Muscat: Oman's new Sohar oil refinery is expected to start commercial operations at the end of this month, a senior refinery official said.

"Currently, the refinery is continuing the performance tests of the individual units of which it is showing good progress," a statement posted on the website of Oman Oil Co. quoted refinery CEO Yacoub Bilal as telling local media.

Officials earlier said the refinery - which has a crude unit with a capacity of 116,400 barrels per day and a residue fluid catalytic cracking unit with a capacity of 75,260 bpd - would start commercial operations in September.

"It is expected to start commercial operations by end-October, after successful completion of the performance test," Bilal said. "Some operational hicups were encountered and rectified. However, these types of problems are quite normal for a grass-root refinery with this complexity."

Oman Trading International, a joint trading venture set up by state-run Oman Oil Co and international energy trader Vitol, last year signed a five-year deal with Oman Refinery Co (ORC) to take output from Sohar.

But ORC, which operates the refinery, said in July that Sohar no longer plans to export the bulk of production due to domestic demand. Sohar, Oman's second refinery, will produce propylene, LPG, straight run naphtha, unleaded gasoline, aviation fuel, diesel, fuel oil and sulphur.

"It was planned to export 80 per cent of the products and supply the local market with the remaining 20 per cent. However, the priority will be given to the local market," the statement quoted Bilal as saying.

Sohar is expected to process exclusively Omani crude and residue, cutting the non-Opec producer's oil exports.