer (IPP) project features the tallest solar tower in the world, at 263.126 metres, and a thermal energy storage facility with a capacity of 5,907 megawatt-hours (MWh), the world's largest according to the Guinness World Records.

    The project covers an area of 44 square kilometres. It features 70,000 heliostats that track the sun’s movement. The molten salt receiver (MSR) on top of the solar power tower is the core and the most important part of the CSP plant. It receives solar radiation and turns it into thermal energy.

    The MSR contains over 1,000 thin tubes that enable the absorption of sun rays and their transfer to the molten salt within these tubes.

    The project can power approximately 320,000 residences with clean and sustainable energy. It will reduce carbon emissions by about 1.6 million tonnes annually.

    The completion of the project's fourth phase brings the total capacity of the MBR solar park to 2,863MW so far. The phases and their capacities are:

    • 13MW solar PV phase one: Completed in 2013
    • 200MW solar PV phase two: Commissioned in 2017
    • 800MW solar PV phase three: Commissioned in 2020
    • 950MW hybrid CSP/solar PV phase four: Inaugurated in 2023
    • 900MW solar PV phase five: Commissioned in 2023

    Dewa is aiming for the MBR development to reach 5,000MW of capacity by 2030. It recently awarded the UAE-based Masdar the contract to develop the solar park's sixth phase, which has capacity of 1,800MW.

    Project background

    Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (Dewa) awarded a consortium of Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power and China's Silk Road Fund the contract to develop a 700MW CSP plant with storage for the fourth phase scheme in November 2017. Since then, the project has been expanded to include a 250MW solar PV component.

    Acwa Power then awarded Shanghai Electric the $3.8bn EPC contract for the hybrid CSP/PV plant in early 2018.

    The project reached financial closure in March 2019. The cost will be met through $2.9bn of debt and $1.5bn of equity.

    According to the project structure, Dewa is to provide $750m, or half of the project equity. Project developers Acwa Power and the Silk Road Fund will provide 51 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively, of the remaining equity.

    The fourth phase project achieved a tariff of 7.3 $cents a kilowatt hour ($c/kWh) for the CSP component and 2.4$c/kWh for the PV capacity, two of the lowest tariffs for CSP and PV solar technology in the world at the time of award.

    Dewa holds a 51 per cent stake in the project company, Noor Energy 1, set up to develop the plant, with Acwa Power and the Silk Road Fund holding the remaining stake. The developer consortium has signed a 35-year power-purchase agreement to supply power to Dubai’s grid.

    Photo: Wam

    Jennifer Aguinaldo
  • Firms win Saudi Landbridge

    7 December 2023


    Register for MEED’s guest programme 

    The team of US-based Hill International, Italy’s Italferr and Spain’s Sener has been awarded the contract to provide project management services for the estimated $7bn Saudi Landbridge project.

    The Landbridge is a rail project that will connect the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia in the west and the Gulf coast in the east. It is one of the largest infrastructure projects planned in Saudi Arabia. The scheme is being implemented by the Saudi Railway Company (SAR).

    Project scope

    The project comprises six lines. The first line involves upgrading the Jubail Industrial City internal network, which is currently under construction. It will require 10 kilometres (km) of track to be built.

    The second is the upgrade of the Jubail to Dammam railway line, which is also currently under construction. It will require 35km of track to be built.

    The third line involves the upgrade of the Dammam to Riyadh railway line, with 87km of track to be built. 

    The fourth line, known as the Riyadh bypass, is from the existing network in the north of the city to the south. It is split into two packages: the first has 67km of track, and the second has 35km.

    The fifth line is a link from Riyadh to Jeddah and then on to King Abdullah Port with three stations at Jamuma, Moya and Al-Doadmi. The Riyadh to Jeddah line will have 920km of track, and the Jeddah to King Abdullah Port link will have 146km of track.

    The sixth line is a new 172km line from King Abdullah Port to Yanbu Industrial City.

    There will also be seven logistics centres: Jubail Industrial City Logistics Centre, Damman Logistics Dry Port, a relocated Riyadh Dry Port, King Khalid Airport Logistics Centre in Riyadh, Jeddah Logistics Dry Port, King Abdullah Port Logistics Centre and Yanbu Industrial City Logistics Centre.

    Contractor negotiations

    MEED reported in November that negotiations with the Saudi China Landbridge Consortium that will build the rail link are in the final stages.

    The consortium signed a memorandum of understanding to implement the project on a public-private partnership basis in October 2018. It was formed by SAR and China Civil Engineering Construction Company.

    Al-Ayuni Contracting was named as the local partner for the consortium. Other members include French firms Systra and Thales; Canada’s WSP; Aldhabaan & Partners, the local partner of UK legal consultancy Eversheds & Sutherland; ALG Infrastructure; and Calx Consultancy.
    Colin Foreman
  • Siemens Energy wins five Iraq substation contracts

    6 December 2023

    Register for MEED's guest programme 

    Iraq's Electricity Ministry has awarded Germany-headquartered Siemens Energy a contract to deliver five high-voltage substations on a turnkey basis in Iraq.

    The 400-kilovolt (kV) substations will be installed in Baghdad, Diyala, Najaf, Karbala and Basra.

    Each substation will have a capacity of 1,500MW. Work on the substation projects is expected to commence in early 2024.

    German export credit agency Allianz Trade Trust, formerly Euler Hermes, will provide most of the project financing in collaboration with Iraq's Finance Ministry.

    MEED understands the substations address the increasing demand for power transmission in Iraq, providing power to around 2.5 million homes.

    On 5 December, a consortium led by K&K Group, which includes Siemens Energy, announced that it is moving ahead with a detailed study for an electricity corridor, known as Green Vein, whose initial stage will have the capacity to transmit up to 3GW of clean electricity from Egypt to Italy.

    Italian companies Cesi and Prysmian Group comprise the rest of the consortium planning to develop the Green Vein project.

    It entails the installation of a submarine high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) cable, which extends approximately 2,800 kilometres and reaches sea depths of up to 3,000 metres.

    The cable will connect the West Sohag area in Egypt to the Dolo substation near the Mestre Industrial Area in Italy.

    The project's initial capacity of 3GW equates to approximately 5 per cent of Italy's peak electricity demand.

    Image: Pixabay
    Jennifer Aguinaldo