QUITO, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Ecuador is seeking private companies interested in building a new refinery on the OPEC nation's coast with a capacity of up to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd), a state official said on Tuesday.
The government of President Lenin Moreno signed a decree authorizing the design, construction and operation of the refinery, which will not include any participation by the Ecuadorean government or state-run companies.
"It is a private investment ... the investor can present a project to build the refinery," Oil Minister Carlos Perez told reporters. He said several companies were interested, without identifying any specific firms.
Ecuador expects the project will require a $6 billion investment, but the total may change depending on the design.
The government this week will begin evaluating the financial and technical capacity of interested companies and within 60 days will produce a list of qualified investors that may submit proposals.
The refinery will have to include deep conversion plants to process heavy crude and will not purchase crude directly from Ecuadorean state companies, but rather will have to participate in bidding processes. It will also have to sell fuel to Ecuadorean state companies at prices below those quoted in the Gulf of Mexico, Perez said.
The refinery will function alongside the ageing 110,000 bpd Esmeraldas facility, which has suffered chronic operational problems.
Moreno hopes to have Esmeraldas' crude processing system run by a private operator due to environmental pollution problems in the area of the plant. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia writing by Brian Ellsworth Editing by Leslie Adler)