JAKARTA, June 2 (Reuters) - Indonesia will meet with Middle East oil producers on the sidelines of an OPEC meeting in Vienna this week to negotiate possible long-term crude supply agreements for its refineries, a senior government official said.
The Southeast Asian country, which is considering asking to rejoin the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries after leaving in 2008, plans to hold bilateral meetings with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
“We will discuss purchasing crude from them. We have a plan to build refineries, so we need crude supplies,” Wiratmaja Puja, director general of oil and gas at Indonesia’s Energy Ministry, told Reuters late on Monday.
Indonesia, which is expected to become the world’s largest gasoline importer by 2018, has struggled to attract investment in its refining sector and its newest facility is more than 20 years old.
Government talks with Kuwait Petroleum and Saudi Aramco stalled in 2013 over tax issues, and similar negotiations with Iran and Iraq for crude supplies have also made little headway.
But President Joko Widodo, who came into office in October, has renewed the push to attract investment in the oil sector by cleaning up the graft-ridden industry and offering investors better incentives.
“Even though we don’t have a formal commitment with them, they have shown interest to supply crude to us for the long-term, 20-30 years, and they are also ready to have a share in our refinery projects if necessary,” Puja said.
The government wants to build four new refineries and upgrade four existing facilities within 10 years, he said.
Indonesia, which is attending the OPEC meeting on Friday as an observer, will decide after the end of the gathering whether to officially request to rejoin as a member.
Indonesia was the only Asian OPEC member for nearly 50 years before leaving the group in 2008 as oil prices hit a record high, and rising domestic demand and falling production turned it into the net oil importer it remains currently.
Full OPEC members must be net oil exporters, but so-called associate members are admitted under some circumstances.
If it returned, Indonesia would be the fourth-smallest OPEC producer ahead of Libya, Ecuador and Qatar, and bring the number of participants to 13 countries. (Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Joseph Radford)