By Mehtap Yilmaz, Ayse Bocuoglu Bodur
A presidential decree has declared a newly-opened oil refinery in western Izmir province as the first special industrial zone in Turkey, the Industry and Technology Ministry said Saturday.
Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank said in a statement that the oil refinery will reduce Turkey's foreign trade deficit annually by $1.5 billion.
"The STAR refinery is the biggest real sector investment made at a time in Turkey," he said.
He stressed on the importance of petrochemical investments in terms of high value-added production, employment opportunities and balance of payments.
Turkey's biggest oil refinery, STAR, officially opened on Friday with the attendance of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev as well as other top officials from both countries.
STAR is the biggest investment in the country of the Azerbaijani oil company Socar Turkey.
The ministry said in a statement that Socar Turkey's investment, which is expected to reach $2 billion, will be realized without any bureaucratic hurdles.
The STAR refinery, which has a crude oil processing capacity of 10 million tons, started its operations on Aug. 3 with the arrival of its first crude oil cargo ship Absheron, loaded with 80,000 tons of feedstock.
In 2018, 2 million tons of crude oil is expected to be refined at the refinery, which will increase to 10 million tons at full capacity.
The refinery is expected to create employment for 1,100 people, according to Socar.
* Jeyhun Aliyev contributed to this story from Ankara